Pom poms, puppies, odd shaped balls and guacamole! Get yourself ready for “Super Sunday” with my handy bluffers guide to the biggest unofficial holiday of the American calendar.
Holy guacamole! Super Bowl Sunday is the SECOND LARGEST day for food consumption in the USA after Thanksgiving. Yes, even bigger than CHRISTMAS. This makes the food MORE IMPORTANT than the game. And taking centre stage is the guacamole. An estimated 158 millions avocados, that’s 4,000 tonnes (8 million lbs) of it is eaten on game day.
Also, prepare yourself for the most epic of “chip and dip” displays including so called “snack stadiums” which are thing. If you want to make one, here is my favourite set of instructions on How to Build a Snack Stadium >>
Second to the food yet still more anticipated than the actual sport are the adverts. One 30-second commercial aired during the Super Bowl costs upwards of $2,800,000 (£185,0000) that’s £62,000 a SECOND plus whatever it cost to make the ad. Some companies even make ads about the fact they don’t do a Super Bowl ad but the actual phrase “Super Bowl” is (understandably) copyrighted so they have to use phrases like the Big Game or Game Day. Here’s my favourite from last year:
The Half Time Show
Thirdly, this is probably the only part of a Super Bowl you were aware of before you moved here. Basically a HUGE star plays something bonkers. Before the 1990s the half time show was a huge cheese fest of marching bands and a cheesey theme for example “World of Children’s Dreams” or “Tapestry of Nations” (vom). All the big “much-loved-by-America” British bands have done a halftime show. Rolling Stones in 2006, The Who in 2010.In 2005 Sir Paul Macca was a safe choice after Janet Jackson’s “nipplegate”.
The Puppy Bowl
One final thing before I get onto the sport, if you HATE sport you will LOVE that Animal Planet simultaneously airs their own Super Bowl but done with PUPPIES for players and hedgehog cheerleaders. Yes you heard me. HEDGEHOG CHEERLEADERS. Please god why has this incredible American tradition made it over the Atlantic yet?!
OK NOW I CAN TALK ABOUT THE SPORT!
What is American Football?
Rugby + padding + incredible strategy – continuous play x hundreds of players = American Football
How long is a match?
Each GAME (don’t call it a match!) consists of four 15 minute quarters.
How do they score goals?
They score POINTS by getting the ball into the end zone or kicking it over the posts. A TOUCHDOWN is 6 points, a FIELD GOAL is 3 points.
When do they do that “hut hut” bit you see in films?
At the start of a PLAY. American football is made up of a series of “plays” where one team is in OFFENCE (in possession) the other in DEFENCE (pronounced dee-fense). Each of these “plays” begins with the Offence and Defence facing off against each other before the Offence makes their play. They don’t actually say “hut hut” they say all kinds of secret code words to let fellow players know what the plan is.
Will I have to sing the National Anthem before the game starts?
Nope. Only the pop star sings the anthem in American sport. It’s odd but you get used to it. The crowd stand in reverent silence until the bit that goes “… the laaaaaand of the freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” at which point wild whooping is encouraged.
Here is Christina Aguilera forgetting the words in 2011 but hey, at least you know she’s singing live!
Why does the game feel so much longer than an hour?
Yes, that’s because there is no continuous play! And lots of adverts. The clock is stopped between “plays” and the coach creates a whole new team depending on the situation. The actual game play can be over in a flash. Once you get into it you quickly realise the level of strategy is incredible. Don’t let the slow pace drive you bonkers.
Why are there so many bloody players on the pitch?
There are actually only 11 players on the FIELD (not pitch) at any one time but they are chosen from a roster of as many as 53 players all of whom mill around the sidelines making the place look untidy. The majority of these players have only one specialty position. You’ve probably heard of a Quarterback, there are also about ten other positions including a Kicker who (no word of a lie) literally only comes on to kick it over the posts.
What the heck is a slobber knocker?
It’s slang for a particularly gruesome tackle. Other useful terms: MUFF is for fumbling the ball, PANCAKE is a defensive block move where you flatten someone to the floor and a HAIL MARY is a long pass play used as a last resort. You’ll get the hang of it.
What is The “Super Bowl”?
The Super Bowl is the annual championship of the NFL, held in February and built up to since the previous summer. It was created in the 1960s when association and national football leagues merged. The first team to win it? The Green Bay Packers.
Why is it called The Super Bowl when it has nothing to do with bowling?
The word “bowl” is to American Football what the word “derby” is to our football. High level games have always been called “bowls”, especially in University leagues for example (eg the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl etc). Back in the 60’s when the Super Bowl founders were formulating the idea they only used the term “Super Bowl” as a stop gap name but it stuck.
What do you win at a Super Bowl?
You win fame, fortune, the title of “World Champion” (yes really), you win a piece of silverware made by Tiffany’s (yes that Tiffany’s) called The Vince Lombardi Trophy (named after a Green Bay Packers coach) and each player gets a huge sparkly gold and diamond ring.
How many people watch the Super Bowl?
Around 118 million worldwide which includes just under half of ALL households in the USA making it the most watched television event in North America.
BUT to put this in context, over 909 million (almost an American BILLION) people watch things like the Soccer World Cup Final and the London 2012 Olympics. 180 million people watched the Eurovision Song Contest Final.
Where is it held?
A different location every year. Cities bid for it like they do for the Olympics.
Has Chicago ever hosted a Super Bowl?
Nope. Chicago has never hosted a Superbowl. #sadface. It’s just too cold here, although maybe the organisers have a more open mind after the freezing cold one in New Jersey in 2014. In fact the rumour is that Chicago might bid for the Super Bowl 2019 …
Have the Chicago Bears ever won a Super Bowl?
Yes once in 1986! And if you want to see something *quite* amazing check out the Chicago Bears Superbowl Shuffle song. This puts John Barnes rapping to shame that’s for sure…
Our arch rivals the Green Bay Packers have won 4 Super Bowls including the first two: 1966 and 1967. That’s why they named the trophy after their coach.
Hope my brief guide has helped you get a handle on the weekend! Did I miss anything? Add a useful comment below…
If you want a much deeper look at the rules of the game itself I can recommend The NFL Beginners Guide to Football >>