Don’t bother asking Beth Bowman about Sunday’s big game. She won’t be watching.
For months, Bowman has been plotting her Super Bowl escape to the Iron Range, eager to leave her St. Paul home behind for the weekend. She is trading the glare of the stadium lights for starlight, the crowds for sylvan silence, the NFL frenzy for a one-room cabin with a cast-iron stove.
Come Sunday, Bowman imagines she’ll be gathering firewood, snowshoeing or taking a sauna in a Finnish cooperative park near Hibbing, blissfully removed from the hubbub enveloping the Twin Cities.
“I’m hoping it will be less stressful than dealing with whatever impacts that the Super Bowl will have here that weekend,” said Bowman, 40.
With heavily promoted Super Bowl festivities well underway across the Twin Cities, some are standing decidedly on the sidelines, counting down the days until it’s all over.
Locals like Bowman are fleeing town and even the state, driven away by a disinterest in football, a distaste for the NFL and dread about what Sunday may bring.
Residents are renting out their homes and packing up their cars to head north, or retreating to sunny Florida, extending out-of-town work trips and planning alternative get-togethers closer to home.
The shared vision: Avoid the Super Bowl. All of it.
The Vikings’ crushing loss against the Philadelphia Eagles may have dampened some of the Twin Cities’ enthusiasm for hosting the nation’s most-watched sporting event. But others say their interest in anything Super Bowl-related waned long before the Jan. 21 NFC Championship Game.
“I feel like it’s a lot of commercialism and corporate greed,” said Anita Smithson, 33, of Bloomington.
The evidence of that commercialism, Smithson said, surrounds her as she commutes to downtown Minneapolis for work. The disrupted bus routes, the plan to boot local riders from light-rail trains on game day, displaced homeless people, the increased police presence: All have fueled her worries about waste and social justice issues regarding the NFL, she said.
“It seems like a lot of significant resources for a wealthy person’s playground for 10 days,” Smithson said.
She is among those whose discontent has fueled community activism. On Sunday, she plans to march an anti-racist and anti-corporate rally.
“It’s kind of a strange feeling when you walk around downtown,” Smithson said. “It’s like being where a party is, but you’re not at the party.”
The Super Bowl has inspired a number of alternative gatherings forged around mutual interests that put a time out on football.
St. Louis Park resident Marguerite Krause is among a group of science fiction fans, history buffs, literature lovers, theater aficionados and self-described “nerds” who have gathered for decades in each other’s homes on Super Bowl Sunday for an anti-Super Bowl party.
They’ve been getting together since the early 1980s, drawn together by shared interests and a growing aversion to football, especially as more information emerges about links between the sport and traumatic brain injuries, Krause said.
“Football has always been a bit too violent,” said Krause, 62. “You’re getting entertainment from people hurting each other.”
Over the years, the group of six to 10 friends has played Trivial Pursuit, popped in film versions of Shakespeare plays and watched Mel Brooks or Disney movies with the kids — “Just something that’s not football,” Krause said. There’s always a meal and seven-layer bean dip.
Similar concerns brought together local science fiction and fantasy fans when the Super Bowl last came to Minneapolis in 1992. They founded an annual getaway and dubbed it “SuperCon.”
It’s a weekend of leisure and sundry snacks, spent at a hotel where participants can play board games, watch movies and find an excuse to retreat from the football frenzy.
“It’s like a weekend-long pajama party,” said Ishmael Williams, a St. Paul resident and event organizer. “We think of it as a family reunion.”
This weekend’s SuperCon is attracting its biggest numbers in recent memory, with 110 to 120 people expected to gather at the Hastings Country Inn.
“Most years we have a couple of extra rooms,” said Jules Mohr, another SuperCon organizer. “This year we are overbooked. People are sharing rooms.”
Many are coming, Mohr and Williams said, to escape the hectic crowds expected to take over downtown Minneapolis this weekend.
And therein lies the pity of the Super Bowl, say Minneapolis residents like Keith Pille, 43.
In an effort to impress outsiders, Pille said that it seems like Super Bowl organizers have pushed the day-to-day lives of locals off to the side.
“This is such an exercise in hype, and it’s exhausting,” said Pille, a south Minneapolis resident who works downtown. “It’s a great city. We don’t need a marketing tagline to remind us of that.”
Pille said he’s looking forward to Feb. 5 — one day after the Super Bowl, one day closer to spring.