For the athletes involved--which includes, this year, the five-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburg Steelers and, making their Bowl debut, the Arizona Cardinals--the 2009 Tampa, Florida-hosted Super Bowl XLIII will mean hard work, bone-crunching tackles, and hours of public sweat.
For the rest of us, it means too much beer, too many chips, and the party of the year.
And just as this year's football stars will have to make many fraught strategic choices--this play or that play?--so will those watching the Super Bowl at home. Pretzels or nachos? Beer or liquor? The supermarket party-platter or a stack of pizzas? Cheap-but-serviceable corporate beer or artisan microbrew?
For those football fans who are also cigar lovers, there's another problem: what cigars make the best accompaniment for two-three hours of January football, plus pre- and post-game commentary and Bruce Springsteen's half-time show?
One school of thought says that short cigars (panatelas, cigarillos) make good accompaniment. If you smoke them just right, they time themselves close to the natural breaks in the flow of the game. Some good lower priced premium cigars in this category might include Drew Estate Naturals, Nub Cameroon and Nub Connecticut (all three-inchers). Four-inch premium cigars that might fill the same bill (without breaking the bank) include Acid Blondies, Punch Champion and Punch Rothschild, the Romeo y Julieta Petite Robusto, and the Vega Fina No. 5. For a slightly higher price you could go for an AVO Signature (small corona-sized). And those who are willing to spend a little more can treat themselves to such modern cigar masterpieces as the Cohiba or Dunhill's The Signed Range.
By a similar logic, you may choose a cigar with a smaller ring gauge. The Java Latte Maduro from Drew Estate, for under five dollars, makes an excellent complement to those chocolate or coffee snacks you may be serving later in the afternoon.
On the other hand, some premium cigar aficionados argue that an afternoon-long event like the Super Bowl affords the perfect opportunity to enjoy those extra-long, extra-large cigars that the business of life leaves so little time for. And at nine inches, you can't get much longer than Alec Bradley's MAXX The Ego, with its international blend and creamy taste. Other possibilities include the Arturo Fuente Maduro, the mild Helix Super 8, the Macanudo Cafe, or the Hoyo De Monterrey Maduro. Or if you choose to go by ring gauge, possibilities include the 66-inch Nub Cameroon or 64-inch Nub Connecticut (at only five dollars--that's a lot of tobacco!), the 62-inch American Stogies Super Churchill, the Punch Champion (again), the St. Louis Reye Titan, and for just a little more (five bucks and seventy-five cents), the Macanudo Maduro Diplomat. If your finances allow you the option of going super-luxury, you can't do much better than the Ghurka Black Dragon Imperial Presidente (now more widely available than before, at under fifteen dollars). The Camacho Tenth Anniversary and San Cristobal Maestro are other luxurious possibilities.
Then there's the cigar's taste profile to consider--how will it interact with the other tastes on offer for Super Bowl Sunday? Since most of us consume a good deal of spicy flavors (whether in the form of enormous amounts of pepperoni pizza or heaping plates of nachos), a chocolaty cigar might make a jarring companion. Don Tomas Cameroon offers a full range of smooth yet spicy cigars, most available for under five dollars. If you tend to hit the cocktail nuts pretty hard, consider the Ashton Aged Maduro, H. Upmann, or H. Upmann cabinet. The various sizes and shapes in the Romeo Y Julieta 1875 line offer some options for those who drink a lot of coffee on Super Bowl Sunday, and the Carlos Torano 1916 Cameroon line for those who'd like the seemingly impossible combination of peppery, sweet, spicy and woody.
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