You may not know your Butkus from your Ditka, but you don't want to interrupt someone's SuperBowl haze to ask who's playing -- "That's like asking how the people got on the island during the season finale of 'Lost,'" says Ruth
, a Giants maniac.
So if you're hitting a pigskin-themed party this Sunday (looking cute, natch
), brush up with our SB primer.
Super Bowl XLIII: The Basics
This year, the Arizona Cardinals play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Tampa Bay, Florida.
This is familiar territory for the Steelers
-- they've been to the Super Bowl six times, winning five of those games (if they win another, it'll be a record -- they're now tied with Dallas for most wins ever). The Cardinals
, however, have never
before made it to the Big Dance (that's what they call the Super Bowl, right?!).
But after an improbable win over the Philadelphia Eagles, fans everywhere came to terms with the previously unthinkable: Arizona's going to the Super Bowl.Click here
to learn the basic rules and how to make small talk about the teams.BLACK & GOLD: The Pittsburgh Steelers
The team's name is a reference to Pittsburgh's steel industry history, and the team's mascot is a laborer named Steely McBeam (yes, really, Steely McBeam). Random fact: The Steelers are the only NFL team that puts its logo on only one side of the helmet (it's the right side, if you care).
Who to Watch
Team quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is great, but wide receiver Hines Ward was MVP in the Steelers' last Super Bowl win. Plot twist: He got a knee injury, but swears he's going to play on Sunday (so Kerri Strug of him!).
Root for Them if: You like working-class heroes, grinders and teams who always win.
RED & WHITE: The Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals move around like military brats. They started in Chicago in 1920, relocated to St. Louis in 1960, and and then moved to Glendale, Arizona, in 1988. The team currently holds the NFL record for the longest championship drought.
Who To Watch
Quarterback (and one of the most religious dudes in the NFL) Kurt Warner. Recruited in 1998 to play for one of the worst teams of the decade (wazzap St. Louis Rams!), he MVP'd them to their first Super Bowl championship in 2000 ... a pretty big success story considering he was working at a grocery store before that. Now the Cardinals have made it to the Super Bowl for their first time ever. Coincidence, or Kurt?
Root for Them If: You like underdogs, surprise endings and pretty birds.
How the Game Is Played. Literally.
Here are the basics: Each team has 11 players on the field. The team with possession of the ball -- the offense -- gets four tries (called downs) to go ten yards, with the ultimate goal of making it into the end zone for a touchdown. If they do go ten yards, they get four more downs. If they get a touchdown during that time or use up all their tries, the other team gets the ball.
A touchdown is worth 6 points. If a team scores a touchdown, they try to kick the ball through the uprights for an extra point. (They can also try a two point conversion, but that gets complicated.) If a team doesn't think they can make a touchdown -- because they have used their first three downs and still have a lot of yards to go on fourth down -- they can punt (aka, kick) the ball from wherever they are to the other team.
If they are close to scoring a touchdown, but have used up their first three downs, they may choose to try to kick a field goal through the uprights, which is worth 3 points.
"If you want to pretend like you know what you're watching, know a few of the penalties
and call one out before the ref calls it," suggests Ruth. "The most common and easiest to catch is a false start. If you see a yellow flag thrown on the field, it's usually for holding, so yell that out. You might be right."
Totally awkward: In 1944, the Cardinals temporarily merged with the Pittsburgh Steelers and became one team, usually referred to as Card-Pitt, for that single season.
Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest food consumption day in the U.S. (after Thanksgiving). Average calories consumed per person on Thanksgiving: Between 5,000 and 7,000.