Super Bowl Cheat Sheet

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You read tech blogs and, as such, you may not care much about professional sports. And that’s okay. That’s okay. But the Super Bowl is an event that even non-sports-loving people tend to watch every year since anyone who actually likes football always throws a Super Bowl party. So even though you’re not into the game at all, here’s a little cheat sheet you can use at your Super Bowl party this weekend.

Background:

There are two “conferences” that make up the National Football League, the AFC (American Football Conference) and the NFC (National Football Conference). Each of those conferences is split up into four divisions; North, East, South, and West. The winner of the AFC plays the winner of the NFC after 2-3 rounds of playoffs at the end of the 17-week season.

The New Orleans Saints won the NFC this year. The Indianapolis Colts won the AFC.

The Super Bowl is played in a neutral stadium every year, almost always in a warm climate (unless the stadium in a cold climate has a dome). This year it’s being played in Miami.

The Super Bowl is always followed by Roman numerals. This year it’s Super Bowl XLIV – Super Bowl 44, the 44th Super Bowl since Super Bowl I was played back in 1967.

Kickoff is at 6:25 PM on Sunday, February 7th 2010. It will be televised on CBS. The half-time show will be a live music set by The Who. The game lasts forever so get a good seat.

Teams:

The New Orleans Saints, led by quarterback Drew Brees, will make their first Super Bowl appearance in team history. The Saints almost went undefeated during the regular season until a loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15. They finished 13-3 overall and then beat the Arizona Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs.

Players to look out for: Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Devery Henderson, Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey, Darren Sharper.

The Indianapolis Colts, led by quarterback Peyton Manning, won Super Bowl XLI (41) in 2007. Like the Saints, the Colts almost went undefeated during the regular season as well. They lost their first game in Week 16 against the New York Jets. Colts Coach Jim Caldwell was criticized for resting most of his best players during that game since the team had already clinched a spot in the playoffs. The Colts finished the season 14-2 and beat the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets in the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl.

Players to look out for: Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Dwight Freeney (may not play due to injury).

Things to say if you want to impress people:

“Man, this should be interesting. Neither of these teams particularly cares about establishing the run. But if you’ve got a gunslinger like Manning or Brees, that’s probably not an issue.”

“This oughta be a good game. These teams have only played each other ten times and they’ve split the wins 50-50.”

“This game may come down to defense. Or lack thereof.”

“New Orleans’ offensive line has to protect Brees. Indy’s defense is too quick.”

Crash course in American Football:

The playing field is 100 yards long, populated by perpendicular white lines every five yards and two ten-yard deep scoring areas on either end called end zones. Teams (11 players per side) are given four opportunities, called “downs” to progress the ball forward a total of ten yards. If successful, the downs are reset and the team must go another ten yards. That process is repeated until the team scores a touchdown, kicks a field goal, or punts the ball drop kick-style (often done on fourth down when the team can’t move the ball ten yards after three attempts) away to the other team. Any player who carries the ball into their opponents’ end zone or catches the ball while in their opponents’ end zone scores a touchdown.

Touchdowns are worth six points. After each touchdown, the scoring team has a chance to get 1-2 extra points. One point for kicking the ball through two upright goal posts 18.5 feet apart and 10 feet elevated above the ground. The team may also attempt to run or throw the ball back into the end zone from the two yard line which, if successful, nets the team two extra points. Most often, teams opt for the one-point kick since it’s less risky.

If a team is unable to make it to the end zone, they may opt to kick a “field goal” from wherever they are on the field. Similar to an extra point kick after a touchdown, but often attempted from greater distances, a field goal is worth three points. If the team is not close enough to the opposing end zone to attempt a field goal, they must punt the ball away to the other team or attempt to obtain a first down by moving the ball the remainder of ten yards. If unsuccessful after fourth down, the ball is turned over to the other team.

There are four 15-minute quarters per game. If a game ends in a tie, a 15-minute overtime quarter is played. The first team to score in overtime wins. If neither team scores, the game ends in a tie during the regular season. For playoff games and the Super Bowl, the teams keep playing additional overtime quarters until one team scores.

Which team to cheer for:

Follow your heart. You’ll probably like the cut of one team’s jib more than the other. Or maybe you’ll like the colors of one team’s uniform better than the other. If you like to root for the underdog, go with the Saints. It’s the first time they’ve ever been to the Super Bowl. If you’re looking for more of a dynasty-type atmosphere, go with the Colts. Peyton Manning will probably be their quarterback until he retires and he’s good at football which means, in turn, the Colts are always pretty good every year. Saints for show, Colts for dough.

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