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Super Bowl 101: A beginner’s guide to America’s biggest game

From an American (who also has no idea what’s going on)


This is my time to shine. I’ve only come out of the woodwork to write this article because this is the one night a year that my British friends let me say that I am American shamelessly (and audibly).

So, whether you’re a Swiftie who’s new to the sport, you’re pretending you don’t have midterms and are occupying your time with this, or you like watching American men tackle each other, this article is for you.

So, let’s start with the basics: The Super Bowl is like the World Cup, and to most middle-aged Americans, it is the most important day of the year. It’s the final game of the football season and to win is a massive deal. Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning on attending a Super Bowl party tonight.

What are the main rules of the game?

The main aim of American football is for the team to get the ball across the lines as many times as possible, and try to tackle the other team to gain possession of the ball. The offence can advance the ball by running with it or throwing it to a teammate.

The team with possession of the ball has four downs (attempts) to advance at least 10 yards. If successful, they receive a new set of downs.

Even though the game is only an hour long, it is split into four quarters of 15 minutes, plus (arguably) the main event: the halftime show.

The clock can stop for various reasons including when an incomplete pass is thrown, a point is scored, if a player in possession of the ball steps out of bounds, if an injury occurs, or if a team gets a penalty.

Another reason why the clock may stop is for a timeout, which each team is entitled to three of per half and six overall.

How do you score?

The two 10-yard end zones on either end of the field are the scoring areas where the opposing team tries to score by carrying the ball into the end zone.

The two 10-yard end zones on either end of the field are the scoring areas where the opposing team tries to score by carrying the ball into the end zone.

After that, you can kick an extra one point through field goal posts. Alternatively, the team can opt to go for a two-point conversion, where you basically have to score a touchdown again but from the three-yard line.

However, this isn’t the only way for a team to score points. They can tackle a player of the opposing team within their end zone, or sometimes a team can score points by tackling the offence when they have possession of the ball in their end zone. This grants the team on defence two points and is called a ‘safety’.

What the hell is a quarterback?

Now, you won’t have to know the intricacies of the positions to follow along with the game, but if you want an overview, there are eleven positions on each team, with eleven players on at any given time.

This includes the Kicker, whose entire job is kicking the ball across the end zone line, the Quarterback who tries to get the ball from the centre and controls the play, and the Linebacker, who just plays behind the defensive line.

What do I need to know about this year’s Super Bowl?

This year, the Super Bowl teams that are playing are the Kansas City Chiefs (who are not based in the state of Kansas but the state of Missouri) and the San Francisco 49ers.

The Chiefs will be aiming to win back-to-back titles for the first time in the last 20 years, whilst the 49ers have been one of the best teams in the NFL this season, leading to a nail-biting game.

If you’re not too interested in the game itself, the Halftime Show is being headlined by Usher this year, which is a bit of an odd pick but hopefully, it’ll be a good show.

Still don’t know what’s going on?

If you have no idea about anything that I have just told you, do not worry! Neither do I. I have not understood it for all twenty-one years that I have been an American citizen, and I don’t think I ever will.