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The Ultimate Super Bowl Cheat Sheet

Gance Vandyke By Gance Vandyke Published on February 2, 2016
This article was updated on April 4, 2017

It's that time of year again. Americans stock up on hotdogs and beer for their tailgate parties, place their bets, and clear supermarket shelves of team color face paints. Meanwhile, the rest of the world goes, "Football? The Euro Cup isn't until June." 

American football, ladies and gentleman. The Super Bowl – perhaps the most nationally celebrated annual event in America since its inception 50 years ago – is happening again just one week from now. The championship game will kick off this Sunday, February 5th, at 6:30 PM E.S.T. 

If you're like me – an American abroad who can't differentiate between a forward and a quarterback – then maybe this brief cheat sheet will help you get through the night.


What is the Super Bowl?

The annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL). The Super Bowl is the spectacular-driven end to a season that begins about six months prior. 


Who's competing this year?

Famed quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Ryan of the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons respectively are facing off this Sunday. Fun fact: Tom Brady signed a 2 year, $41,000,000 contract with the New England Patriots, including a $28,000,000 signing bonus, and an average annual salary of $20,500,000. Matt Ryan makes $20,750,000 per year in comparison.


What are the rules of the game? 

There are four 15-minute quarters. Each team gets a minimum of four chances (called "downs") to score. Every time the team is able to move 10 yards toward the opposing team’s goal—while retaining control of the ball—they get another four. A team may score points by:

  • A touch down – carrying the ball into the endzone, or catching a ball thrown over the goal line
  • A field goal – kicking the ball through the goal posts
  • A safety – tackling an opponent in their own endzone


Who plays? 

There are three categories of football players: 

  • Offense: The quarterback, center, running back, fullback, wide receiver, left and right guard, left and right tackle, and tight end. The quarterback, perhaps the most important member, is the leader of the team. The quarterback calls the plays in a huddle, and receives the ball from the center.
  • Defense: Defensive tackle, defensive end, linebackers, and defensive backs
  • Special teams: Kicker, punter, long snapper, and place holder

For a better understanding of what each player does, Football for Dummies seems to be a perfectly comprehensible source. 


Who's performing in this year's half-time show? 

Lady Gaga. But rumor has it, the half-time concert might be more political than Paparazzi. "I believe in a passion for inclusion, I believe in the spirit of equality,” Gaga said in a recent interview, adding that America’s essence is “love and kindness” and “my performance will uphold those philosophies.”


What do people eat at the Super Bowl, or at Super Bowl parties? 

Tailgating food is incredibly popular at the Super Bowl. That comprises of wings, chips (crisps for the Brits), dips, hot dogs, burgers, or just about anything or everything fried. This is America, after all. TIME estimates that Americans will eat 1.3 billion, or 162.5 million pounds, of wings on Super Bowl Sunday.


Why do people watch the Super Bowl? 

Why, for the love of football, of course! But in all seriousness, and much like the World Cup or the Rugby championships abroad, many people join in on the festivities simply for the culture of it. General cheer, a healthy dose of competitive spirit, and lots and lots of food. Halftime commercials are also some of the most famous and successful of all time – indeed, they're so popular that a 30 second commercial during halftime is estimated to cost about $5 million


Still have questions? Turn to your fellow die hard football fan, or just Wikipedia, for more technical answers. Or just sit back, relax, and enjoy the commercials with a heaping dose of chicken wings.

May the best man win.

Gance has spent the majority of his adult life wandering aimlessly from town to town, occasionally accepting the odd dinner invitation or foosball challenge. Today, he spends his free time ... Show More