Superbowl Sunday for Dummies

Before the Pittsburgh Steelers & the Arizona Cardinals face off on Feb 1st, I wanted to make sure that anyone interested has an easy-to-follow guide to one of America’s most beloved pastimes. Whether you plan to enjoy the ritual stateside for the first time this year, or are simply fascinated by the hype from afar, you might be surprised to know that there is a lot more to the annual championship than just a game of “gridiron”. In America, the rituals accompanying the Superbowl are numerous and cherished, and though we all do things a little differently, there are a few elements that you can count on come Sunday:

1 – The Food: The general impression of the world community is that American nutrition isn’t up to par, and while I come from a part of the country that is extremely health conscious, all bets are off for the Superbowl. Hot dogs (with the fixin’s), Chili, Chips, Salsa, Guacamole, and (my personal favorite) the Chocolate malt are all must-haves.

2 – The Brew: Be it a classic Bud Light, a slightly higher-brow microbrew, or even the nonalcoholic variety… a Superbowl party without beer just feels wrong. Period.

3 – The Stakes: While sports betting is technically illegal in 49 out of 50 states (gotta love Nevada sometimes), betting on the Superbowl is a red-blooded American tradition. There are definitely some seriously high stakes around, but most of us keep it to a few dollars in an office pool, or between friends. In my experience, the person who knows the least about football, and can barely name the teams involved wins every time – much to the chagris of the “experts” in the vicinity. (This is where beer comes in – see above section entitled the Brew)

4 – The Open & Unabashed Consumerism: That’s right… I’m talking about the infamous Superbowl Commercials… This year, despite the recession, the price of a 30-second slot rose to an average of $3 million according to USA Today. It would seem that not even an economic slump will dissuade companies from dropping big bucks to reach the 97.5 million viewers that tuned in last year. The commercials are so hilarious and inventive that many Americans would rather duck out to the bathroom during a timeout in the game rather than a commercial break. In fact, some of the most famous lines from Superbowl commercials have become etched in American pop culture, and one from 2000 (the unforgettable “Wassup”) was even reinvented this year to become a viral campaign video in favor of Obama entitled “8 Years Later”.

[see video below for original followed by 2008 version]

5 – The Rockin’ Good Time: Really just a way to elongate the broadcast and allow spectators more time to engorge themselves on junk food, the Half-Time show (along with it’s less-flashy cousins, the Pre-Game Show & National Anthem extravaganza) is an institution. Every Year we watch as the biggest names in entertainment climb up on that stage and launch into some over-the-top medley of greatest hits & surprising collaborations. Like I said, every year we watch… and every year, no matter the performer, we criticize. At times it would seem we only watch the half-time show in order to talk about how lame/ostentatious/cheesy/awkward (or, in 2004 indecent) it was. We secretly love the spectacle of it all, and would never give it up, but heckling the half-time show is just part of the ritual.

6 – The Blood, Sweat & Tears: After all, when it really comes down to it, the Superbowl is just a football game. That one time a year when the AFC & NFC come together to showcase the best they have to offer. We love the underdogs, the nail-biters, and any other sports cliché you can think of… in other words, we just love the game. We awe at the sheer physical prowess of the players, watch with bated breath as the injured are removed from the field, and can’t help but get a little emotional as the victors claim their coveted trophy.

So there you have it… Superbowl Sunday in a nutshell. It might not be dignified, it might not be momentous, but it’s just about as American as it gets. 🙂

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