Tom Smart, Deseret News
Jazz fans are gearing up for Utah's first-round playoff series against Houston at EnergySolutions Arena.

So you're a Utah Jazz fan, but not one of the elite 19,911 who will be at EnergySolutions Arena for playoff games? And your significant other won't let you borrow on your 401(k) so you can hit the road with your favorite team this postseason?

No need to despair. We're here to help enhance your non-venue viewing experience and to help, well, jazz up your postseason from the really cheap seats. These tips could make you happy that you don't have to hang out with your bragging buddy in the nosebleed section:

Look on the bright side

Obviously, there's an added element of excitement when you get to attend a game in person. If not, fans wouldn't take out a third mortgage to buy tickets (and, yes, we're talking for Jazz games, not for Hannah Montana).

But there are some benefits of not watching the game in the arena. A few include:

• No bathroom lines — and no stepping over/on people and kicking over drinks to get to the aisle that leads you to the line that you hope eventually leads you into the restroom.

• You won't have to start shopping for hearing aids if you forget to wear your earplugs.

• No need to pay $15 parking fees or swear about getting a towing boot attached to a tire if your "unbelievable free parking spot" was indeed too good to be true.

• On a related note, you're spared from listening/smashing your fingers into your eardrums/running from the building in agony when Jazz fans in the arena massacre karaoke songs during a painful timeout promotion.

• Bear can't plaster you with a can of stringy fluorescent spray.

• Upset fans can't plaster you with a cup of beer.

• Don't have to explain to your kids what those four-letter words exiting a certain salty-tongued coach's mouth mean.

• Nobody tries to sign you up for a credit card in exchange for a low-quality T-shirt.

• No rushing to avoid traffic — to get the bathroom (again!) and to your car (that you hope didn't get a towing boot).

Throw your own party

For a more intimate postseason atmosphere, just bring the party to your house — and don't invite a certain 19,911. Basically, you really only need three things for a successful sports party — and, don't worry, doilies with Jazz colors aren't one of them. All you need is a TV (one with cable or satellite that's made after the Stockton-to-Malone era if possible), some people (not fans of the opposing team unless your sometimes-annoying Lakers fan friend can agree to be civil) and food (the most important of the three, of course).

Josh Pelton, sales manager for Utah Food Services, joked that having food at a sports party is a must.

"It's always nice to have food as a centerpiece," he said. "It's like peanut butter and jelly. You don't eat a spoonful of jelly alone."

Not that Pelton, whose company caters events and dinners, is endorsing PB&Js as the main course at your Jazz bash. Cheesy dips and chips are his top suggestion. For an easy-to-make version, just throw a couple of blocks of Velveeta cheese and a can or two of Rotel tomatoes and chilies into a crockpot and cook on low until it's warm and melted. Adding a can of chili is another tasty option.

Just remember: No double-dipping.

Some more party tips:

• Serve "lots of small finger foods," Pelton suggests. Obviously, wings (especially those from buffaloes) are a popular palate-pleasing possibility. Put out a bowl of bleu cheese dressing and cut up some carrots and celery, and your friends will undoubtedly be impressed.

Meatballs — check the frozen section for pre-made spicy, Swedish or BBQ varieties — can be another easy fix in a crockpot. Or chop up some hot dogs or small sausages and simmer them in a slow-cooker in BBQ sauce.

"Things in crockpots work great," Pelton said.

You could also grill some bratwurst, hot dogs or hamburgers. Just don't go too crazy for your own sake and your guests.

"Make the food comfortable," Pelton said. "Don't do anything wildly exotic."

• Whether it's sodas, water, specialty drinks or Jazz Kool-Aid, keep plenty of liquid on hand so your guests can keep their whistles. How, after all, will players, coaches and refs hear you yell at the TV if your voice goes dry? Depending on your cooking skills, guests might really need a drink to quickly wash down your grub.

"Don't run out of beverages," Pelton said. "That's important, especially in the fourth quarter."

• Be prepared before the party arrives. "Do prep ahead of time, so you don't have to make anything while guests are there," Pelton said. "It makes your guests feel uncomfortable."

Go sports bar hopping

If you're worried both you and your guests will feel uncomfortable, maybe you should let someone else take care of making the food and showing the sports. There are quite a few sports grills and bars in the Wasatch Front area that will likely be hopping in the postseason.

Even though it has about 80 different TVs and an arena for a 16-foot screen, the SkyBox in The Gateway gets crowded quickly on game nights.

"When it's really busy for Jazz playoffs, it's very electric," said manager Jess Peet. "It's loud. Everybody's cheering. It's just a fun atmosphere."

It's probably a good idea — for the SkyBox, any of Iggy's seven locations (from St. George to Logan) and other sports bars and private clubs (Lumpy's, Port o' Call, The Huddle, etc.) — to either make reservations or show up well before tipoff. Otherwise, you might feel like you're stuck in the restroom line at EnergySolutions Arena.

"The Jazz bring in a lot of business," Peet said. "Especially when they're doing well in the playoffs."

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