Watching the Super Bowl is very much a communal activity. You’re apt to find an eclectic mix of people, all with varying levels of football fandom celebrating the game at any one of the countless viewing parties held throughout the country. Whether you’re a grief-stricken New England Patriots fan or not, if you’re anything like the record-setting 111 million Americans who tuned in to watch professional football’s biggest spectacle last February then you’ll likely find yourself watching again this year.
But if you’re not necessarily one of the pigskin diehards at your respective party this year, fear not. I am here to help get you through what can often be a very long and confusing night. You might even be able to impress a few of your friends.
This year’s Super Bowl is being held at the Superdome in New Orleans, and it features a matchup between the Baltimore Ravens (in white) and San Francisco 49ers (in red). Both of these teams are very physical and employ strong defenses. You can probably expect to witness a concussion or two, so be prepared to engage in a discussion on violence in football during injury timeouts. As such, you might be facing a relatively low-scoring affair, and games of that caliber tend to be a bit more boring for the casual fan. Be ready with auxiliary discussion topics just in case.
If you find yourself surrounded by Baltimore fans, you should be prepared to hear about and discuss the following cast of characters: John Harbaugh (coach), Ray Lewis (linebacker), Joe Flacco (quarterback), Ed Reed (safety) and Ray Rice (running back).
For San Francisco fans, the list includes Jim Harbaugh (coach), Colin Kaepernick (quarterback), Alex Smith (quarterback), Patrick Willis (linebacker) and Aldon Smith (linebacker).
What’s that, you say? Both coaches are named Harbaugh? Yes, that is because they are, in fact, brothers. By the end of the game you’ll wish they weren’t. Be prepared for anyone and everyone to harp on this “Harbowl” storyline. A lot.
Another major discussion topic for Ravens fans will be Ray Lewis, maybe the best linebacker to ever play in the NFL. His baggage is extensive: a connection to an Atlanta murder in 2000 (he plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice in exchange for testimony against friends also connected to the murder), the recent revelation of his alleged association with performance enhancing drugs and his pending retirement after the game. Win or lose, expect to hear plenty of both hyperbolic praise and defamation of this complicated NFL figure. You’ll probably see a lot of crying and/or praying from Lewis during the game as well. Flacco will also be discussed at length because his contract is up after the season, and a Super Bowl win would likely earn him a substantial pay raise.
49ers fans will likely be focused on the play of Kaepernick, a second-year player who has surprised analysts with his play in relief of the injured Smith. Much will be made of the decision to bench the now-healthy Smith, especially if Kaepernick struggles during the big game. Also, for those of you who remember him from his days playing in New England, veteran wide receiver Randy Moss will be looking to cap his Hall of Fame career with a Super Bowl ring.
Things to say
Here’s a brief list of observational quips you can make to sound more knowledgeable: “Colin Kaepernick runs the pistol offense so well”; “Ray Lewis isn’t even the best linebacker in this game, Patrick Willis is”; “Did you know Jim Harbaugh and Ray Lewis were teammates in Baltimore back in 1998?”; “Ed Reed is going to bait Kaepernick into a rookie mistake, you’ll see”; and “Aldon Smith isn’t as effective when Justin Smith isn’t playing well.” Just be sure to appropriately plan your comments around gameplay to avoid looking clueless.
Other viewing tips
Super Bowl halftime shows are usually pretty awful, but Beyoncé is performing this year, so you’ll have that to look forward to. Also, don’t be too concerned if you miss a commercial; they all end up online after the game and are never as good as they’re made out to be. Lastly, make sure to tune into Puppy Bowl IX, airing on Animal Planet all Sunday long. You can thank me later.
Confused? Scared? Don’t worry. When in doubt, keep your eyes open and keep Wikipedia up on your phone or laptop and you’ll do just fine.