Super Bowl 2019: A Beginner's Guide

Written by Monkey Woods

Sunday, 27 January 2019

image for Super Bowl 2019: A Beginner's Guide
Players, seen here discussing the exceedingly complex rules

To many people, it's the most exciting sport on Earth - American Football - and, when the ball is booted into play in Super Bowl 53 on Sunday 3 February, about 50billion people around the world will tune in to watch.

As well as being exciting, it's also extremely tedious, especially if there are other things that you could be getting on with.

Commonly known as 'Gridiron', the game has an extremely complex set of rules, and it's probably easier to gain a medical degree, or to study the field of nuclear physics, than to learn the ins-and-outs of so-called 'football'.

The build-up starts on the morning of the game, when opposing fans meet up on the stadium parking lot for a wanky barbecue and a beer. They laugh and joke about each other's players, mock each other's cities, and their respective levels of yokeldom, then exchange Facebook details, shake hands and hug, and go inside the stadium, where the real action isn't.

About three hours before the game starts, a man with a microphone drones on about something or other about how great America is, and then the crowd practices executing a Mexican Wave.

When 'gametime' arrives - about an hour before the game starts - the players, who have been trying for hours to get into their tight, lycra pants, emerge onto the field looking like top-heavy cartoon characters, waving to the crowd who, in fact, they have never met.

The game itself, is split into two halves of 30 minutes each, both of which are then halved again, leaving 4 identical-length segments of 15 minutes known as 'quarters'. These 15-minute 'quarters', however, are made to seem like hours by the stop-start nature of the game, which can be halted for a multitude of reasons:

a touchdown is scored
a penalty is awarded
a player carrying the ball goes 'out of bounds'
a player is injured
a team in possession of the ball, loses it, and it is recovered by a player on the opposing team, who is then tackled
the quarterback of the team in possession throws the ball to the ground in disgust, or in order to stop the clock
a pigeon alights on the head of the quarterback
there is an earthquake

The aim of the game is to get the ball, by ever-increasingly desperate measures, into the 'endzone', a shaded area at the end of the pitch. If this happens, a 'touchdown' is scored, although, confusingly, the ball doesn't have to be touched down.

When a team gets the ball, it has four attempts to move the ball forward by 10 yards from the place it started. These attempts are called 'downs'. If the team fails, the other team gets possession; if they are able to move it 10 yards, or more, they start another set of 4 downs to try and move it another 10 yards forward. It doesn't sound very good, but it's better 'for seeing'.

At any point, the team in possession may attempt a 'field goal', which is a bit like a conversion in rugby, apart from the fact that all of the opposition is running towards the kicker in order to obstruct his kick.

The team may also 'punt' the ball as deep into their opposition's territory as they can, to earn themselves a rest.

There are many other rules, but they are just too complex to be bothered with.

One interesting thing you should be aware of, however, is the system of officiating. On the field, there are seven referees or judges who, should they see an infringement, immediately throw a 'yellow flag' to the ground. This 'yellow flag' isn't really a flag. In fact, it's a small yellow cloth, like a duster with which your mom probably used to clean the dust from her ornaments on the sideboard when you were a kid. Anyway, if a duster is thrown, the referee or judge who threw it whispers something or other into the main referee's ear, and then the main referee announces it to the whole stadium. I can only assume he got the job of being the 'main referee' simply because of his extremely loud voice, which carries to all parts of the stadium, without ever seeming to shout!

Another interesting thing is the system of 'Time-outs'. A team can stop the game by calling a 'Time-out'. This means they have to get the attention of the referee, and make a sign with their hands in the shape of the letter 'T'. The letter 'T' was chosen, because 'Time-out' begins with the letter 'T'.

It's quite simple in that respect.

This 'Time-out' sign must be made with an upper case 'T', and not a lower case 't'. If a player tries to get the game stopped by making the sign with a lower case 't', he is ignored, the game goes on, and valuable seconds elapse.

Players who make the wrong sign are often treated as idiots afterwards, and often become traumatised, turning to all kinds of vice.

This year's Superbowl is in Atlantis, and will be contested by the Los Angeles Rams and their compatriots.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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