Bowling them over with a night of true Americana

Screened in over 200 countries, Super Bowl will be lapped up by well over 100 million Americans for whom it has become as symbolic of their country as Apple Pie.

The biggest, most vulgar and yet utterly compelling sports event of the year hits our screens on Sunday when the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks compete for the right to be Super Bowl champions.

Screened in over 200 countries, it will be lapped up by well over 100 million Americans for whom it has become as symbolic of their country as Independence Day and Apple Pie.

“The truth is the Super Bowl long ago became more than just a football game,” said former CBS broadcaster, Bob Schieffer.

“It’s part of our culture, like turkey at Thanksgiving and lights at Christmas, and like those holidays beyond their meaning, a factor in our economy.”

So, here’s a taster for Sunday.

A is for ads. Some people watch it for the football. Others wait up for the half-time show and the ads. A 30-second slot on Fox costs a cool $4m (€2.9m) this year.

B is for Bears. The legendary 1985 Chicago Bears, to be exact. The Monsters of Midway are the reason lots of us started watching gridiron. Sweetness, The Fridge, Mike Ditka. Ah, the memories.

C is for cold. This will be the first Super Bowl held in a “cold weather environment”. MetLife Stadium in New Jersey hosts the party. The forecast is, thankfully, relatively benign.

D is for Denver. Home of the two-time Super Bowl champion Broncos. The Mile-High City is unique in having backed out of hosting the Olympics (the Winter Games in 1976) after winning the bid. Poor Montreal wasn’t so clever.

E is for end zone. What it’s all about, getting touchdowns. This year’s decider pitches the league’s best offence (Denver) against its top-ranked defence (Seattle).

F is for Fox. They love their back-from-adversity tales in the US. Denver coach John Fox’s return to work after mid-season heart surgery ticks that box.

G is for Gatorade. The drink poured over the winning coach. The question is what colour it will be? Millions of dollars are wagered on just that mystery every year.

H is for half-time. A necessary evil in most sports. Not in the NFL. Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers do the honours. Will the Chillies go shirtless? Brrr!

I is for “I’m going to Disney World”. The iconic refrain from the game’s MVP after the final whistle. Advertising no money can buy.

J is for jargon. NFL speaks a language all its own. Prepare to be bombarded with words and phrases like audible, bootleg, nose tackle, pistol formation and wishbone.

K is for kick-off. Sky’s build-up starts at 7pm on Sunday and continues through to 3.30am. Kick-off is scheduled for 11.30pm. One way or another, it’ll be a long night.

L is for Lombardi: The legendary Green Bay Packers coach dominated the early Super Bowl era in the 1960s. His legacy is now secured by the trophy bearing his name.

M is for marijuana. With Colorado legalising the sale of marijuana and Washington set to do so this is one Super Bowl where talk of grass will have nothing to do with the turf — which is artificial. Already dubbed the ‘Weed Bowl’.

N is for NFL. National Football League. The money-making monster that runs pro football.

O is for overtime. No Super Bowl has ever needed one and nobody on this side of the Atlantic wants one. Not if they must be up for work in the morning, anyway.

P is for Puppy Bowl. Yep, Puppy Bowl. The Animal Planet show filmed using dogs in a model stadium.

Q is for quarterback. The poster boys. Wily old vet (Denver’s Payton Manning) versus young buck (Seattle’s Russell Wilson). Who is better? Whoever wins. Simple.

R is for rings. Those hideous, gargantuan pieces of jewellery costing $5,000 (€3,600) each which the players, coaches, general manager and other staff get for winning.

S is for Seattle. Home of the Seahawks, the Space Needle, Frasier and birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and grunge.

T is for tickets. Normally the hottest stubs in town, low temperatures, the air miles to New Jersey for both sets of fans and a match-up of teams deemed unsexy have seen demand fall to a 25-year low.

U is for USA. Patriotism at its most naked. Opera singer Renee Fleming will sing the Star Spangled Banner, military personnel will bear giant US flags and tears will flow. Liberally. U-S-A, U-S-A.

V is for viewers. In 2010, Super Bowl XLIV became the most watched show in US history, overtaking the final episode of M*A*S*H.

W is for wings. As in chicken wings. Roughly 1.25 billion — yes with a ‘b’ — will be consumed this weekend. Not to mention all that pizza and beer.

X is for XLVIII, or just 48 to you and me. The Yanks love Roman numerals for some reason. Maybe it adds gravitas even on an occasion that could hardly take itself more seriously.

Y is for yards. What it’s all about. Moving the chains.

Z is for zzz. Face it, most of us won’t make it to the end. There’s always the highlights. Enjoy.

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Saturday, November 28, 2020

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