By Chris Crawford
Super Bowl Sunday is an iconic tradition for over 67% of households across the United States. Even those who would never call themselves football fans still tune in, little smokies in hand, to enjoy the riotous drama and pageantry wrapped within the four-plus hour battle of a football championship.
While some things this year are different due to the events throughout 2020, the fervor and anticipation for the Big Game is still coursing through the nation this week.
So, what is so SUPER about the Super Bowl that gets over 100 million people to tune in? Is it the tailgate? The party? The Game? The Commercials? We believe it breaks down into three things:
1). Going Big
The Super Bowl is the epitome of going all out. Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption after Thanksgiving and holds nine of the top ten most-watched broadcasts in U.S. history. Commercial airtime during the event is the most expensive airtime of the year. The hype, the fanfare, the celebrities, and the action – it doesn’t matter if you’re in the bleachers, at a tailgate, or in your living room, Super Bowl Sunday’s fervor is a tide of excitement lifting all of us.
And the Stadiums – these battlefields are like temples. If you’ve never been in a professional stadium before, we recommend, at the very least, just walking through one next time you get a chance. These monoliths to athleticism and entertainment are astounding achievements of architecture and engineering. Big enough to host an entire town, and complex enough to get lost within. Throughout the rooms and hallways hang the heraldry of the teams that do battle upon the field below, a field is treated as sacred ground by many.
If you’re a Super Bowl aficionado and just want to know exactly what makes this year different, click here to skip to our list of what changes are elevating this year’s extravaganza.
2). Grandiose Tradition
Whether it’s the league or the fans, Super Bowl traditions, rituals, and legends are part of what creates a community and culture around the event. Personal family and friends’ traditions like tailgating, touchdown dances and gambling squares are hugely popular in households across America, thus contributing to its annual allure.
Some of the most well-known and highly anticipated traditions of the Super Bowl are part of the event itself, and they appeal to both fans and casual viewers alike. Here are some of our favorites to keep watch for and maybe add to your bingo cards or trivia games this year.
- The Pregame Show: This is your chance to catch all the pre-game commentary, predictions, and smack talk. From celebrity performances (Miley Cyrus this year), to Air Force flyovers, it’s a party you don’t want to miss. If you placed your bets, THIS is the time!
- The National Anthem: Always a mix of grave reverence and grandiose swagger, the singing of the national anthem has been a Super Bowl tradition from the very beginning (except for once, in 1977, during which Vikki Carr sang “America the Beautiful” in its stead). Solidifying the Super Bowl as a distinctly American tradition, performers from nearly every walk of life have taken to the field to belt out America’s anthem. The list includes Pink, Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Billie Joel, Aretha Franklin, and so, so many more. This year, the privilege falls to Jazmine Sullivan and Eric Church, the first duet to sing the anthem in Super Bowl history (choirs not withstanding).
- The Coin Toss: The big moment that everyone’s been waiting for! It signals the start of the game, decides who gets the immediate advantage, and starts the clock for seeing the best new commercial (or at least one of the most expensive).
- Commercials: The biggest competitor for “most beloved Super Bowl tradition” roots in the airtime between possessions and pauses in the action. The famously expensive time-slots promise such enormous exposure that brands this year are paying up to $5.6 million for 30 seconds in the limelight. The Super Bowl boasts the most creative, hilarious, and cleverly innovative commercials of the year and have become the white whale for advertisers and brands. We recommend making a mad dash for the restroom at the end of a play rather than risk missing a commercial that will most decidedly change the conversation at the office water cooler.
- The Half Time Show: Next in line for the title “most beloved Super Bowl tradition” (some may even say it’s the only reason they watch the Championship), is the Half-Time show. This mid-game event is all about celebrity, artistry, pageantry, sometimes wardrobe malfunctions, and an airplane hangar’s worth of confetti. The Half-Time Show never fails to entertain – though it has changed significantly over the years. Popstar performances quickly overtook Broadway-style productions, and now mega-stars like Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, and Beyonce are the icons associated with the event. What does an event like that cost these days? Well, the NFL itself has put more than $30 million into the show, but you might be surprised to hear that artists often put their own money on the line. This year’s performer, The Weeknd, is reported to have paid seven million dollars to secure his Half-Time Show performance. Btw – If you don’t know who was in the half-time show on Monday, we’ll know you switched over to the Puppy Bowl instead.
- Going to Disney World: A lesser-known tradition is honoring the Super Bowl MVP. After the game is over and the MVP is announced on the field of victory, a planned interview question is always asked, “What are you going to do now?” Amidst the roaring celebrations, the response expected is, “I’M GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!” (Upon Pittsburgh Steelers Hines Ward’s nabbing of this moniker – he included “and I’m taking the Bus with me”. The next day, indeed, Jerome Bettis “the Bus” was ALSO a guest of honor at the happiest place on Earth).
3). The Prestige
The teams. The coaches. The elected MVPs. The guests. The performing artists… There is no doubt that the Super Bowl epitomizes stardom. To win a Super Bowl is to make history. To be voted MVP is to become an athletic legend (and go to Disney World). To perform at the event in any capacity is to become an immediate household name for generations. And to attend the event is to be witness to all the sensationalized grandeur within. Fans pay thousands to claim they were there, and hundreds of thousands of us tune in across the world.
Colossal amounts of time, money, and material go into elevating the glamour of the championship game. Here are just a few bits of trivia that put the SUPER in Super Bowl.
- The Ring: The coveted Super Bowl ring is the ultimate expression of opulent triumph. Each set of rings costs an estimate $5 million, though each team’s specific designs play a factor in the final price.
- Fun fact: the largest Super Bowl ring ever made belongs to William “The Fridge” Perry of the Chicago Bears. He won his ring in 1985, and his size 25 band required multiple machines to construct.
- The Trophy: the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named in honor of the legendary Green Bay Packer’s coach, is awarded to the winning team each year. A new trophy is constructed each year, so the winning team gets to take theirs home for keeps.
So, What’s Different for Super Bowl LV?
In a year when sports participation at every level was questionable, and packing stands with fans and locker rooms with athletes was unthinkable, the NFL has had to re-evaluate their game. Amidst the health concerns of COVID-19, the NFL made important pivots to protocols and procedures in order to bring Super Bowl LV to fruition. While the NFL will continue its tradition for the fifty-fifth championship, we will see some distinctly un-traditional things this year. Here’s what you need to know:
- Regardless of who takes home the trophy, Super Bowl LV is already breaking records for women in sports. Super Bowl LV will include more women on the field than ever before:
- Sarah Thomas, NFL Officiating Down Judge
- Tiffany Morton, Chiefs Assistant Trainer
- Julie Frymyer, Chiefs Assistant Trainer
- Carly Helfand, Buccaneers Scouting Coach
- Maral Javadifar, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach
- Lori Locust, Buccaneers Assistant Defensive Line Coach
There will be more women in on-field roles during Super Bowl LV than ever before:— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) January 28, 2021
• Julie Frymyer
• Carly Helfand (@helfand21)
• Maral Javadifar (@Maraljavadifar)
• Lori Locust (@CoachLoLoc)
• Tiffany Morton (@ATC_Tiffany)
• Sarah Thomas#GoBucs | #ChiefsKingdom | #SBLV pic.twitter.com/SUewy7fkVe
- This year’s pre-game event will include a special, first of its kind, triple bomber flyover. Aircraft from three different bases across the country will take part in an elaborately choreographed flyover, scheduled to the second, to roar over Raymond James Stadium during the final soaring note of the “Star Spangled Banner.” This presents an enormous logistical challenge for the three pilots, led by Capt. Sarah Kociuba, and the air control operators supporting them. Each pilot will have the singer’s live performance streamed into their headsets to ensure perfect timing.
- The look of the crowd will be somewhat different this year. Due to keeping everyone safe during the pandemic, the NFL has limited attendance to 20% (22,000) capacity. 7,500 First Response/Front Line workers (vaccinated, of course) will have a seat at the personal invitation of the NFL. The remaining will be occupied by masked fans sitting in pods separated by six feet of space between each grouping. For all of us at home, the real fun will be seeing 30,000 cardboard cutouts fans can purchase populating the stands this year. We’re looking forward to picking out celebrity cutouts and are hoping for some juicy parings!
- Every precaution is being taken to protect players from COVID-19, with increased testing and increased quarantine protocols. PPE equipment will be mandatory, and players are being tested twice a day (nearly 1 million tests this season so far!).
- Commercials will be missing some heavy hitters this year, with favorites like the Coca-Cola bears and Budweiser Clydesdales giving up their traditional million-dollar time-slots. Budweiser is on record saying their advertising budget will instead be donated to vaccine-awareness campaigns, though their owner, Anheuser-Busch, will still air commercials for Bud-Light and Michelob Ultra brands.
- This year’s pre-game coin toss will, for the first time, feature a poetry reading by America’s Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. After rocking the nation with her recitation at the Presidential Inauguration, Gorman will have another chance to address the nation, this time reaching a far larger audience.
- For the first time in Super Bowl history, one of the contenders for the championship title will have the advantage of playing on their home turf – Super Bowl LV will be played at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- Buccaneers QB, Tom Brady, is looking to increase his own Super Bowl win record to 7, becoming the first player to ever win seven NFL championships, and match the record for most All-American Football Conference championship wins currently held by Otto Graham. Brady is also making this his 3rd Super Bowl appearance since turning 40, and extending his record for being the only player to ever play in the Big Game in their 40s.
Whether you’re watching the Big Game for the commercials, the half-time show, the athletes, or the love of the sport, Super Bowl LV promises to present us with some well-deserved entertainment relief. There were sincere concerns back in 2020 that the Super Bowl might not happen at all due to the pandemic, but the Big Game has proven to be too Super to cancel. A testament which further confirms that the American people will break down barriers, climb higher, and make the changes necessary to overcome any obstacles – especially when it comes to nachos, beer, and football.