Every year, a Sunday at the end of January or the beginning of February, tens of millions of Americans declare it their unofficial holiday. Gathered in large and small groups, more than half of American households participate indirectly in a televised show that has grown far beyond its origins as a sporting event.
The Super Bowl, the sporting event that decides who the American football champion is, is mostly a shared experience as Americans choose disproportionately to spend the day in the company of friends.
Neither the hugely popular World Series of Major League Baseball nor the National Basketball Association championship attracts the country’s attention with such intensity. Possibly this is because the Super Bowl consists of a single match, a competition in which the winner takes everything. This, together with the shows that accompany the game, makes Super Bowl Sunday an event even for those who are not American football fans.
The Origins of the Super Bowl
American football has no relation to the game that is known in much of the world as football and that Americans call soccer. Even the American game has variants since the rules vary slightly between the versions of football played by university teams, professional teams, and teams in the Canadian football league.
For most of its history, professional American football consisted of a single National Football League (NFL). In 1960, a rival league, the American Football League (AFL), began competing for the greatest talents. When contemplating the leagues a fusion, they agreed that every year, there would be only one match between their respective champions. Since many of the university soccer championships were known as “bowls” (in Spanish, bowls), because of the bowl shape of the stadiums in which these games were played, one of the owners of the AFL referred to the new match like the “Super” Bowl. The name turned out to be popular.
Before the two leagues merged into the National Football League, four Super Bowl games were played. The league was divided into two sections the American “conference” and the national “conference.” Each year the champions of each conference meet in the Super Bowl to determine who is the NFL champion.
While most of the US sports championships are decided in the respective cities of the competitors, the Super Bowl – just like in the Olympics and the World Cup – is awarded to a city about three to five years in advance, which opens the door to great commercial and promotional opportunities. Since the game is played in the winter, warm weather cities like New Orleans, Miami, and Los Angeles enjoy a considerable advantage. Occasionally, the Super Bowl is played in a northern city with a closed stadium. New Orleans is the host city this year of Super Bowl XLVII to be played between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens teams on February 3.
For the first time in Super Bowl history, two brothers face each other as coaches, older brother John Harbaugh as coach of the Baltimore Ravens team and Jim Harbaugh, as coach of the San Francisco 49ers team.
The Super Bowl generates substantial commercial activity in the host city. Many of the spectators, representatives of the news media, and others arrive in the city a week before the game, explore the surroundings and spend money.
Cities that want to host the game have to present environmental plans that detail how they intend to make the Super Bowl event as “green” as possible.
On the eve of Super Bowl XLVII, the Super Bowl Host Committee will hold a community event called Super Saturday Service, a collaboration between the committee, the NFL, the city of New Orleans, the Habitat for Humanity organization of the New Orleans area and other groups, which will result in the renovation and beautification of public parks in New Orleans.
A Social Event
More and more Americans are gathering to celebrate the Super Bowl game at private parties, where they enjoy eating, drinking, and watching televised football. The game is always played on Sunday when most Americans do not work. Given the national prominence of the game, even Americans who are not football fans often adopt one of the teams only for Super Bowl Sunday.
Some of the most-watched television programs in US history have been those of the Super Bowl game. The game that was played in 2012, Super Bowl XLVI, had an audience of 111.3 million viewers. The Super Bowl in 2011 had an audience of 111 million viewers and broke the record set by the 2010 game as the most-watched television show in the United States.
Another key to the success of the Super Bowl is the carefully choreographed shows around the game. During the mid-game break, the “halftime show” is presented on the court, with music and other functions offered by renowned stars. In 2013, the stellar performance will be that of Beyoncé.
For many television viewers, the highlight of the Super Bowl is not the game, but the commercials. Advertisers compete to show their greatest creativity and the most innovative products. Because of a large number of audience, advertisers are willing to pay huge sums to display their products during the Super Bowl broadcast. In 2013, a 30-second announcement will cost a record $ 4 million.
Although many serious football fans will not agree, millions of Americans on Super Bowl Sunday have less to do with which of the teams will win than with the fun of that day. Whether in the stadium or with friends in front of the television, most Americans will find something to enjoy at this unofficial national holiday.