So you want to watch the Super Bowl but you’re not really an American football fan? Let Eurosport’s supervising editor Seán Fay pick out some of the more quirky back stories to help make the event that bit more interesting.
I love American football. During the NFL season you can find me on my couch every Sunday watching hours and hours of the stuff without getting bored. It is a great sport – I recommend getting into it.
However, when it comes to the Super Bowl-watching British public, I accept I’m probably in the minority. This is the one match that people who don’t regularly watch the sport tend to dip into.
The two usual complaints from casual viewers? It's too long and there are too many stoppages. But never fear, away from the actual game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens there are so many quirky sub-plots, stories, facts and characters that there is bound to be something that sparks your interest.
So how about enlightening your friends with these facts in between those 'boring breaks.'
1. The two Head Coaches are brothers – what are the odds on that?
You are going to be hearing a lot about how amazing it is that the two Head Coaches are brothers and to be fair it is pretty astonishing. Imagine Gary and Phil Neville managing teams against each other in the FA Cup final and you have some idea of the situation. John Harbaugh (Baltimore) is the older brother by 15 months and has been Ravens coach since 2008. Jim is in just his second season with the 49ers but what are the odds that two brothers would actually coach against each other in the Super Bowl? Well a professor at Rice University has only gone and worked it out. *WARNING, ANSWER CONTAINS COMPLEX MATHS*
2. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh once played Screech's cousin on 'Saved By the Bell'
Yep…this actually happened. Although it was on the terrible 'New Class' spin-off version and not the classic Zach Morris, A.C. Slater and Kelly Kapowski version of the US teen comedy…ah Kelly Kapowski how I still dream of thee….ahem…sorry got side-tracked for a moment. You can watch Jim's cameo here – inspiring stuff, he even gets one of those uniquely American special guest star ‘whoooooooooos’ from the ‘live studio audience’ - he was quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts at the time.
3. The real-life character in the movie 'The Blind Side' is playing in this Super Bowl but he won't be playing in the 'blind side' position and he doesn't want to talk about the movie.
You might remember the 2009 Hollywood movie (based on a much better book from Moneyball writer Michael Lewis) where Sandra Bullock helped an impoverished young gentle giant to become an American football player. Bullock won an Oscar for her role as Michael 'Big Mike' Oher's surrogate mother and mentor and the film ends with the real-life footage of Oher being drafted by the Ravens. He still plays for Baltimore and is an excellent player. However, during the season he was moved from left tackle (the position where you protect a right-handed quarterback's 'blind side') to the right tackle position and the Ravens have improved markedly since then. He was asked about the movie at Super Bowl's media day but wasn't impressed by the questions saying: "I'm here to play football," while also suggesting the movie is riddled with inaccuracies.
4. The most famous player on the Ravens team Ray Lewis…
2013, Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens, NFL, Reuters
(A) …Is playing in his last ever game. (You'll hear the commentators mention this a lot)
(B) …Is very religious, is fond of dancing and loves being the centre of attention. (You'll see a lot of this)
(C) …Is rumoured to have used banned deer-antler spray to have helped him recover from torn triceps in remarkably quick time this season. (He doesn't really want to talk about this)
(D) …Once reached an undisclosed settlement with two families in 2004 so that they would drop double civil murder proceedings against him for his role in the fatal stabbing of two men four years previously. (He REALLY doesn't want to talk about that)
5. The Baltimore Ravens used to be called the Cleveland Browns
Wait, isn't there already a team called the Cleveland Browns I hear you ask? Well yes, but the Browns franchise was moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1995 amid much controversy. The NFL only sanctioned the deal on condition that the Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell relinquished ownership of the Browns' name, colours, logos and history which allowed the Cleveland Browns to be reformed four year later in 1999. Baltimore football fans have experienced the opposite sensation too – the Colts (now in Indianapolis) were in Baltimore from 1953 to 1984 before being moved. American sports eh?
6. San Francisco is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world so you would not expect one of their players to say something like this…
"...I don't do the gay guys man. I don't do that. No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can't be…in the locker room man. Nah."
7. Not everyone in the Super Bowl is so homophobic…
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is one of the most vocal supporters of gay rights in American sports and has said he hopes to use the platform of the Super Bowl to promote the issue.
8. There is also a former 49ers player who is gay and was in the news earlier this week…
…But not for the right reasons. Former 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris was arrested after a bizarre argument over soy sauce and stolen underwear with his ex-boyfriend in a restaurant. Okay we admit the Super Bowl link with this story is tenuous but its randomness makes it worth a read.
9. Hard selection decisions are not limited to players
One of the big stories of the 49ers season is that they changed quarterbacks midway through the campaign. Their original starter Alex Smith had been playing well, but he got injured for one match, and his replacement Colin Kaepernick was so good that Smith could not get back into the team and will have to settle for a place on the bench. That's tough but at least he will be at the Super Bowl. The Baltimore Ravens were told they had to cut their regular squad of cheerleaders from 60 to 32. This has not pleased some of the cheerleaders who have been axed with one team member even claiming she didn't make the final squad because of weight gain
10. Going back to this Colin Kaepernick chap, what makes him so good?
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Reuters)
Well the fact that he can predict the future helps! When he was just nine-years old he wrote a cute letter to himself saying that he hoped he would be "a 6'4" footballer who plays for the Niners or the Packers." And what did he turn out to be? “A 6'4" footballer who plays for the Niners”
11. The San Francisco team were founded in 1946 so why are they called the 49ers?
Take it away Wikipedia: "The name "49ers" comes from the name given to the gold prospectors who arrived in Northern California around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. The name was suggested to reflect the voyagers who had rushed the West for gold." Their mascot is one such prospector – Sourdough Sam – who of course wears #49.
12. They may wear helmets but they are not sissies!
That helmet can be used as a weapon folks. Bernard Pollard of the Ravens proved that in the AFC Championship game (The Super Bowl semi-final) with this hit – Ouch! (Don’t worry the other guy is okay)
13. Torrey Smith of the Ravens is a guy you want to be rooting for
Smith is not the most nuanced player in the world but he is spectacular to watch. Basically he just runs very fast down the field and quarterback Joe Flacco tries to find him with ridiculous long throws. Smith’s scores can be amongst the most thrilling in American football. Smith also showed tremendous heart this season. Last September his 19-year-old brother was tragically killed in a motorcycle crash – 24 hours later he scored two touchdowns in a win over the New England Patriots.
14. In America the ads are almost as big a deal as the game itself
Which is a good thing for those watching on US TV as there are loads of them. It will cost companies a whopping $3.8 million to broadcast a 30 second ad this year and that is before you even factor in the cost of making the ads. Thankfully the BBC are broadcasting the game in the UK so we don’t need to worry about being brainwashed over here but if you’re curious you can see a selection of last year’s ads here and we will look to show you the best from this year’s Super Bowl ads on Monday. Some of them may or may not even be racist.
15. The point spread is San Francisco (-3.5)...but you can pretty much bet on anything.
If none of the above helps get you interested in the game well then as a last resort I suppose you can always have a bet on the game! The Super Bowl is one of the most gambled on sporting events in the world (Despite gambling being illegal in most US states) and there loads of crazy odds offered on the game itself and even things surrounding it such as Alicia Keys’ national anthem performance and Beyonce’s half-time show. The most traditional bet though remains picking a team ‘against the spread.’ This is where the Vegas oddsmakers gives one of the team’s fictional points to make the contest even. This year’s the Ravens are being give a 3.5 point head start – which means if you bet on them and they lose by three or less you still win your bet while if you pick the 49ers they must win by four points or more for you to cash in.
For the record this blogger fancies the 49ers by about 10 but I’ll be watching for the love of the game, the great storylines and nothing more.
My final advice? Sit back, grab yourself a weak, tasteless American lager, put on some buffalo wings – and enjoy the show!
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