How to blag your way through the Super Bowl, according to a proper American

‘The thing about Denver Broncos is they always try and walk it in’


The Superbowl snuck up on you. A few years ago no one cared, now some Americanophile on the group WhatsApp is suggesting you stay up on Sunday night and really get “stuck in”. You agree, because you don’t like missing a bandwagon.

Obviously, you’re out of your depth. What the fuck is going on? It’s not really rugby and it’s definitely not football as we know it. You could take a wild guess at the rules, but you’ll likely end up cheering in the bits where you’re meant to be hushed and reverent. You don’t know why they wear padding and you suspect a fumble isn’t as naughty as it sounds.

We asked an American with a very American name, Austin Moore, to help out. His warning? Expect light beer by the gallon, lots of shouting at the telly, and backwards snapbacks obstructing your line of vision.

Who to root for?

If you’re getting into a sport for a single day a year, you want to be cheering the winning team – this is, after all, just an excuse for a celebration. This year’s Super Bowl is a face-off between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. Apparently, you’re better off going for the Panthers. They have a guy called Cam Newton who is “insane”, so do a little cheer whenever he gets the ball. The major battle on the field is between Newton and a quarterback (the one who shouts out all those numbers) called Peyton Manning. Make sure you mention something about him being “past it”.

Here are some excuses to rattle off for supporting the Panthers. “My dad was always a fan and he got me into it”; “the way they demolished the Seahawks last game was just superb”; “my mum’s name is Carol and that sounds like Carolina”. Refer to the Panthers as “we” or “us” for insider kudos.

This is 'ya boy

This is ‘ya boy Cam

The rules

Austin says this is basically everything you need to know.

  • Unlike “soccer” there are separate players on each team for offence and defence that go on and off the field depending who has the ball.
  • When your team is on the offence the goal is to score – obviously.
  • The game broken up into four “downs”. A “down” is an opportunity to gain ground and move towards scoring. The defence will try and stop you from doing so.
  • If you’re a good position at the fourth down then you can kick a field goal for three points.
  • The very best case scenario is getting all the way to the end of the field where you can score a touchdown (six points) and a mini field goal (one point).
  • A “fumble” is when the ball gets loose and it’s anyone’s until it is recovered. It’s a bit like a scrum (a rugby term. If you don’t get that, maybe this event isn’t for you).
  • If the defence catches a pass thrown by an advancing quarterback, it is called an interception. This is a really big deal.

That’s about all you need to know. Read the full rules if you can really be bothered.

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How to fit in

Knowing the rules means nothing if you don’t know how to act. You can get away with following other people’s lead to some extent, but what if they don’t know what they’re doing either? This is what Austin advises.

“Perfect a touchdown dance when your team scores.” You might shake a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and spray it in the air. You might do a little wiggle. Afterwards be sure to straighten the cap or other team memorabilia you picked up in that section of a vintage shop which only sells American sports merch.

“Yelling at your kicker when he shanks a field goal.” This means he missed, basically. If you’re at a party, tell him he’s a piece of shit and your mum could do better. If you’re at a bar, yell the same thing but louder. Also feel free to throw something at the TV. Americans do this.

“Tell people to be quiet every once in a while”. Have no shame and shush some strangers to make them think you’re really into it. Pretend you understand the commentary.

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It’s an emotional rollercoaster

“Cursing out the referees for every flag (yellow penalty flag) that is thrown.” No different to regular football, thankfully.

“Perfecting high-fiving your buddy when the quarterback is sacked.” Sacked means tackled. And high-fiving is just about the most earnestly American thing you can do. You only have one night to get away with it.

“Guessing who has recovered a fumble when its just a pile of men and no one has a clue who has the ball.” Yeah, just like a rugby scrum but way less refined.

“Getting really pissed off when your team throws an interception.” Noticing a pattern about being angry here.

“Dealing with other team’s fans when their team scores another touchdown.” OK, an interception is when the defence catches a pass mid-air. Just like in cricket, if it’s caught then you’re out.

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Tense

The half-time show

This year it’s Coldplay – Americans love them. In Britain we really don’t. Try not to fall asleep. At least Beyonce is going to make an appearance, but expect her to tone it down a bit because she was NOT happy with the photos from last time. Americans use this time to “refresh their dips”. Get a drink and try not to blow your cover.