Super Bowl Sunday

No matter what language you speak, chances are you have probably heard the words “Super Bowl” before. The Super Bowl is to Americans as Carnaval is to Brazilians. As Oktoberfest is to Germans. As St. Patrick’s Day is to the Irish.

The Super Bowl is America.

And it’s now making its way around the world.

Nowadays, if you haven’t heard of the Super Bowl, either you have chosen to live in a cave all your life and avoid all social contact—or you just hate sports that much—because this is as primetime as it gets in terms of sporting events and also American television viewing.

Thinking about running a TV ad to capitalize on this captive audience? I hope you have $5 million to spare because that’s the average cost of a 30-second spot nowadays. Five million dollars. One ad.

So how did the National Football League become so big? Wasn’t baseball America’s pastime?

That would be because of a number of factors; one being the sheer setup of the season. Each team plays only 16 games. Sixteen games. One game per week.

And every game is crucial. Every game is a sell-out crowd.

Another reason is because of the very way the league itself works; every team has a chance to go to the big game at the end—because every team is working with the same amount of money to pay players. This is the salary cap. Every sport should imitate! It is fair, and it is also exciting!

Sure, you have the dynasties. You have the Pittsburgh Steelers—the team I hate most in any sport—with the most Super Bowl titles in history (six). You also have the opposite; the teams that can’t dig themselves out of the deepest hole in the world, firing their head coaches every two years, etc.—like my team, the Cleveland Browns. They even moved the team to Baltimore, started over with a brand new one years later, and even still, no Super Bowl appearances to date.

But both dynasties and eternal losers are a result of good/bad coaching, good/bad selecting of college players in the annual event known as the “draft,” good/bad strategies, play-calling and well, just plain old luck.

(I should mention that the Browns are creative in one aspect—they have a unique capacity to invent more ways to lose than you could ever imagine.)

The NFL’s popularity is also because of the way the postseason works. It’s a one-and-done type deal; you get one game to win and if you lose, you’re out. The final game, the Super Bowl, works the same. You play in a neutral stadium pre-selected years in advance, and you get four quarters of football, or 60 minutes of game time, to score more points than the other team and seal your year with a trophy.

But over the years, the NFL has also done a fantastic job with marketing. They made their sport attractive to just about anyone—even women. People dress up and wear costumes to games. Hours of partying (“tailgating”) take place in nearby parking lots with early-morning barbecues and beer. In fact, many people who don’t even have tickets to the game attend this part just because it’s fun and there is no better reason to surround yourself with total strangers and friends alike on a Sunday morning, gearing up to support the same side.

And for the Super Bowl, companies are forking out more and more cash to run ads in order to compete to be the most talked about. Who will create the most memorable ad? The funniest? The dumbest? Some even work on this ad for the whole year.

Half-time shows quickly became just as exciting—and sometimes dramatic—as the game itself, too. There are surprise guests, wardrobe malfunctions, everything.

Super Bowl parties take place everywhere. Cooking shows on TV give you tips on what to prepare for your Super Bowl appetizers if you are the host.

Basically, the NFL turned this championship into the cultural, musical and sporting event of the year. It doesn’t matter if your team didn’t make it. If you don’t watch this game—and the commercials—you will be out of the loop in the office, at your school, wherever. You need to know what happened. It is your American duty.

But little by little, it’s not only an American duty. It’s a human being duty.

Globalization is taking the NFL in full force, starting in London, where the NFL International Series was launched in 2007. Every year since then, a game has been played across the pond for its European fanatics to enjoy.

And it could soon be played in other places, too.

No doubt, the regular season is already being broadcast around the world. Australians wake up at 1, 2, 3 or 4 in the morning just to watch the games live. Brazilians go crazy when one of their Portuguese-speaking commentators yells, “CAOS!” which means “chaos” and is normally said when a quarterback is sacked (knocked over by the defense of the other team). They also yell, “TOUCHDOWNNNNN” for several minutes, as is the norm when the Brazilian soccer team scores a goal.

These examples I know just from personal experience. I have no idea how this sport is taking off in other corners of the globe, though now you can watch a game and start to see players from around the world. Unlike other professional leagues in the U.S. like baseball or basketball, the NFL had typically featured solely American athletes. But the Kansas City Chiefs have a Brazilian (he’s a kicker of course). The New England Patriots have a German. The Lions have a Ghanaian. And there are many more.

Regardless, this year, February 7, marks the fiftieth time a Super Bowl will be played featuring the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. It is a national holiday for Americans, and come 11 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time), it is also one of the saddest days on the calendar—because the country realizes it has to wait until August for its favorite sport to return.

Super Bowl Sunday is for everyone. If you have never watched one before, you may have no idea how it will be, but you can be sure of one thing: not many people are in the office on (Super Bowl) Monday. That’s for certain.

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