This year’s Super Bowl has one thing different from last year’s game: Peyton Manning throwing for one of the teams.
The former University of Tennessee star quarterback has the ability to change the game’s outcome with his talents, but his participation in the game — and his popularity in the area dating back to his days with the Vols — changes things off the field in local bars, restaurants and parties.
Science Hill senior Demetri Kalogeros, a right tackle for his school’s football team, will be celebrating with 25-30 of his closest family members and friends at his family’s Super Bowl party Sunday evening, which features a 6:30 kickoff between the Manning-led Denver Broncos vs. the Seattle Seahawks. The party will center around the family’s 64-inch TV screen, but his eyes will be focused on Manning, whom Kalogeros calls his favorite quarterback of all time, but also the greatest to ever field the position.
He shrugs off the words of Manning’s critics that he’s not a cold-weather quarterback, and says if the Broncos’ defense holds, Manning should hoist the Super Bowl trophy at the end of the night, with a score of 35-28 on the scoreboard.
Kalogeros’ family owns and operates Peerless Restaurant in north Johnson City, and has a real family history with Manning’s alma mater. When Kalogeros’ great-grandfather opened the restaurant in 1939 at what he calls a “hole in the wall” place, he struck up an idea to benefit from UT’s first national championship bid against the University of Southern California.
He made bets with as many locals as he could: If the locals bet on UT and lost, they’d have to pay for their Grecian salad and steak. If they won, the steak and salad would be on the house. Kalogeros said their histories were hitched together, because after UT lost, enough people paid up that he had enough money to move the restaurant into a bigger spot.
Demetri Kalogeros says Manning’s multiple visits to Johnson City over the years, even after going on to be a successful pro, have helped make him an area favorite, and will make his team a local favorite over the Seahawks.
But no matter who you find yourself rooting for, there’s plenty of places to do that rooting surrounded by fellow fans, eats and beverages around gigantic TVs suitable for watching the big game.
Buffalo Wild Wings will be one of those popular places.
Front-of-house manager Jonah Ellis said his business will be the place to be because of its 65 televisions, limited-time sauce flavors and big-game atmosphere. With games as big as the Super Bowl, there’s often a tendency for people to avoid restaurants or bars due to an expectation that places will be overcrowded, but Ellis said things will be organized enough for people to come out just before the game and still have an enjoyable experience or take out food in a timely manner. Take-out orders make up about 70 percent of his business that night, Ellis said.
“We expect to be full that night,” Ellis said. “But people should expect not too much of a wait. They’ll be able to grab a table and settle in for the night.”
Hooters is also expecting a big night for the same reasons: TV screens and wings. General Manager Mike Bright said with the former UT standout quarterback playing on each of their 36 60-inch screens, they’ll have a large turnout.
“Any time Manning plays, we have a big night,” Bright said.
On the local level, Alley Kat, just east of East Tennessee State University’s campus, boasts what they call the best wings in Johnson City, on account of their many flavor options and the sheer size. Owner Scott Willis and his crew are sports fans themselves, and will be closed in the evening so they can watch the game, but will be open from 1-4 p.m., so people can utilize their take-out menu.
“We specialize in the quality of chicken wings,” Willis said. “It’s very important to us.”
Fanatics Sports Club will also have specials running through the big game. Assistant Food and Beverage Manager Megan Randles said there will be drink promotions and prize giveaways going on, with the game playing on two large projection screens.