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What is the Super Bowl? English for "The Big Game"

What is the Super Bowl? English for "The Big Game"

Every year, when the weather is still cold in much of the country, Americans gather for a big celebration. Even though it is not a national holiday, it is still a very important event. It's the Super Bowl, and even people who are not sports fans are excited to watch it.

But why? This article will explain the Super Bowl and introduce the most important English words and expressions you need to talk about it!

What is the Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl is the final game of the season for the National Football League, or the NFL, the largest league for American football.

Unlike professional baseball's World Series or the NBA Finals, the NFL's champions are determined by a single game, not a tournament. This difference has a big effect on the Super Bowl's popularity and importance.

Why is it called the “Super Bowl”?

If you're wondering how the game got its name, there is a good reason! 

One of the first major football tournaments took place in Pasadena, California, in a stadium called the Rose Bowl. This name came from its bowl-like shape and the fact that the contest was called the Tournament of Roses.

As the popularity of this tournament grew, other games with similar names began appearing across the country. Eventually, the word "bowl" became closely associated with any big football game. Naturally, the Super Bowl is the biggest of them all. The first one took place in 1966, though it was called the "AFL–NFL World Championship Game" until the third game in 1969.

Super Bowls traditionally take place on Sundays in January or February. Since 2022, "Super Bowl Sunday" has been on the second Sunday in February. 2024's game took place on February 11.

Super Bowls are counted in Roman numerals; for example, 2024's game is the 58th, which is represented by LVIII (L = 50, V = 5, III = 3). The venue for this game was Allegiant Stadium near Las Vegas, Nevada, on the west coast of the US.

Why is the Super Bowl so popular?

Obviously, fans of American football are excited to watch the strongest teams compete in the biggest game of the year. However, the Super Bowl's popularity goes beyond sports.

Super Bowl parties

Pizza, potato chips and other snacks prepared on a table for a Super Bowl party

Tickets to the Super Bowl are very expensive — even the cheapest tickets can cost thousands of dollars! 

However, not seeing the game in person is no problem because many people host large parties in their homes. These parties usually include lots of food and drinks. In fact, Thanksgiving is the only other day in America that is bigger for food!

Popular foods on Super Bowl Sunday include hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, potato chips and lots of soft drinks or alcohol.

Music

Fans cheering a musician performing on stage for the Super Bowl Halftime Show

In addition to the parties, there are even more reasons for non-sports fans to watch the game.

Each game begins with someone singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" (America's national anthem), "America the Beautiful" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in honor of Black History Month.

But that's not all! There is a long break in the middle of the game called "halftime." During this break, a famous musician performs for everyone in the stadium as well as the people at home. 

The Super Bowl Halftime Show is one of the biggest performances in the entertainment industry; in 2023, 121 million people watched the performance by Rihanna. Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, Dr. Dre and Lady Gaga have all performed at the Super Bowl. These performances sometimes attract more viewers than the actual game!

Commercials

Smiling people gathered around a laptop watching commercials on Super Bowl Sunday

What's so special about Super Bowl commercials? Well, because so many people are watching, it is the best chance of the year for companies to advertise to a large number of potential customers. That is why they pay millions of dollars for commercials that last only a few seconds.

It is common for new products, apps and other services to debut in a commercial during the game. The first Apple computer had a famous commercial that played nationally during Super Bowl XVIII in 1984.

These days, Super Bowl commercials are often funny, shocking or very strange, and are designed to create excitement and discussions on social media.

Vocabulary for the Super Bowl and American football

Three excited football fans cheering while watching the Super Bowl on TV

The Big Game

Because "Super Bowl" is trademarked by the NFL, other businesses cannot legally use it. Instead, it is often called "The Big Game" by both fans and other companies.

Everyone's coming over to my place to watch The Big Game.

You can simply say "the game" for other games and for matches in other sports, but The Big Game is especially for the Super Bowl!

Kickoff

Football games begin when one team kicks the ball across the field. This is called the "kickoff." 

Try to arrive an hour before kickoff.

"Kick off" is used as a verb to refer to starting an event or activity.

I'd like to kick off the party with a toast to my friends.

Tailgate

A group of sports fans having a tailgate party and BBQ before the Super Bowl

A tailgate is the part of a truck that folds down in order to move things on or off more easily.

When it comes to football, a "tailgate party" is a small gathering of people around a parked truck in order to eat and drink before a football game.

It can also be used as a verb.

It's a bit cold, but we're going to tailgate anyway.

Field goal

This is a football goal worth three points, and is made by kicking the ball through the large, yellow posts at either end of the football field.

We won the game by scoring a field goal with only a few seconds remaining on the game clock.

Quarterback

Sometimes called a "QB," quarterbacks are the players on a football team who lead a team's offense.

He is one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history.

This term is also used in business to refer to a person leading a project. It is also sometimes used as a verb, as you can see below.

Because of my experience, my boss asked me to quarterback the launch of our company's newest product.

Play

In football, "play" is a noun for a team's plan during the next portion of the game.

The coach is famous for his knowledge of various plays that confuse opponents.

A "playbook" is a collection of strategies that have been used in the past. It is often used in business and politics.

If we want to beat our competitors, we can't rely on the usual playbook; we need to try something new. 

MVP

In football and many other sports, a player who makes the biggest contribution to the team is named the MVP, or Most Valuable Player.

Patrick Mahomes, a quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, was named the MVP of Super Bowl LVII.

This term can also be used in situations not related to football.

My daughter was the MVP of the Super Bowl party; she was so helpful in preparing everything for our guests.

Touchdown!

Even though it isn't a national holiday, Super Bowl Sunday is still one of the biggest celebrations of the year in America. It has a big impact on not just sports but also the food, entertainment and marketing industries. 

However, the Super Bowl is not well known only in the US; it is growing in popularity around the world. Why not join a party and experience The Big Game for yourself? Even if you aren't interested in sports, there is still much to enjoy!