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Posted: Sunday February 1, 2009 12:32PM; Updated: Sunday February 1, 2009 12:32PM
Arash Markazi Arash Markazi >
ON THE SCENE

Who threw the best Super Bowl XLIII party? You may be surprised

Story Highlights

The economy prompted Playboy, SI and others to cancel their parties

ESPN The Magazine's bash was easily the biggest and best weekend party

But the best party overall, surprisingly, was Thursday's Madden Bowl XV

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ESPN's party was the biggest and best party ... at least in the weekend division.
AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Super Bowl party scene in Tampa lived up to expectations this year, which isn't really that impressive considering most expected it to be a down year, devoid of the over-the-top parties that had come to define the week in years past with Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Victoria's Secret and CAA all canceling their annual super shindigs in a down economy. With so many household names bowing out of the party scene this year it opened the door for a few new names and a surprising winner for this year's best Super Bowl party.

Moves Magazine Party

The Venue

On The List: Reggie Bush, Kim Kardashian, Ray Lewis, Dwight Freeney, Nick Mangold, Phillip Buchanon, Ryan Howard, Tony Gonzalez, Warren Moon, Evander Holyfield, Jonathan Ogden, Bruce Davis, Reggie Williams, Michael Strahan, Nicole Murphy, Frostee Rucker, Jared Fogel, Adrian Jones, Warrick Dunn, Marcellus Wiley, Shannon Sharpe, Eric Dickerson, Emily Snider, Kourtney Kardashian.

On The Scene: Reggie Bush owns Wednesday night of Super Bowl week the same way he owns helpless linebackers trying to cover him in the open field. Then again no one really used to own Wednesday night before Bush and Moves magazine, a glossy periodical for professional athletes that Bush is an investor in, came on the scene three years ago in Miami. It's a smart move considering most athletes and celebrities are already in town by Wednesday night and there really are no other parties to compete with. This year's party, hosted by Bush and Ray Lewis, was held at The Venue, a trendy club in St. Petersburg complete with a sushi bar, wine room and multiple dance floors. While Bush, Lewis and the Kardashians (along with several of their friends) shared a VIP balcony overlooking the first floor dance floor, other players like Dwight Freeney and Ryan Howard held court at tables around the upstairs dance floor. Every area of the two-story venue was filled by midnight, making it almost impossible not to brush up against naked models with body painted Kurt Warner and Reggie Bush jerseys (Kardashian took a picture with the Bush model) or momentarily interrupt Evander Holyfield as he danced with a trio of women by the overcrowded stairs.

On The Scale: 8/10

You learn something everyday and the one thing that could be taken from the Moves magazine party is that Jared Fogel from Subway has plenty of juice when it comes to parties with people he's done ads with. Fogel was not only in the VIP balcony with Bush and Strahan but he was chatting up and taking pictures with their girlfriends. "Jared's great," said Kardashian. "He and Reggie have been friends ever since they shot a commercial together."

Madden Bowl XV

The Honey Pot

On The List: Antonio Bryant, Edgerrin James, Maurice Jones-Drew, Willie Parker, Justin Tuck, DeMarcus Ware, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Derrick Brooks, Terrell Owens, Marshall Faulk, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Steven Jackson, Chad Johnson, Darren McFadden, Willis McGahee, Evander Holyfield, Mark Clayton, Aaron Rodgers, Santana Moss, Darren Sproles, Greg Olsen, LaMarr Woodley, Darren McFadden, Chris Long, Jake Long, Donavan McNabb, Roy Williams, Mario Williams, Stephen Jackson, Michael Strahan, Stacey Kiebler, Brooklyn Decker, Jarah Mariano, Jessica Gomes

On The Scene: In perhaps one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl party history, the Madden Bowl takes home the prize for best party of the week. It's doubly surprising considering the event is held on Thursday and is primarily staged for an eight-player tournament to crown the best Madden player in the NFL. This year the after-party, DJ'd by the appropriately named Joel Madden of Good Charlotte, completely upstaged Antonio Bryant winning the Madden Bowl. The three-tiered Honey Pot club in Ybor City quickly turned into a who's who of NFL players as most who were in town descended upon the hot spot after midnight. Even Terrell Owens, who was hosting a GQ party that night, ditched to come over. He also provided the best party visual of the week. While the line for the men's restroom grew longer than his liking he snuck into the ladies room while his bodyguard was at the door. When he was done, T.O. was fixing himself up in front of the ladies room mirror, trying to recruit a quartet of girls to come with him to the Hard Rock.

On The Scale: 9/10

What makes a great party is the element of surprise and the amount stories you can tell after and Madden's party was the only one during the week that had a surplus of both. The party began with a surprise appearance from SI Swimsuit models Brooklyn Decker, Jarah Mariano and Jessica Gomes, chilling in a lounge outside of the VIP area, causing one VIP to opine, "This area doesn't seem so VIP anymore." It continued on with Luenel (aka Mrs. Borat), asking Justin Tuck for an autograph and having Donovan McNabb take her notepad and scribble on it and say, "I hope you don't mind but it's from Jim Brown." Jake Long also showed he is a better blocker on the football field than trying to push through a flight of stairs upstairs. "If I get pushed one more time," he said. "I'm leaving."

ESPN The Magazine Party

Downtown Tampa Tent

On The List: Lil John, Wycleff Jean, Alyssa Milano, Jerry Rice, John Lynch, Lifehouse, Mark Sanchez, Dwayne Bowe, Chad Johnson, Lindsay Lohan, Samantha Ronson, Jamal Anderson, Joel Madden, Benji Madden, Ronde Barber, Geoff Stultz, Stacy Keibler, MC Hammer, Donavan McNabb, Vinny Testaverde, Christian Slater, Joe Mauer, Brendan Harris, Roy Williams, Darren McFadden, Brody Jenner, Tiki Barber, Chris Carter, Shannon Sharpe, Marcellus Wiley, Jason Witten, Jason Campbell, Sean Kingston

On The Scene: Living up to its nickname ("Big Weekend 2009") ESPN's party was easily the biggest and best party of the weekend. It will likely take home the honor of best Super Bowl party of the week from most, wrestling the title away from Playboy or Maxim for the first time in a decade although it was a bit too chilly in terms of the weather (temperatures dipped into the 30s) for the location (a quad-saddle tent set up in a parking lot). One of the complaints the ESPN party had in years past was too many guys and not enough women, which they addressed by bringing in nearly 300 scantily clad women which balanced the ratio thrown out of whack by the Around The Horn crew. The mixed music was provided by Samantha Ronson, who had her girlfriend Lindsay Lohan watching her every move nearby, and live music was performed by Wyclef Jean, who got everyone to gather around the outside stage despite the weather.

On The Scale: 9/10

ESPN and Madden were the only two parties that didn't scale back from previous years (if anything they grew from last year) and it paid off. If their party competition continues to wilt away next year as it did this year ESPN can soon add "Super Bowl Party Leader" to their other similarly pretentious nickname.

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