It’s Super Bowl weekend—the time of year where 110 million people gather around their TVs to watch two football teams battle it out for the world championship, nosh on yummy appetizers, and see some of the most anticipated commercials of the year.
If you’re a big football fan, skip over to “What Everyone Will Be Talking About This Year”—but if you don’t know who’s playing or have never quite understood what a quarterback does, this article is for you. Behold your cheat sheet to Super Bowl XLVI (46)!
First things first: What is the Super Bowl?
The Super Bowl is played each year between the winner of the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). This year, the New England Patriots (woo hoo!) will take on the New York Giants (boo). And no, I’m not biased.
Of note: There’s a history between the Giants and the Patriots. The Pats battled the Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl—and lost because of the most heartbreaking catch in the team’s history.
Where is it held?
Indianapolis will host the game at the Colt’s Lucas Oil Stadium. Why isn’t it at one of the teams’ home stadiums? The host city is chosen about 3-5 years in advance by the NFL owners and is based on the city’s stadium and ability to host. Generally, places with warm climates are chosen, unless the stadium in question has a dome—hence Indianapolis.
What are the rules of the game?
Here are the basics: Football has four 15-minute quarters. Teams score points by carrying the ball into the endzone (a touchdown), catching a ball thrown over the goal line (also counts as a touchdown), kicking the ball through the goal posts (a field goal), or by tackling the opponent in their own endzone (a safety).
Each team gets a minimum of four chances (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. That’s what it means when you hear something like “2nd and 2.” Translation: it’s the team’s second down, and they have two more yards to gain before getting another first down (another four chances).
Confused yet? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many diehard fans are happy to explain the game.
Who are the players?
There are three types of football players:
For a rundown of what everyone does, check out Wikipedia.
What should I know about the teams?
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots (13-3 in the regular season) won the AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens. They’ve appeared in the Super Bowl six times and emerged with three championships. The Patriots are known for their stellar offense led by quarterback Tom Brady and supported by tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and wide receiver Wes Welker.
Brady deserves a special shout-out. Famous for both his talent and his wife (model Gisele Bundchen), Brady is one of the best players in the NFL. He’s appeared in five Super Bowls, won three, and has also picked up two Super Bowl MVP awards. He holds tons of regular season and postseason NFL records and is widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks of all time.
New York Giants
The New York Giants (9-7 in the regular season) had some rough patches this year—losing four games in a row put a question mark on their playoff chances—but they rallied in the playoffs by knocking off the #1 seed in the NFC (the Green Bay Packers) and defeating the 49ers during overtime to win the NFC Championship. The team has appeared five times in the Super Bowl with four wins (including the Patriots). The Giants also handed the Patriots one of their regular season losses this year in November.
Quarterback Eli Manning lacks some of the rave reviews that Brady brings to the table, but he’s still an excellent player (he led the Giants to the Super Bowl 2008 win and received the MVP award). He’s also the younger brother of Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning.
Is there football-watching etiquette?
In a word, yes—especially if you’re watching with true fans. Do not ask what the score is (it’s right on the screen). Do not refer to a quarter as an “inning.” Do not wear a team’s jersey unless you can demonstrate knowledge of the player (though T-shirts and team colors are fine). Know that the time left on the game clock will typically take about three times longer to actually happen. Above all, do not make remarks on the hotness of Tom Brady or Eli Manning (or any other player, for that matter).
Football-watching is not a silent activity, though. Comments like “That was a great play!” or “Wow, good catch” or “Yikes, that was nowhere near the goal!” are all part of the fun. So are angry comments at the ref if he makes a call against your team or misses an offense committed by the other team. And, of course, cheering during touchdowns is highly encouraged.
So there you have it: your primer on Super Bowl XLVI. You’re all set to watch the game, enjoy the commercials and soak up good times with family or friends. And above all, remember the #1 most important rule of this year’s Super Bowl: a Boston win = good. Go Pats!
Photo courtesy of Logan Ingalls
Anusha Deshpande, a native of Atlanta, is a first year student at Harvard Business School. She spends most of her spare time listening to Bruce Springsteen, watching Red Sox games and staying up to watch late night comedy TV so you don't have to.More from this Author