Super Bowl Party Review:
Over the last seven Super Bowls, I have been to more than 50 parties -- perhaps more than any human on the face of this earth. I've seen every type of food you can put in a pastry puff and I've dunked them in every type of dipping sauce.
I was there in New Orleans in 2002 when counterfeiting hit the Super Bowl party scene for the first time ever at the Maxim bash and I was in Detroit four years later when literally thousands of people showed up after a outside firm told girls that they'd be let in if they were good looking.
I was really looking forward to this year and, for the most part, Miami didn't disappoint. In the past I had gone to 10 parties in a four-day span, but I wanted to make sure to soak up Miami, so our schedule was less ambitious: EA Sports (Thursday), Maxim (Friday), Penthouse (Saturday) and Playboy (Saturday).
Without further ado, let's just say this: After years of being bested by Maxim, Playboy is back on top. They clearly had the best Super Bowl XLI party. Here's how they beat the competition.
Playboy: Renting out the American Airlines Arena for a couple thousand people was no doubt costly, but it was also genius. First of all, it was great because there was a huge crowd there, but you could actually move. Secondly, the arena was far enough away from downtown Miami that people who had no business being there weren't there. SCORE: 10
Maxim: I have to give Maxim credit for daring to put its party straight in the heart of South Beach. There's definitely some buzz value in having every day Joe's stare at the Sagamore Hotel, just dreaming that they could get in. After last year's debacle in Detroit, security was extremely tight and anyone who had no business there was immediately kicked out. In the Sagamore, Maxim was saying they wanted a small, intimate party. Indoor space was good, but outdoors, where the stage was, got unbearable from a crowd standpoint at times. SCORE: 9.
Penthouse: Their "Going Deep" party was different from the other magazines in that this was clearly a revenue generator - with tickets being sold for $1,000. The venue, dubbed "The Mansion" was a very big space on the famed Washington Street, but it lacked the personality of that something special. SCORE: 7.
EA: The party took place at a place called Cameo, which was known as Crobar just days before. Like Penthouse, not anything that makes you go "Wow." SCORE: 6.
Playboy: Simply awesome. Walk in through a mist that picks up a light show of sorts. The stage smack in the middle to the back, food and bar evenly distributed on the floor with little surprises along the way - how could we not appreciate the bunny pillow fight and the bunny sitting on the moon hanging from the ceiling? SCORE: 10.
Maxim: Everything was all white inside, good bar distribution, allowing for easy access to drinks. We'll get to the food later. The outside area looked great, though it didn't compare to Maxim's Ranch in Houston or its Maximony wedding setup in Jacksonville. SCORE: 9.5.
Penthouse: Under the sea was the theme inside with coral, fish and seaweed hanging from the ceiling. We had no difficulty understanding why this was called the Mansion, but we were surprised that almost every room looked to be set up in exactly the same way. SCORE: 6.
EA: Aside from a bar and the center area where players were playing Madden, there was little for the guests to do and not many places to explore. Unlike previous years, EA didn't have any game sampling stations, which surprised us. SCORE: 5
Playboy: Food at parties like this is apparently a dying art. I've been told in past years, after I bashed the food at various parties, that most guests want to get drunk and don't care much for food. I'm not in that lot. Yes, food costs more money but its the touch that puts your party over the top. Playboy was not only the only one of the four parties that paid attention to food - it was high quality grub. The cream cheese and smoked salmon drumsticks, crab bite martinis and sweet potato french fries were all top notch, while the candy sushi was better on the idea than the execution. SCORE: 9.5
Maxim: Maxim decided to de-emphasize the food last year, a move that I questioned. That theme continued this year, with little substance on the eating front. The only thing of great note, which vaulted them into respectability in this category, was two white chocolate fondue towers with sticks of pineapple, banana, strawberry and marshmallow. Big ups for that, but for the most part, it was an all alcohol fest. SCORE: 7.5
Penthouse: For a $1,000 buy-in, I was looking for some impressive apps. You're never going to get complaining from me on mini cheeseburger sliders, but chicken satay and bags of Lay's potato chips didn't get it done. Last year, Penthouse blew me away on the food. I'm not sure if it was profit margin this year, but I was not impressed. SCORE: 5.
EA: Electronic Arts has always been a good place to go for some reliable food. A nice shrimp cocktail or a potato pancake. This year, they came up a little bit short. We weren't too hot on the quiche and the only thing that impressed us was the pan fried chicken dumplings. But after eating six of them, we wanted something else that was good. SCORE: 6.
Playboy: I must admit. The 30 bunny to 2,000 partygoers ratio had me very worried. Would I go to the party and fail to see one of them? The folks at Playboy luckily had that figured out with a nice combination of girls on the floor and girls on podiums. I loved how this was one of the places to be, yet we were there at 1:45 a.m., and you could actually still freely move. The bunnies were dressed in white on white and had the corporate logos - Motorola, Miller Lite - painted onto their arms. Everything was so spread out, so we didn't see many stars inside - count Tony Romo and Warren Moon as two. SCORE: 9.
Maxim: As has become tradition, Maxim is so good at seeding its party list that you don't know who is working for Maxim and who isn't. I've never been at a party with a male to female ratio of 1:3 and this was as close as it gets. That takes talent. Even more than the Playboy party, there was a sense that getting into this party was an accomplishment. Because it was in a tighter environment, stargazing was much easier. We spotted K-Fed, Tony Romo, Taye Diggs, Craig Ferguson, Donovan McNabb and John Salley. SCORE: 10.
Penthouse: It was a party thrown for guys and that's what it was. Penthouse Pets were as scantily clad as we've seen all weekend - nearly naked in body paint - but they appeared few and far between, perhaps because the crowd was 99.91 percent male. We can't fault them, unlike the others, this was a revenue generator. SCORE: 7.5
EA: If you are a big NFL fan, this is your stop. You will see more current NFL players than any other event. The premise of watching players play Madden for hours with no 100 inch television to make it exciting is challenging, though ESPN's Trey Wingo did a very good job as emcee. SCORE: 7
And the Winner Is ...
So here's the final tally in the CNBC.com Super Bowl XLI party rankings.
Party Total Points
1. Playboy. 38.5
2. Maxim. 36.0
3. Penthouse. 25.5
4. EA. 24.0
Manning Not Going To Disney World
Peyton Manning might be one of the most marketable players in the league, he might now have his title and his game MVP, but Manning didn't do the Disney deal. Manning becomes the fifth MVP in the 19-year history of the spot (it didn't run in 2005) not to get the Disney endorsement deal. Here are the others: Dexter Jackson (2003), Ray Lewis (2001), Larry Brown (1996) and Joe Montana (1990).
For the Larry Brown story, we thankfully have Deion Sanders. Sanders told viewers watching the NFL Network on Sunday how it all went down.
"I got Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin together before the Super Bowl," Sanders said. "I said, 'Guys, you know that those people from Disney are coming to one of us to say 'I'm going to Disney World.' Let's all hold out for $100,000. The normal fee was like $50,000, but if we stick together, we can get $100,000. So Larry Brown won the MVP. They came over to him and he said, 'I want $100,000.' Then they went to Emmitt and Emmitt sold (Larry) out for $25,000."
Now that's one of the greatest inside marketing stories I have ever heard.
Manning signed a deal earlier this week with Steiner Sports and Mounted Memories. Here are the prices for Manning Super Bowl XLI inscribed items.
8x10 Action or Celebration Photo from SB XLI inscribed "SB XLI MVP", $359
16x20 Photo or Celebration Photo from SB XLI inscribed "SB XLI MVP", $489
Colts Mini Helmet inscribed "SB XLI MVP", $499
Special mini helmet with Super Bowl Logo inscribed "SB XLI MVP", $499
Colts Full-size Proline Helmet inscribed "SB XLI MVP", $899
Special Full-size Helmet with Super Bowl Logo inscribed "SB XLI MVP", $949
NFL Football inscribed "SB XLI MVP," $649
SB XLI Football inscribed "SB XLI MVP, $699
Billy Joel did in fact hit the under on the national anthem prop bet - pulling in a 1:29 performance. We know for a fact that it's one of the fastest national anthems in recent Super Bowl history.
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com