Be the Madness Host with the Most

I’m not a huge sports nut, but there’s something about the NCAA basketball tournament that brings out my inner fanatic. I love the energy and momentum. I love the devoted fans cheering in the stands. I love the upsets, the buzzer-beaters, and the nail-biters. Of course I also love a Cinderella story, which the tournament always seems to provide at least one.

Whether you’re hosting a get together to cheer on your favorite team, or simply celebrating the sport, here are some fan-tastic ideas for an unforgettable March:

Provide a bevy of brackets. I love the idea of sending out invitations including a fresh bracket for guests to fill out. (Download will be updated with 2011 teams after March 13.) But I love this idea more—prepare a few other tournaments for your party day. For example, prepare a bracket for your guests that features 64 favorite snack foods, sports movies, or rock bands instead of college teams. You’ll have a great time seeing who picked Twinkies to beat Fritos, or Hoosiers to beat Rocky III.

Serve ball-themed food. Plentiful appetizers, both savory and sweet, are perfect game watching fare. Prepare an assortment of ball-shaped foods, such asĀ meatballs, hush puppies, popcorn balls, donut holes, grapes, melon balls, cheese balls, and these amazing cake balls.

Make it a banner year. One of the best parts of the tournament is the creative posters made by fans in the crowd. Invite your guests to bring their own creative posters to hang on the walls. Award a prize for the best, picked by the crowd.

Paint by numbers. For a truly devoted crowd, provide game day face painting to enhance the mood. Simple poster paints from the grocery or craft store work perfectly. Have an exuberant crowd (or a warm location)? Paint bellies too!

Commercial makes and breaks. During commercials, hold a mini shooting tournament with a toy hoop and mini ball. Find out who’s got game and who’s all talk!

Any other ideas? Share them in the comments section. And if you need a great meatball recipe for your March Madness party, you can’t beat this one. It’s my favorite!

Perfect Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • salt
    pepper
  • 2 cups stale Italian bread, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 cup olive oil

Directions
Combine beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl. Add garlic, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Blend bread crumbs into meat mixture. Slowly add the water 1/2 cup at a time. The mixture should be very moist but still hold its shape if rolled into meatballs. Shape into meatballs.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Fry meatballs in batches. When the meatball is very brown and slightly crisp remove from the heat and drain on a paper towel. (If your mixture is too wet, cover the meatballs while they are cooking so that they hold their shape better.)

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