If you’re not a football expert, here’s a crash course on this year’s big game
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
If you haven’t heard enough about the Super Bowl commercials, then you’ve probably heard people debating about the Chiefs and their strong offense (plus, of course, Taylor Swift’s boyfriend) or the 49ers and the underdog story of Brock Purdy. If you’ve been to the grocery store recently, you’ve also probably seen that they are all sold out of chips, dips and chicken wings.
Well, there is a reason for all this madness — one of the biggest sporting events of the year, Super Bowl LVIII (58), is happening this Sunday, Feb. 11 at 3:30 p.m. PST. If the excitement of the Super Bowl wasn’t enough, the game is set to play in the luxurious, middle-of-the-desert, excitement capital of the world: Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Kansas City Chiefs are set to play the San Francisco 49ers in what could be one of the most-watched Super Bowls to date. The Chiefs, led by their quarterback Patrick Mahomes, have had an outstanding season with 13 wins and six losses. Originally underestimated in the playoffs, the Chiefs shocked fans by beating the favored Baltimore Ravens in the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship and earning a spot in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in the last five years. With Taylor Swift by their side, they are definitely a team to watch out for.
The 49ers, led by quarterback Brock Purdy, have had an even more stellar season than the Chiefs. With a total of 14 wins and five losses, there was no question they would make it to the playoffs. As a rematch of the 2020 Super Bowl between the 49ers and the Chiefs, Niners fans all over are energetically waiting to see if the 49ers can finally win a Super Bowl in what feels like forever.
The Super Bowl features one of the most confusing and expensive sports to learn and play. It can also be hard to follow for new fans, even with the digitally overlayed yellow lines that show viewers where to look during complicated plays. So why do people care so much about a bunch of random people running around with a ball for three hours?
To some, football represents tuning in every Monday night to watch their favorite team battle it out for a win, but for most, it represents a sense of comradery and a feeling of belonging. As described by author Daniel Wann in his book, “Sport Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators,” “Whether their team wins or loses, sports fans are more psychologically healthy than those who don’t follow sports … It’s not really the performance [of the team] that matters, it’s the connection to the team.” So, if you feel like rooting for a team or finding a connection, why not give football a try by tuning into the Super Bowl.
Additionally, the Super Bowl offers so much more than just a long game. There is a halftime show that brings in much of the viewership, along with a series of confusing or crazy commercials containing an absurd amount of random celebrities. More than just a random celebrity this Super Bowl season, R&B sensation Usher was announced as the halftime show performer. So, if you want to find “Love in this club” (to be screaming “Yeah”), or go “OMG,” then you should tune into the stellar halftime show.
Nonetheless, for those of you who have no idea how football works or are just jumping on the Chiefs’ bandwagon because you love Taylor Swift, here is a crash course in preparation for the upcoming Super Bowl.
Essentially, two teams of 11 players are on the field at all times during the game, with one acting as one team’s offense and the other acting as the opposing team’s defense. Both teams have their own offense and defense teams with 11 people each but will switch off between having their offensive and defensive team on the field depending on who has the ball. There are four 15-minute quarters in a game, though each game ends up being around three hours with halftime, timeouts and pauses between each play to set up the ball.
The objective of the offense is to move the ball down the field to the other team’s endzone (the end part of the field past the zero-yard line marker). Each field consists of 120 yards. The middle of the field is represented by the 50-yard line and from there, going both directions, it counts down to the zero-yard line in 10-yard increments. The offense can run or throw the ball down to the end zone and once they make it past the line then their team earns six points. From there, the kicker on the team has a chance to score one more point every touchdown by kicking the football between the two yellow posts, called a field goal.
As you can probably guess, the objective of the defense is to stop the other team from reaching their end zone and to regain possession of the ball. Each defensive player is supposed to guard an offensive player or an area of the field that an offensive player might run into. The defense can do one of three things; they can either tackle a player with the ball, sack the quarterback or intercept a pass by the quarterback. To regain possession of the ball, the defense can either force a fumble by the other team (when a player drops the ball and anyone can grab it to gain possession) or intercept a throw by the other team’s quarterback. Once the defense gains possession of the ball, then each team switches their players on the field, so the team with possession now turns from defense into offense and the once offensive team is now on defense.
The quarterback, usually the most well-known player on the team, calls out the plays to the team, deciding if they are going to throw the ball or pass it off to a player to try and run down the field. The quarterback is the head of the offense and the person that the defense is trying to sack to force a fumble and gain possession of the ball for their team to try and score.
Although it can be very exhilarating once a team has forced a fumble or interception, these are not as common as you may think. The more common way the ball possession is transferred is through a team not getting a “fourth down.” Basically, an offense has four tries to move the ball at least 10 yards when they are in possession. Each try has a number (how many tries they have had) paired with the word down: for example, first down or second down. Once they have had four downs and have not made it at least 10 yards, possession of the ball switches to the other team.
Now that you have a basic understanding of football, the last thing you need to survive the Super Bowl is a brief explanation of terms to casually throw out during the game. You can use “Just throw the ball!” when the quarterback is holding the ball. You can use “Where’s the protection!?” when a quarterback gets sacked (make sure it’s your team’s quarterback). You can also use “Pass Interference Ref!” when a player does not catch a throw from a quarterback. Additionally, you can use “Block Him or Sack Him!” when your team is on defense and the other team’s quarterback has the ball. Lastly, you can use “That was holding!” if your team’s offense did not catch the ball. Any of these phrases, used properly, will make you a true pro football fan.
Whether you are a Niners fan, a part of the Chiefs Kingdom or just in it for the snacks, the Super Bowl has a little bit of something for everyone.
Written by: The Editorial Board