MIAMI — Are you ready?
The world’s biggest show is clattering into Miami this weekend, as the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers battle to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the National Football League’s 100th season.
Super Bowl LIV is a finely poised contest on the field, but for casual fans and rookies around the world, it’s a David vs. Goliath battle to brush up on the sport’s extensive history, rule book and terminology in time for the big game — a contest you can watch only on FOX6.
No one wants to be the rookie at a Super Bowl party — the person reading the label on the back of the nachos pack and asking which team is the one in red.
But this guide is here to help. By the time you get to the end, you’ll be an expert at identifying a Cover 1 scheme and will be able to perfectly recreate an offensive guard’s three-point stance.
On second thought, maybe we’ll save that for next year. Here’s a simple explainer of everything you really need to know.
Explain very slowly what a ‘Superbowl’ is
Well, firstly, it’s a Super Bowl — two words. The Super Bowl is the last game of the NFL season; the final, as the rest of the world would call it, where the two last remaining teams out of a field of 32 go head-to-head. Only one will become world champions (which is like calling a British person a world champion of queuing, we know, but don’t rain on their parade).
Oh, and don’t — under any circumstances — call it the “Super Bowl final.” That’s a surefire way to expose yourself as a football fraud.
Why is it a bowl?
Americans like to do their own thing when it comes to sports, so football has “bowls.” The name comes from the Rose Bowl stadium in California, which hosted early college football finals. At that level these days, everything’s a bowl: The college season has the Orange Bowl, the Citrus Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the Cheez-It Bowl and something called The Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
But the Super Bowl is the only bowl in professional football (aside from the Pro Bowl, an all-star game which is essentially a glorified practice). As such, it is the most superb bowl of all, and it is not sponsored by potatoes.
And this non-potato-affiliated bowl is a big deal, right?
Yes. The Super Bowl is a de facto national holiday that takes over the United States, and just about every aspect of it is monetized, scrutinized and celebrated. Around 100 million people watched it in the States last year. That’s nearly a third of the country.
But the Super Bowl is a “thing” around the world now, too, so wherever you are, you’ll need to know how to talk about things like unnecessary roughness and squib kicks in the near future. Don’t worry, though, you’ll learn what those things are as you go.
I’m sorry, squib kick? What are you talking about?
Right, here’s how the game works. Each team is actually made up of three teams — their offense, their defense and their special teams — and only one is on the field at one time. Team A’s offense tries to move an egg-shaped ball up a field against Team B’s defense, either by running with it or throwing it forward.
The ultimate goal is to get into the other team’s end zone for a touchdown (seven points, if they make a kick afterward), or kick it through their goalposts (three points). But the immediate aim is to progress 10 yards forward in four attempts. If they don’t do that, the other team’s offense takes over and drives the other way. If you lose the ball or throw it to the other team, they take over, too.
Luckily there’ll be a yellow line on your TV, telling you how many yards from the line of scrimmage the team needs to move the ball, and how many tries they have remaining.
Scrimmage is a silly word.
It is, but it’s important. That’s where each individual play begins.
And why does it keep stopping?
This is the number one gripe of non-football fans. It’s true, the game is split into a number of plays, rather than a continuous clock. But that means that anything can happen on any given play! A touchdown! An interception! A holding penalty!
Besides, billions of people worldwide love cricket, which is literally five days where nothing happens and then it rains so everyone calls it a draw. You’re telling me you can’t dedicate three hours of your life to watch some of the most athletic humans on the planet in the biggest game of their lives?
The football stuff
We’re making great progress. But there’s a few more things you need to know before you can blend in with your football-loving friends — it’s time to take a look at Sunday’s big game.
OK, I’m hyped! So who’s playing in this year’s Super Bowl?
Oh boy — we’ve got a doozy. Two marquee, historic teams have made it to the big game in the NFL’s 100th season.
The Kansas City Chiefs are playing in their first Super Bowl for FIFTY years, and they have one of the most exciting, creative offenses we’ve ever seen. Their coach, Andy Reid, has done just about everything in his career except win a Super Bowl, their fans are rowdy, and they regularly play in temperatures that turn football coaches’ faces even redder than usual.
On the other side are the San Francisco 49ers, who have five previous Super Bowl wins but haven’t lifted the trophy for 25 years. They sucked last year, but drafted defensive end Nick Bosa — a decision Donald Trump predicted would help “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” after Bosa had shown support for the President — and now they have a tough defense and a virtually unstoppable running game.
Where is the game?
Super Bowl LIV is in Miami on Sunday, in the Dolphins’ newly renovated Hard Rock Stadium.
Florida got itself ready for the big game in the most Florida way possible — by hosting something called the Python Bowl, a 10-day contest encouraging people to head out to into the Everglades and kill a lot of snakes.
The Fox broadcast will be shown around the English-speaking world. The game is being commentated on by Joe Buck; a man who calls every play, no matter its importance, like he’s reading the terms and conditions of a home insurance policy — so you may have to generate your own excitement.
He’ll be joined by former quarterback Troy Aikman. Along with CBS’ Tony Romo, ex-Dallas players have something of a monopoly on NFL broadcast booths — so since the 1990s the Cowboys have sportingly agreed to avoid reaching the Super Bowl for fear of creating a conflict of interest.
Who’s Liv? Is she one of the players?
Not Liv, LIV — the Super Bowl is an epic occurrence, like a war or a Shakespeare play about a king, so it gets to use Roman numerals. This is the 54th Super Bowl.
Got it. So who are the II quarterbacks?
The Chiefs’ signal-caller (the guy who barks out orders to the other players) is perhaps the most talented quarterback of his generation: Patrick Mahomes. He flings footballs in ways that most of us can’t even comprehend (see this no-look pass), and makes defenders look foolish on a regular basis. He’s only in his third season in the league, but he’s already a superstar.
The 49ers, meanwhile, have Jimmy Garoppolo, owner of a superbly chiseled face, who could very well have been unpacked from a box labeled “quarterback.” But no one is quite sure whether he’s actually a good quarterback or not. Luckily, his young, Good Will Hunting-style whiz kid coach Kyle Shanahan can draw up a plan to win any kind of game.
Anyone else I should know about?
The league’s two best tight ends — a hybrid position that lies somewhere between blocker and receiver — are going to head to head; Travis Kelce and George Kittle are both monsters for their offense and are coming off impressive seasons.
You may also have heard of Richard Sherman, the 49ers’ cornerback, who has taken issue with just about every media personality in America at some point during his impressive career, and delivered one of the great sporting rants of all time after getting to his first Super Bowl in 2014.
He’s not a household name, but the Chiefs’ game-wrecking defensive lineman Chris Jones could be pivotal to slowing down the Niners’ ground game. If that happens, Kansas City speedster Tyreek Hill and shifty 49ers rookie Deebo Samuel will need to help out their quarterbacks in a shootout.
Who’s going to win?
The Chiefs are razor-thin favorites, but this is essentially a toss-up. A shootout is possible; both the Chiefs’ video-game offense and the Niners’ balanced, heavily schemed attack are extremely potent. But each side also has defenses coming into their own, and the game could turn on a single mistake or turnover.
So who should I root for?
If you like ridiculous action movies with lots of explosions and stunt scenes and Jason Statham, root for the Chiefs. If you like dramas with a balanced, thought-out plots and clever dialogue and Leonardo DiCaprio, root for the 49ers.
If you’re a city slicker, go Niners. If you’re an everyman, go Chiefs. If you’d prefer a beach holiday, go Niners, but if you like to hit the ski slopes, go Chiefs.
If you like red, support both teams, unless you also like gold — in which case, support the 49ers.
I’m bored with all this football talk. What else happens at the Super Bowl?
The Super Bowl isn’t just the climax of a sporting season; it’s also the biggest stage of the year for performers, marketing teams, broadcasters and party hosts.
So if you don’t care about the game, you’re in luck: every second of the four-hour package is tailored for you, the viewer, including pre-game, mid-game and full-time festivities.
How can I sound smart at my Super Bowl party?
The safest thing you can shout during a game is “TACKLE HIM!” since NFL fans tend to feel that screaming such a basic instruction a thousand miles away has an impact on the actual game.
There are plenty of footballing cliches you can sprinkle about, too. Start by muttering “That’s gotta be a flag,” or “He’s open!” or “Dude, this coverage is so soft,” but make sure to do this during a play and not while the commercials are on.
Then, when you’re feeling confident, casually turn to the person next to you and say, “You know, this wide nine scheme the 49ers are playing is leaving Mahomes way too much space to exploit underneath,” take a sip of your beer, and bask in the newfound respect of your fellow football fans.
People care about the commercials?
Absolutely — with the Super Bowl unrivaled in viewing figures, a 30-second spot costs upward of $5 million and the ads have become an event in their own right.
Marketing teams go all out on these things, with every company wanting to have the ad everyone’s talking about on Monday. It all leads to a hodgepodge of celebrity cameos, emotional montages about pick-up trucks, and cringeworthy attempts to go viral.
Clint Eastwood growling to himself about America in a dimly lit tunnel? Sounds good. The guy from “Gangnam Style” singing his terrible song with a line of dancing pistachios, but replacing the line “hey, sexy lady” with “hey, crack your nuts now?” Why not?
Oh, and dogs. Dogs in “Star Wars” costumes. Dogs hanging out with horses. Dog heads on the torso of a monkey and the legs of a baby: We’ve seen it all. The over-under on how many commercials will feature a dog this year, for what it’s worth, is three and a half.
What is this, the puppy bowl?
Good one. You can binge most of the ads online before the game these days, but save some for the night.
Who’s doing the halftime show?
Michael Jackson, Prince, Beyoncé and the Rolling Stones have all helmed the big gig in its distinguished history — but this year, the league has gone for not one but two of 2002’s biggest names.
Shakira and Jennifer Lopez are equal-billed headliners. Between them, the singers have a weighty catalog of hits — from “Let’s Get Loud” to “Jenny from the Block” to “Hips Don’t Lie,” an anthem so epic it would be a fitting finale to any set.
The halftime show isn’t always a hit. The Black Eyed Peas screamed their way through a forgettable show in 2011, while Coldplay’s set in 2016 was so boring Beyoncé and Bruno Mars were parachuted in to save it. Then, last year, the NFL celebrated its host city Atlanta — home to a historic and prestigious hip hop scene — by giving the gig to Maroon 5.
What about the national anthem?
Demi Lovato is stepping up this year, and the line on how long she’ll take over “The Star-Spangled Banner” is exactly two minutes.
You can bet on that stuff?
You can bet on everything, from what J-Lo will be wearing to whether MC Hammer will say “Hammer Time” in his Cheetos commercial. The national anthem and broadcast packages always offer up plenty of obscure side bets.
What should I eat?
Nachos. Wings. Pizza. Popcorn. Hot dogs. Corn dogs.
An incredible amount of food is consumed on Super Bowl Sunday (you can eat healthily too, by the way). Americans work their way through 1.3 billion wings during the game, according to the National Chicken Council. If you put them all in a line, you’d have a really long line of wings.