Footballs' championship game is played in early February and marks the end of the professional football season. It's a day of parties and cheering, and for anyone who knows next to nothing about the game, a day marred by confusion.
For those uninitiated, following is a quick guide to the game that many hail as America's favorite sport.
The action takes place on 100 yards of the 120-yard field. The best vantage point to view the game is the 50-yard line.
The team possessing the ball tries to carry it for 10 yards before being stopped by the other team. They have four tries to accomplish this, and when they do, they have made a first down.
As long as they continue to make downs, the team marches down the field toward their opponent's goal line. The mission of the team possessing the ball (aka "pigskin") is to carry it over their opponent's goal line, thus scoring a touchdown.
The team on offense advances the ball either on the ground (running play), or through the air (passing play). A fumble (dropping the ball) or an interception (the defensive team catches the ball intended for the offensive team on a pass) is called a turnover, allowing the opponent to now control the ball.
If a team has not gotten a first down in three tries, it often resorts to punting. A punter kicks the ball as far as he can toward the opposing team's end of the field. This changes the possession of the ball. The other team is now the offensive team.
If a team gets close enough to the goal line, it might let the place kicker try for a field goal.
In the end, territory is crucial in football. The game is played with military precision, with carefully selected players being called onto and off of the field by the all-important coach.
Every football game starts with the kick-off, which is determined by a coin toss.
The game is played in four 15-minute quarters. But these quarters are interrupted endlessly by penalties, incomplete passes, and time-outs. And in the case of televised games, such as the Super Bowl, by commercials. In real time, the Super Bowl can take three or four hours.
Points are scored by touchdowns (six points). The scoring team can then score immediately again by electing to let the place kicker try to kick the ball through the goal posts for an extra point.
Field goals earn the team three points.
All the players have numbers on their jerseys, which have their own significance. The quarterback, the guy who calls the plays during the game, usually wears a low number in the single digits or teens.
Wide receivers, the guys who line up at the line of scrimmage (the line of play at any given time), usually have numbers in the 80's.
Other players are defensive or offensive linemen.
In addition, there are numerous special players who play on "special teams" and have their own special coaches. These are the players who kick the ball at kick-off, for field goals, or to punt. The head coach sends them on and off the field as he deems necessary.
The fans do more than buy expensive tickets and overpriced hot dogs. At a typical game, they are a huge factor and can literally drown out the opposing players' calls, the quarterback's audibles (instructions at the line of scrimmage), or taunt the opposing team.
Super Bowl tickets are generally gobbled up by corporations for their clients and lucky employees, and others who may not normally go to a game. In other words, the crowd is not typical.
This, too, is a factor. A Florida team will play better in heat but will be at disadvantage playing in Denver in January at 5,000 feet where the air is thin.
Super Bowls are typically played in warm climates or indoor stadiums - perhaps so the corporation's clients don't get cold.
A strong wind will inhibit place kickers and punters from kicking the ball far or accurately.
A Final Note
Football is a complex game that only aficionados and coaches fully understand. As a fan, you only have to kick back and enjoy the testosterone ballet.