Rugby seemed way too boring for Kate Robertson. She found, in the NFL, a sport with appropriate level of pop cultural chaos. Here she explains how to enjoy Monday’s Superbowl like a real fan.
The NFL, or “rugby for wussies”, as it’s more commonly known here in New Zealand, is reaching a fever pitch. Super Bowl 50 has arrived and if there were ever a good time to jump on the bandwagon, now would be it. Broncos vs. Panthers. Manning vs. Newton. To dab or not to dab? 60 minutes of grade-A American football, all done in hopes of raising the iconic Vince Lombardi trophy and walking out a national hero. Don’t be that person spending their public holiday mowing the laws, try something new! Go on – it’ll be thrilling.
It’s a cliché I know, but American football is more than just a game, more so than any other sport. It’s no secret that people go batshit crazy over it, but why? Where does this quasi-religious obsession with American football come from? According to Professor Stephen Levine – a Victoria University political science lecturer with the smoothest of Brooklyn accents – the growth of American football happened when the US emerged from WWII as the superpower. People’s lives became increasingly fast-paced and football offered them a much quicker, more exciting sport to invest themselves in than baseball – once ‘America’s pastime’.
When it comes to to where I – a reality TV-loving 21-year old Kiwi gal – fits into this equation, my evolution into a hootin’ and hollerin’ NFL fan makes a lot more sense than you might think. Call me a bad New Zealander, but rugby never quite did it for me. There was always something missing; something I’ve come to realise was the spectacle. We’re reserved. We watch cricket like it’s golf and league as if it were rugby. The NFL isn’t like that. Fans leave their dignity at the door and stop at nothing to prove their passion. It’s Shakespearean tragedy one minute and a Justin Bieber music video the next. NFL fans indulge in behaviour other sporting codes wouldn’t tolerate, for fear of being perceived as cheap, but it’s an integral part of American pop culture.
So what does it take to truly embrace the game that turns boys into men and legends into Gods? If you’re up for the challenge of becoming an overnight NFL fan, I suggest you read on.
If you’ve never watched a game before, there’s no point in even trying to grapple with the rules. All you really need to know is that being tackled is bad, big passes thrown from the quarterback to the wide receivers are good, and everything is done in pursuit of the almighty touchdown. The Panthers have the strongest offence in the league and the Broncos the strongest defence. This in itself will make for a thrilling four quarters.
With regard to players, keep your eyes out for each team’s quarterbacks. If you can’t find them, they’re the ones throwing the ball. Peyton Manning is a 39-year old veteran who should be announcing his retirement after the game. Cam Newton is a 26-year old rising star who’s looking a strong contender for NFL MVP. Once you’ve spotted the quarterbacks, the game will make significantly more sense.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
NFL isn’t for the faint-hearted. Although the game only lasts 60 minutes on paper, you’re looking at a minimum four-hour commitment. To last the full 280 minutes you’re going to need a one helluva comfy chair, elastic waistband pants, a chilly bin’s worth of cool beverages and an assortment of snacks. If this all sounds a bit daunting, don’t fret, there’s a half time show in the middle to get you pumped for the remaining two quarters. Much to the world’s disappointment, this year’s show will be headlined by wet blankets of the music world Coldplay, but the Queen herself (aka Beyoncé) will be there too so we can persevere together.
How to watch
Tailgate: Sick of hosting fancy, time-consuming dinner parties? Try tailgating. What has grown to become just as popular as attending the game itself, tailgating involves assembling a group of cars and hosting an informal barbeque of sorts. Think gas cookers, camping chairs, cold brews and a transistor radio. Grab a mullet cap, slip, slop, slap and wrap, and you’ll be away laughing.
Host a Super Bowl party: Not for the faint hearted, the Super Bowl party is a big commitment. We’re talking sliders, buffalo wings, waffle fries, nachos – if it’s wrapped in bacon, drowning in ranch and bad for your cholesterol, it makes the cut. If you’re only toying with the idea of such an affair now, then I suggest you’ve left your run too late. Your teeny tiny football decorations and fresh merch simply won’t arrive in time, and no one likes an underwhelming Super Bowl party. Maybe shoot for Super Bowl 51.
Head to a bar: If you’re anything like me and in the market for some zero-effort atmosphere, your local sports bar will likely be taking bookings. Do your research, because the bar owners who really care will have Budweiser (or dirt beer as I prefer to call it) on tap and be serving themed food. By the time the confetti has settled and the losers medals have been dished out, you will have found friends for life in your fellow bar patrons, having formed a kind of camaraderie that can only be built upon four hours worth of men in pads crashing about and hiffing a pigskin.
If all else fails, just mutter something about bad karma catching up with Tom Brady and get ready to soak up that mad respect like the well-educated fan you are.
Super Bowl 50 will be airing live on TV ONE, Freeview pop-up 13 and ESPN from 12pm Monday.