How to Enjoy the Super Bowl When You Know Nothing About Football
I need to confess something: up until a few years ago, I thought it was called the “Super Ball” and had something to do with that other popular American sport — the one with the leather gloves and players who wear pajamas. Eventually, I discovered its true meaning — plus the correct spelling and pronunciation. “So, this is like the FA Cup final for that thing you call ‘football’, even though you can use your hands?” I asked someone American. I forget who, but if I think back I can see beautifully straight, white gnashing teeth.
Whoever they were, I’m sure they’d be delighted to learn that I’ve worked on my bad attitude. Kind of. This time last year, I was surprised how much I ended up enjoying the proceedings. With that in mind, this Sunday come 6.30pm EST, I plan to begin watching my second consecutive Super Bowl. Don’t get me wrong: I still know nothing about American Football; I couldn’t even tell you which teams are playing or where.
My overriding memory of last year’s game is lots of seven or eight second blasts of running about followed by nonsensical action freezes. Sometimes, these gaps made way for the premieres of elaborate, expensive adverts. Product giants spend millions making commercials and securing a coveted Super Bowl ad slot that’ll expose their wares and relentless creativity to more than 100 million Americans.
At half time, there was a concert and everyone seemed to get very excited about that. This year, people seem to care more about whether or not Beyoncé will lip-sync like she did at the inauguration than who’s actually going to win the Super Bowl. This seems reasonable to me. If only the game part of every major sporting event could be relegated to third or fourth most important happening.
But by far the best thing about last year’s Super Bowl was the traditional dinner supplied by my hosts: large bowls of chilli plus a dizzying snack spread. Watching men chuck a ball about is much more bearable when the muscles in your face are busy working 15 peanut M&Ms into a digestible paste. There was also beer, which makes everything better.
Between bites and slurps, I entertained myself by gently goading the kind Americans who had invited me into their home. “So, when do they take their helmets off?” I asked. And: “What do all those lines mean?” Followed by: “How come they can’t run for more than a few yards without stopping?” Finally: “Have you ever watched rugby? Give it one match and I guarantee you’ll go right off whatever this is supposed to be.” I’m almost totally sure this was as much fun for them as it was for me.
This year, I’ve graciously decided to try and learn the rules of football, in advance. Honestly, I’m scared my hosts will spit in my chilli if I spend the entire evening asking why the big butch men are wearing shoulder pads. If this self-education plan doesn’t quite come off (on account of me having the attention span of whichever is the stupidest fish), I’ll at least try to whoop enthusiastically during adverts. As a precaution, I’ll make sure to dish out my own food.
Have you survived your first Super Bowl?