Unless you’ve just woken up from a particularly robust Christmas coma, talk of something called the ‘Superbowl‘ will not have escaped you over the last few weeks. Where the average Brit used to ignore American football until a few years ago, America’s largest sports event is now almost inescapable over here. This can all be very bewildering to the average, football-worshipping Limey. However, if you’re not ‘in the know’, but still enjoy drinking beer whilst staring at TV screens, here’s your ten-second guide to these odd overseas rituals so you can cheer on confidently.
American football is a sport similar to rugby, where players wear big suits of armour and play stops every time the person carrying the ball hits the ground with anything other than his feet. Unlike rugby, possession does not usually shift organically between teams. Rather, teams in possession have four chances to advance the ball ten yards from the line of scrimmage, either by running it over or throwing it forwards. If they do not make the ten yards in four plays, they will have to hand over the ball to the other team.
The Superbowl is like soccer’s Champion’s League final: the endgame of the annual tournament, where the two best teams face each other. This year, the two competitors are the New England Patriots and the New York Giants, a rematch of the 2008 edition. That game became one of the most famous upsets in football history. The Patriots were seen by many as the archetypal villains with an entire website dedicated to exposing their cheating. Furthermore, quarterback Tom Brady was widely criticised for leaving his pregnant girlfriend for supermodel Gisele Buendchen. They were, however, imperious up to the Superbowl (going a full season unbeaten) and it came as a huge upset when the Giants beat them by two points, scoring 14 in the last quarter. This year, the Patriots are favourites once again but the New Yorkers will be confident of an upset in Indianapolis.