New Bern sports bars ready for another super busy Super Bowl

It’s an American tradition: dress like a crazy person and eat buffalo wings until you explode.

Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday – Superbowl LI, or Superbowl 51 for those of you who never could figure those Roman numerals out.

Everyone from families and friends to youth groups will spend the evening gathered in houses and fellowship halls, yelling at TVs , questioning the lineage of referees and gorging on recipes from the mundane to the artfully spectacular (one dish creates a guacamole playing field with baby carrots wearing green or black helmets made from olive halves).

And as for sports bars, it’s pretty much the biggest day of the year.

We contact three that, between them, sport 87 television screens. You can’t get much more game coverage than that.

Half Time Pub & Grub at McCarthy Crossing (3325 Martin Luther King Drive) has 28 of those TVs. The pub has been celebrating the Super Bowl for a number of years, and has one of the more unique approaches to the celebration.

“We sell out every year,” Casey Aylward, owner, said. “We have right around 100 people.”

“It’s great. It’s fun, man! It’s a lot of regulars, a lot of people who’ve been coming to Half Time for years,” he added. Knowing one another increases the fun and he expects having the Falcons play the Patriots will add some punch to the action.

“You got a lot of Falcons fans and Patriots fans,” he said, then amended: considering the national love ‘em or hate ‘em attitude toward the New England team, “I feel like it’s more Patriots fans and Not-Patriots fans.”

Aylward said his mixologists at the bar work hard to come up with unique drinks for the Super Bowl, and he calls in extra staff for the big day. In fact, the bar closes at 3 p.m. Sunday to take an hour to set up for the game.

And not just anyone can come. To get into the Super Bowl bash at Half Time you need to reserve your seat.

“We sell the seats for $10 a seat, $40 a table,” he said. “It was actually a customer that gave me the idea.” That customer asked to reserve a table for the game, which Aylward wasn’t willing to do. So the customer offered to pay to reserve one, an idea Aylward found worked. “This way, you don’t have to show up extra early to hold a table, and it doesn’t wind up being over-crowded. Some bars, so many people show up it’s not fun because you’re packed in like sardines.”

But Aylward doesn’t pocket the reservation money: instead he goes out and buys prizes to give away at Half Time: this year he’ll be giving away tickets to Panthers and Hurricanes games, a couple of 50” big-screen TVs and even a grill.

To meet the letter of the law about give-aways, you have to play a game of skill when you come in. That game is corn hole, but Aylward said you don’t have to be an expert to get your ticket. Just get the bean bag near the target, that’s all.

Triple Play at 111 Williams Road in James City is another sports bar that fills up for the big game. Manager Michael Spriggs said it’s a good place to go, whether you’re feeling rowdy or wanting a slightly more subdued watching experience. “Around the bar it’s pretty loud, but if you go to where the tables are it’s more laid back,” he said. But laid-back or not, a party atmosphere runs throughout the place.

No reservations are needed for tables here – though reservations are taken — and there are some prizes being given away. “A few items from the beer companies,” he explained, “hats, tee-shirts and key chains. All kinds of things like that.”

The staff is doubled to handle the crowd and food specials are offered, such as half-price boneless and bone-in chicken wings.

Then there’s Buffalo Wild Wings at the New Bern Mall – “B-Dubs” for the cooler among us.

Shift manager Tabitha Baysden said “We’re doing a big game feast,” featuring lots of those boneless and bone-in chicken wings – apparently there are a lot of wingless chickens the day after Super Bowl – that come with lots of extras.

“We expect a full house,” she said, who will gather around the bar’s 46 TVs. A large staff will be prepared to tend to the customers, encouraging them to try new drinks and food, occasionally offering a sample.

She promises a fun night.

And her team? “I went to West Craven so I’m hoping the Falcons (win) just because Justin Hardy’s playing,” she said. You know, Justin Hardy, the West Craven quarterback and ECU star who’s now beating the turf for Atlanta. “But everybody’s going for the Pats.”

Triple Play’s Spriggs also is rooting for the Falcons, but Half Time’s Aylward isn’t taking sides. “It’s a toss-up,” he said. “The point spread is just three points for the Patriots, so even Las Vegas sees a really close game.”

For what it’s worth, the game starts at 6:30 p.m. on Fox and pits Tom Brady and his Patriots against Matt Ryan’s Falcons. New England finished the year out at 14-2-0 while the red-hot Falcons are 11-5-0.

The halftime show is Lady Gaga while Tony Bennett will appear in a short video.

One of the most popular events in any Super Bowl is the ads. This year they go for $5 million for a 30-second spot. One of the most controversial is a sexy Mr. Clean spot. That’s right: Sexy Mr. Clean.

Both Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have been tweaked to be able to respond to Super Bowl-related questions and, if you’re feeling snarky, Alexa has also been programmed to give you Patriots burns and Falcons burns on request.

And don’t forget the Puppy Bowl XIII, preceding the Super Bowl at 3 p.m. on Animal Planet…

Contact Bill Hand at bill.hand@newbernsj.com , 252-635-5677 and follow him @BillHandNBSJ.