The Super Bowl! Gridiron football crowns its champion in fun-filled event
The championship game of gridiron football, also commonly known as American football, will take place on Sunday (US time). The game, better known as the Super Bowl, pits the champions of the two conferences in the National Football League against each other for the right to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy as the league champion.
The fanfare of the annual Super Bowl game, which takes place in February every year, dwarfs that of the sport itself during the main portion of the season.
The sport, as can be inferred from its name, draws the majority of its fans from the United States, its country of origin. It is the most popular sport in terms of fandom in the US, ahead of basketball, baseball and all others. However, in recent decades, the league and the sport have expanded their popularity across international borders. The league began hosting annual games in London, England, in 2007, and has also played games in Canada and Mexico and plans to host matches in Germany beginning next season as well.
During the 20th century, the game was less accessible to international fans due to the lack of online streaming services and access to international cable television channels. In the modern age of technology, however, it's easy for NFL fans across the globe to access football content on the Internet. In China, Tencent's QQ Sports offers a livestreaming service for fans to watch the action. The service is quite popular with gridiron enthusiasts here; not only among Americans like me but with a great many Chinese and other fans from around the world as well.
The Super Bowl is an event in and of itself, almost separate from the actual game. The audience for the annual showdown is much larger than that of other contests. People who don't normally watch or even understand the sport tune in for the Super Bowl's glitz and fanfare.
The pre-game festivities include light and firework displays, and the halftime show during the game's midway rest period includes a flashy musical performance from entertainment mega-stars. Shows in previous years have featured Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, and more. This year, viewers will be treated to a rollicking performance by hip-hop icons Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Eminem, among others.
Even the TV advertisements during breaks in the action are special during the Super Bowl. Many viewers who aren't so keen on watching sports tune in just to see the commercials! Companies' marketing departments spend months on end preparing for their 30-second spot during the Bowl. These advertisements tend to be some of the cleverest, funniest, or most poignant that you'll ever see. And they had better be! The average cost for a company to run a 30-second advertisement during this year's Super Bowl is a staggering US$6.5 million!
As for the game itself, this year's championship bout features the Los Angeles Rams, based in Los Angeles, California, and my Cincinnati Bengals, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. I say "my" Bengals because the men in tiger-striped helmets have been my favorite NFL team since I was a small boy. I've watched nearly every one of their contests for the past 25 years, and this is the first time in my lifetime that they've made it to the Super Bowl, so it'd be a great understatement to say that I'm excited for this game.
But you don't have to have an allegiance to the Bengals or Rams to tune in. Broadcasts are available in English, Chinese, and numerous other languages. Football fans of all of the league's 32 teams will be watching the much-anticipated contest, and folks who aren't into football at all will be tuning in as well for the musical performance, the spectacle of the event, and the hilarious and often loony adverts.
Because the Super Bowl audiences don't solely consist of gridiron diehards, the broadcasters typically do an excellent job of explaining what's happening on the field in greater detail than usual, so don't worry if you don't understand the rules of the game. The basic principles are fairly simple to grasp ― the game is fairly similar in nature to rugby, except that the ball can be thrown forward as well as tossed backward. Players attempt to carry the ball into the painted zone at the ends of the field. If you've got that part, you can enjoy the match without worrying too much about the minutiae in the rule book.
Many restaurants and other establishments around Shanghai will be opening up early on Monday morning for the event. This year's game kicks off at 7:30am China time, so if you want to catch all the action, set your alarm. However, the game typically lasts between three-and-a-half and four hours, so if you're a bit late to rise, you can still catch the majority of the contest.
Several locations in Shanghai will host watch parties for the game, offering various food and drink specials and large TV screens for viewing. Fans, both locals and expats, in the city each year pile into the locations that open up for the big game to cheer on the teams, soak up the action, and enjoy the raucous event.
So clear your schedule on Monday morning and find a spot to enjoy the game with friends. It's always a great time and a heck of a show. And sorry, Rams fans, but...