A Survivor’s Guide to the Super Bowl for Those Who Don’t Understand Football

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard by now that the Super Bowl is this Sunday.

Which is great if you’re one of the 160 million viewers worldwide who tune in every year to watch the pinnacle of live American Football. But if this is your first (or fifth) time watching and you’re not really sure what’s going on, it can be an incredibly daunting prospect.

And since, “Isn’t Tom Brady the one married to Gisele?” just won’t cut it (), it’s time to study up.

So grab a beer and get your game face on – this is Super Bowl: 101.


– The teams that compete in the Super Bowl are the winners of the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). They’ll battle it out for the Vince Lombardi trophy – confusingly, not an actual “Bowl” as the title might suggest.

– This year’s game will be between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, neither of whom anyone really expected to make it into the Super Bowl at the start of the season, when they were ranked sixth and 23rd respectively.

– Sunday’s game will be all about the old guard vs. the new guard, in the form of veteran Peyton Manning vs. young gun Cam Newton.

– Peyton, 39, is the stuff of legend – whom many believe will be playing his last NFL game on Sunday. Cam, on the other hand, is a charismatic quarterback heading into his first Super Bowl, defying the stoicism that generally goes with the territory by dancing and smiling his way to touchdowns.

– The game will last approximately 12 hours but you’ll be pleased to know that only eight of those are car commercials. JUST KIDDING. The Super Bowl typically lasts about four hours – the game itself lasts an extra-long three hours and 30 minutes because of the focus on advertising, plus there’s a 30 minute halftime show built in. However, thanks to pre-game and post-game coverage on CBS, it will result in approximately 11 ½ hours devoted to the game. Drink coffee. Lots of coffee.

(Photo: The Onion)



– This year is an extra big one; Super Bowl 50 will be celebrating its golden anniversary (50) with NFL gold-tinted logos and an 18-carat gold plated trophy. So why not wear an LGB (little gold dress) to the party, for a subtle nod to the occasion? Or bust out your favourite gold tie. Point to your outfit and raise your eyebrows a lot. If no one understands the clever symbolism point to random people and say “He knows!”

Photo: Nike


– The offensive team line up in front of the opposing team. The ball inexplicably gets flung behind them to one of their teammates and away we go.

– The quarterback is the by far the most important player on the field and the one to watch – he’s the leader of the pack who tells the others players what to do. In fact, you can probably get away with solely focusing on this guy all game.

– Downs are how the game determines possession. Each team has four downs to go 10 yards on the 100-yard field. If you go past the ten yards, you get another  four downs to go another ten yards, and so on and so forth. If you don’t, you turn the ball over to the other team (usually you punt it on fourth down though).

– A touchdown is a means of scoring – kind of like a try in Rugby (not that that will help you). It’s the most valuable scoring play in the game, worth six points (a follow up ‘extra point’ is kicked for 1pt while the option to go for a 2pt conversion is open to any team – one down to get the ball in the end zone from the 2-yard line). A team is able to score a touchdown by getting the ball into the opponent’s end zone.

– The end zone is the scoring area at each end of the field. Still don’t see it? It’s the very brightly painted part with the team name and logo. There you go.

– Misleadingly, you don’t actually have to touch the ball down on the ground here. You can run into the end zone or catch the ball in the end zone to score. You may also dance around it, which is probably what Cam Newton will do post touch-down celebration.

– The role of the defense is the beat the living crap out of the offense, who are trying to move the ball up the field.

– Just can’t get past all of those burly men to get to the end zone? Well that’s where the Field Goal comes into play. Kick it through the posts (aka the giant trident) to score 3 points. Easy.


– And breathe. This is generally the portion of the event where nip-slips, phallic shadow-puppets, and badly-choreographed sharks come out to play. Bruno Mars, Coldplay, and Beyoncé are up this year. All people you’ve actually heard of.


– Lost for words? Throw in the occasional “That’s a flag, right there!” even if you have no idea if it really is. If a penalty is given within a reasonable time frame of you saying it, shout “Called it!” to no one in particular, raise a glass to the people in your general direction and look as smug as possible.

– Alternatively, if one team is running away with the match, throw in a simple “They using Tom Brady’s balls? Am I right?” in reference to 2015s deflategate. Laugh a lot even if especially if no one else is.


Erm. Nope.

– Still have no idea what’s going on? Our advice to you: Eat.

Super Bowl, America’s unofficial holiday, is the second biggest eating day of the year (after Thanksgiving). So grab a couple of the 1.3 billion chicken wings that are predicted to be consumed this Sunday and make sure your mouth is conveniently too full for comment throughout.

Remember, it’s “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
– Terry Bradshaw

Oh, and one more thing; listen to Helen: