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Everything You Need to Know About Super Bowl XLVII but Didn't Care Enough to Ask

Posted: 02/02/2013 00:00

While tens of millions of Americans tuck into their nachos, weak beer and some good ol'-fashioned football, thousands of plucky Britons will be trying to stay awake (and wondering why they did) at about 1am on Sunday night as they watch the Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers in this year's Super Bowl. But why should you care?

Well, for one thing, the Super Bowl is the single biggest sporting event in the world. A total of 166.8million Americans watched last year, somewhere around 53% of the nation, and the game's such a spectacle that there is a popular movement for Super Bowl Sunday to be a national holiday. Last year's FA Cup final drew 11.1million viewers in the UK last year, a comparatively tiny 17.7% of the country.

The game's international following is picking up too. You'll probably know about the games at Wembley but, such is the game's potential, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he is contemplating planning a London-based NFL team (I think it's a terrible idea, but that's for another day).

Secondly, it's hilariously over-the-top. No country hams things up or believes in its own inherent greatness quite like America. There's far too much pageantry - you get roughly four thousand metric tonnes of fireworks, ludicrous, lavish half-time shows from international superstars (Beyonce this year, hopefully live) and warbly show-offs singing the national anthem. Also the winning team earns the title of World Champions - which hardly makes sense when no other countries can compete.

Thirdly, American football is a deep, complex and tactical game that you can really obsess over while also being relatively simple to follow if you just watch the ball, listen to the commentary and try to gloss over the jargon.

And fourthly, this year's game should be a hell of a lot of fun. There are a number of great stories heading into this game:

The coaches

Angry, shouty John Harbaugh, Baltimore's coach, and angrier, shoutier 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh are brothers - making Super Bowl XLVII quite the family affair. They're the first pair of brothers to be head coaches in the NFL at the same time, let alone the only pair to face each other in the biggest game of them all. You can guarantee there'll be at least a dozen cutaways to their proud dad Jack in the stands, ready to be proud of one son and immensely disappointed in the other.

It's advised that you can refer to this game as either the Harbaugh Bowl or, simply, the HarBowl.

Ray Lewis' last stand

Sunday's will be the last game in the incredible career of Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. Still going at 37, Lewis has spent 17 years in the NFL, already winning one Super Bowl, and hopes to end his career with another. He's undoubtedly one of the best to ever play his position and one of the all-time great characters in the league, even if he has some shadier aspects to his character.

Lewis announced he planned to retire just before the playoffs, having just come back from a torn triceps that cost him most of this season, and Baltimore have been on a tear ever since, beating Indianapolis, Denver and Super Bowl favourites New England on their way to the Super Bowl.

You either love or you hate him. He has a brilliant/embarrassing introductory dance routine and can hype up his squad like no one else but he comes across to many as preachy, insincere or just plain odd. Also, his now infamous connection to a double homicide in 2000 caused many to lose their respect for him, at least off the field.

Baltimore: A team in transition

This Baltimore team are also a team in transition. The Ravens used to be about their defence, which led them to a Super Bowl in 2000, but many of their great players from that era are either gone or going, including Lewis and legendary safety Ed Reed, who could leave at the end of the season. Both players would leave voids almost impossible to fill, even if their production has dropped off slightly with age.

Their future's really in the hands of quarterback Joe Flacco, whose own dad called him "dull" this week, and tiny but mighty running back Ray Rice.

San Francisco: Greatest turnaround ever?

San Francisco, on the other hand, have had an incredible turnaround in only two seasons under Jim Harbaugh. They won only six of 16 games in 2010 but 24 of 32 over the next two years with Harbaugh in charge. A huge amount of the turnaround has had to do with Harbaugh's staff rather than new players - 15 of the team's 22 starting players were on the team when Harbaugh showed up.

They're led by a ferocious defence, with great players at every spot, and second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, first seen as a project player when he was drafted out of Nevada, who stepped in as starter when incumbent Alex Smith got concussed and hasn't looked back.

The Super Bowl experience

"Ok, that's great," I hear you all say in unison, "how can I get in on the fun?" I'd advise one of two ways. You can go to a noisy, expensive sports bar, which is basically impossible to find given the game starts shortly before midnight.

Or, much more excitingly, you can sit at home with some chicken wings, nachos, hot dogs or whatever American snack is your favourite, some beer, some confused friends and just try and take in as much as you can. That's what me and the rest of the committed NFL fans in the UK will be doing. That, and shouting at TV as though we know better.

Above all, try and enjoy it. American football's fun, I promise. You just need to give it a chance.

 

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