For Americans, it’s the biggest sporting event of the year. For much of the rest of the world it’s an excuse to stay up past bedtime with 17 Wikipedia tabs open to pages like “fly route” and “long snapper” trying to make sense of what’s going on.
Yes, the Super Bowl returns for the 53rd time on Sunday with celeb-studded Dorito ads, a hot-potato halftime show and some very familiar faces (Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, again).
When is it?
Super Bowl LIII will kick off at 6.30pm ET (11.30pm Irish time) at Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta.
How can I watch?
The game will be broadcast live on both BBC One and Sky Sports Action or Sky Sports USA as it had be rebranded. The game will be broadcast live in the US on CBS and available to stream online at CBSSports.com or the CBS Sports app. Sky’s coverage gets underway at 10pm, while the Beeb go live from 10.45pm. In total, the Super Bowl will be broadcast in seven languages throughout 170 countries.
Who is playing?
The Los Angeles Rams, who moved back to California in 2016 after two decades in St Louis, will face the New England Patriots.
The Patriots again?
Yep, the Patriots again, for the third consecutive year (they lost last year to the Philadelphia Eagles, 41-33). New England, led by arguably the most indomitable coach-star duo in sports history, Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, will make their ninth Super Bowl appearance in 17 years on Sunday (the 11th in franchise history).
The Patriots have won five championships under Belichick and Brady, most recently two years ago, when they spectacularly overcame a 25-point third-quarter deficit for the only overtime victory in Super Bowl history. Belichick and Brady’s first Super Bowl together was in 2002 – a 20-17 victory over the Rams, then based in St Louis.
Is Tom Brady a superhuman?
Assumedly no, but he has been winning Super Bowls since before the kids from Stranger Things were born. The 41-year-old is notorious for his strict nutrition and fitness method which involves eating only alkaline foods. Brady is the only quarterback to reach 200 regular season wins as a starter, making him the winningest (sorry it’s an American thing) quarterback in NFL history. And while a victory over the Rams, would seem a poetic end to an already GOAT (sorry again, but Greatest Of All Time) career, Brady has said he plans to play at the highest level until at least his mid-40s.
Who’s likely to win?
It’s hard to say. If anything, the game will likely be a nailbiter. Both conference championships went to overtime and hinged on important, and contested, official calls. The Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints, 26-23, on the back of a botched referee call in the fourth quarter, with a 57-yard field goal in the NFC championship; the Patriots, riding two late-game drives by Brady, barely staved off the Kansas City Chiefs, 37-31, in the AFC Championship game.
Who’s singing the national anthem?
That's a loaded question, given the NFL's ongoing imbroglio over players kneeling or finding other ways to protest during the anthem (Colin Kaepernick has sued the NFL for colluding to blackball him after he kneeled when the anthem was played during the regular NFL season to protest racial inequality and police brutality). However, the empress of soul Gladys Knight is slated to perform The Star-Spangled Banner in her hometown of Atlanta, a decision she's defended as a way to "give the anthem back its voice".
Who’s doing the half-time show?
The Super Bowl half-time show is usually one of the premiere music events of the year, but given the anthem controversy, the NFL reportedly had difficulty securing performers for this year's game – Rihanna and Cardi B are among those who allegedly turned it down, in solidarity with Kaepernick. The pop-rock group Maroon 5 officially confirmed just weeks ago that they would perform with two guests, rapper Travis Scott and Big Boi, a member of Atlanta hip-hop mainstay Outkast.
What about the main event: the ads?
As usual, millions of dollars and celebrity cameos have been poured into ads for America's most-watched game. Expect Cardi B for Pepsi, a Chance the Rapper and Backstreet Boys combo for Doritos, Serena Williams making Bumble feminist, Jason Bateman as a bellhop for Hyundai, and an eco-friendly take on Budweiser's classic Clydesdale horses. For fans in the rest of the world, most of the ads are already online.
What should I watch out for?
The biggest question for sports fans is Brady and Belichick's legacy as one of the greatest duos in sports history, but there's always more than football at stake in the Super Bowl. Many are wondering whether we'll see demonstrable signs of protest during the game. At the very least, there will be activism in the lead up. Jermaine Dupri, a local music legend, has brought the mothers of those killed by police on stage at his Super Bowl-affiliated concert series. The Atlanta branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alliance for Black Lives and other activist groups are staging a large demonstration on the day before in nearby Piedmont Park. - Guardian