The Big Game Will Feature Star Players, Spectacular Half-Time and Taylor Swift
The NFL’s Super Bowl has become a quasi-national holiday with its own distinctive cuisine of spicy chicken wings, tailgate tots, cheesy nachos and a bucket of beer.
People gather in homes and at bars to celebrate with friends watching a football game, like Thanksgiving but without turkey and dressing. They wear team jerseys, recall spectacular plays from the past and curse at referees. Young girls will sit by dads to watch the game to catch a glimpse of Taylor Swift.
This Sunday’s big game, anticipated to attract 110 million viewers or about a third of the nation, features the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Both have won previous Super Bowls. The Chiefs are trying to repeat as football champions. Travis Kelce, the clutch tight end for the Chiefs, happens to be Taylor Swift’s boyfriend. She will be at the game, which could give viewership another boost to an all-time high.
This will be the 58th Super Bowl. Technically, it’s the 57th because the first game in 1967 was just called the NFL Championship. It pitted the Green Bay Packers led by Bart Starr against the Chiefs, which represented the upstart American Football Conference. The Packers won and now the victorious Super Bowl champion receives the Lombardi Trophy, named in honor of the legendary Packers coach, Vince Lombardi.
The idea for calling the game the Super Bowl was inspired by an NFL official who saw his kid playing with a bouncy toy called Super Ball. The name clicked and has stuck around.
The use of Roman numerals to differentiate Super Bowls had a practical rationale. Because the Super Bowl is played in the year after its respective season, NFL officials fretted it would be confusing to fans, so they resorted to Roman numerals, which many fans cannot decipher.
An Advertising Nirvana
The Super Bowl is an advertising nirvana. Advertisers pay millions for a tiny slice of exposure on one of the most viewed shows on TV. The going rate for a 30-second spot at this year’s game if $7 million, according to AdAge. That’s up 75 percent from a decade ago and 200 percent from 20 years ago. Sources indicate all available ad slots are sold out.
Many viewers tune in less for football and more for spectacular half-time shows. This year’s Super Bowl features a performance by Usher. Like previous star performers, he won’t get paid. The time and creativity that go into polishing a performance in the middle of a huge football stadium viewed by millions is the priceless reward of exposure.
Non-football types zero in on first-run TV ads. This year features Arnold Schwarzenegger in a State Farm ad, Kris Kardashian promoting Oreos and Jenna Ortega appearing in a Doritos commercial. Coors Light is resurrecting its iconic Silver Bullet train ads. There are contests for the best Super Bowl, and there are invariably a few ad surprises. Swifties are there own consumer force, purchasing volumes of football-related merch, including a ring bearing the number 87, Kelce’s uniform number.
Super Bowl Venues
Over time, the Super Bowl has moved around. This year, it finally made it to Las Vegas after multiple games in Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena, Atlanta, Tampa, Glendale and San Diego. There also have been games in Detroit, Minneapolis, Tempe, Houston, Indianapolis and Inglewood.
Games have been played on grass, indoor grass, AstroTurf, Poly-Turf, Matrix Turf, Sport Turf and Field Turf. This year’s game will be played on indoor grass in Allegiant Stadium, home field for the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). The stadium also is largely powered by solar energy generated by a giant solar panel field in the desert.
Sports Betting Concerns
Playing the game in Las Vegas has raised red flags about professional sports mixed with gambling. Problem gambling and match-fixing are concerns for the NFL as well as other professional sports. Sports betting has grown exponentially in terms of available markets (now 34) and amounts wagered ($90.4 billion in 2023, up from $8.3 billion as recently as 2019).
The American Gaming Association reports 39.2 million people placed sports bets last year, with 71 percent of sports gamblers placing bets weekly and 20 percent daily. Those numbers are staggering, especially when you consider that sports betting is illegal in California, Florida and Texas. Oregon legalized sports betting in 2019 and Washington followed suit in 2020.
The Winners and The Losers
More than half of all Super Bowls have been won by just six teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have each won six Super Bowls; the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have each won five; and the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants have each won 4. Of that group, the last Super Bowl winner was the Patriots in 2018. The 49ers have a chance Sunday to win their sixth. One of their wins was against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Kansas City Chiefs are one of four NFL franchises that has won three Super Bowls, along with the Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders and Washington Commanders.
There are 12 teams that have never won a Super Bowl. Four of those teams have never appeared in a Super Bowl, including two of the league’s oldest franchises – the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. Other non-winners include the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings. Detroit and Jacksonville played in this season’s conference championship games and lost.
Super Bowl Star Power
Many of the NFL’s greatest stars have played in the Super Bowl. Tom Brady, who some consider the league’s greatest quarterback, played in a record nine Super Bowls and won six championships for the New England Patriots. Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls. At the end of his career, Bradshaw underwent off-season elbow surgery, which he hid by using an alias – Thomas Brady. The Tom Brady that eclipsed Bradshaw’s record of Super Bowl wins was just six years old at the time.
Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs quarterback, will play Sunday in his fourth Super Bowl. Brock Purdy, the quarterback for the 49ers, is playing in his first Super Bowl after being the last man taken in the 2022 NFL draft and dubbed Mr. Irrelevant.
Before this year’s game, CBS, which will broadcast Super Bowl LVIII, posted a list of 53 all-time greats who played in the big game. Brady and his reliable pass-catchers Lynn Swann and Julian Edelman were on the all-star roster. So was Joe Montana and his wide receiver Jerry Rice. Terry Bradshaw and running back Franco Harris made the list.
The only player still playing who made the all-star roster is Travis Kelce. He was the back-up to another Brady pass target, Rob Gronkowski. During the Chiefs win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game, Kelce surpassed Rice’s record of post-season catches. Kelce still trails Rice for most post-season yardage and receiving touchdowns.
There are many star football players such as Gale Sayers, Fran Tarkenton and Dick Butkus who never played in a Super Bowl. A few got close, but didn’t make it, including Seattle Seahawks receiver Steve Largent, defensive lineman Alan Page and the infamous O.J. Simpson.
Oregon Ducks Super Bowling
Former Oregon Ducks defensive end Arik Armstead and cornerback Deommodore Lenoir will suit up for the 49ers for Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Two other Duck stars – Penei Sewell of the Lions and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu of the Ravens – missed a Super Bowl appearance when their respective teams lost in conference championships.
Corey Matthaei, who played for Willamette University’s Bearcats, is in his 11th season as an offensive line coach for the Chiefs. Neil Mayfield, who worked as a database intern for the Portland Trail Blazers, is in his eighth season as a software engineer for the 49ers.