For professional football fans, this Sunday is Super Bowl XLVIII, the culmination of a tough season full of ups and downs and skittles and Omaha! and Richard Sherman telling people he's the best. For the rest of us, it means a party with gross salsa and watery beers at someone's apartment, and the joy of knowing that your Sunday TV schedule won't be disrupted by sports anymore.
If you're in that latter group, it's hard to care, or pretend to care, about the game so late in the season. Who should you be rooting for? How does this affect our (pop) culture at large? Which teams are even playing? Again, this isn't a guide for people who like/watch/or care about football. But if you're stuck watching the game this weekend, here's some non-sports related background information.
The Seattle Seahawks are playing the Denver Broncos at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing halftime. The game starts at 6:30 EST.
Since you're not picking out the roster for your Fantasy Football team, here are the ones you should know:
Richard Sherman - Seahawks
Sherman's brash postgame interview after the Seahawks beat the 49ers earlier this month led to a debate over why a black Stanford graduate is considered a thug for what amounts to yelling, when actually violent white men like Justin Bieber and Rob Ford are just guys being guys. It maybe, possibly, has something to do with race. "The only reason [being called a thug] bothers me is because it seems like it's the accepted way of calling someone the n-word nowadays," Sherman said. Sherman later appeared on Piers Morgan:
Knowshon Moreno - Broncos
Moreno ran a lot of yards and scored a lot of touchdowns, but he's also known for his powerful tear ducts and crying during the National Anthem. As Sports Illustrated put it, each one is "enough to fill a shot glass." See for yourself — here's a video of Moreno crying set to "I Will Always Love You":
If you really want to impress people at your Super Bowl party, here's the story behind those tears, from Sports Illustrated:
"It's always been that way for me, all the way back to high school and college. During the anthem it's always quiet and still, so I take in the moment and say a little prayer. Usually there's no camera on me. I thank the Lord for letting me play the game. I thank Him for everything. I run through my whole life right there at that moment. Even the bad stuff."
The "bad stuff" includes living in homeless shelters as a child and being shuffled between relatives, along with the injuries and reckless behaviors (aka DUIs) of his football career.
Nate Irving - Broncos
Irving is probably the nerdiest person in the NFL. While all the other players are out and about in New York, Irving's spending his time in New Jersey catching them all. "I'm actually going to sit in my hotel room, play my 'Pokemon' game," Irving told The Wall Street Journal.
Peyton Manning - Broncos
Manning is the Broncos quarterback, and possibly one of the best quarterbacks of all time. At least he will be if he wins the Super Bowl this weekend. "With a victory in the Super Bowl, Peyton no longer is The Manning Who Would Be King," Woody Paige at The Denver Post wrote. "Crown him." There's also some talk that he might retire if the Broncos win, depending on how well his neck has healed later this year.
Most importantly, Omaha! As in, don't be surprised if Manning shouts "Omaha!" before every play. And no, no one knows what it means, otherwise it wouldn't be a very good signal.
Here's the explanation he gave CBS:
“I’ve had a lot of people ask what Omaha means and Omaha, it’s a run play,” Manning said with a dead-pan delivery.
“But it could be a pass play, or a play-action pass, depending on a couple of things: the wind, which way we’re going, the quarter, and the jerseys that we’re wearing,” Manning continued. “It varies, really, play-to-play. So, uh, there’s your answer to that one.”
Marshawn Lynch - Seahawks
Lynch hates talking to football reporters almost as much as he loves Skittles. For whatever reason, the NFL forces football players to show up for a day of interviews (players are fined if they don't show up) and Lynch left after about seven minutes, just long enough to do this awkward interview with Deion Sanders. Sanders could tell that Lynch didn't want to talk to him, and asked him if he was shy. Lynch replied, "I'm just about that action, boss." The Pro Football Writers of America said they were appalled that Lynch didn't stick around to answer more probing questions like "Are you excited for the game?" (His answer: "Hell yeah.")
As for the Skittles, when Lynch was a kid his mother would give him a handful of Skittles before his Pop Warner games. Now fans shower the field with the candies and Skittles gave him an endorsement deal. Also, someone in Seattle thought Skittles sausage — "Beast Mode" — would be a good way to honor him.
Who People Think Will Win
The real question is, who will win? People who watch football know that the Seahawks have the top ranked defense, while the Broncos have the top ranked offense (that sort of pairing usually favors the defensive team). They've watched enough games to make educated guesses based on trends and gut instincts. Meanwhile, a lot of celebrities (and "celebrities") and animals have weighed in which team they're rooting for. So here's who other people think will win:
- The Guy Who Founded Papa Johns
- Eli the Ape, an actual ape that has picked the right winner the last 6 years
- The Associated Press, based on statistics
- This panel of NFL experts, by a vote of 8-3
- Hugh, the Psychic Manatee
- Buffett, the other Psychic Manatee
- Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014
- Dr. Oz
- Regis Philbin
- Andy Hillstrand, "The Deadliest Catch"
It's anyone's game.