How to Enjoy the Super Bowl When You Know Nothing About Football

Super Bowl parties promise a good spread. (Business Insider)

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? 


Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • Angela

    I’m an American and to this day I still have all of those questions. I especially don’t understand why the game takes something like 4 hours but they’re only actually doing anything for about 8 seconds at a time. No super bowls for me, ever.

    Give me rugby any day. At least they’re not covered in padding and spandex.

  • expatmum

    I still don’t know the teams playing….

  • Polly

    I was holidaying in the Caribbean with a couple of friends & popped up to the beach bar to get some drinks.
    A group of American men were at the bar watching america football ( the super bowl I later discovered) & screaming like banshees at the bar’s small TV screen.
    To complete my drinks order, the barman placed ice cubes in a blender & turned it on…O.M.G. The blender caused huge electrical interference to the TV, wiping out both picture & sound…
    I felt 8 sets of eyes glaring at me in horror & heard quite a few “for F*** sake” .
    I decided to look innocent by humming a tune, tapping my fingers on the bar to the beat & looking out to sea… but those glaring eyes in my back, knew I was the culprit & why they had missed the all important goal.
    With a “thank you” to the barman, I left innocense & body in tact & told my friend to get the next round

  • JAK

    I’m thinking you need to go home. I’ve been reading your columns for the past 30 minutes and I’m sad to say that I find you to be a huge negative.

    • Guest

      Negative? I think she’s one of our most positive exports… Most of us are whingeing about you people from Europe, if it helps.

  • Rob

    The absolutely best way to enjoy the Super Bowl is to go watch a movie at the theater, go shopping, or anything else you’d like to do where you will not be near a television!

  • aslanscompass

    As an American myself, I’m still struggling to enjoy the Super Bowl. Not everyone does, by the way.

  • $21404289

    Looks like the ‘brown food’ table on ‘You Are What You Eat.’

  • Christine Taylor-Castillo

    oh did the ‘stupid bowl” happen already! thank god! I didn’t even know it had come and gone.