The Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is an annual National Football League championship game held each February between the winners of the NFL playoff games. Since the first January 1967 Super Bowl game between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs in Los Angeles, the Super Bowl has been almost akin to a national holiday in the United States. It hosts the second largest day of  eating in the United States, after Thanksgiving. The Super Bowl also draws world-wide television ratings and within recent years has been the most watched television event in the United States of all time.

The Name of the Game

The Super Bowl was originally an organized rivalry between the two competing football leagues, the National Football League and the American Football League. Although there were several other rival football leagues, the American league which was founded in 1960 seemed to be giving the NFL, the older 1920s league, the most competition. To reconcile their competition for fans and players, the two leagues began to negotiate a merger in the late 1960s, which would break each league into two conferences prior to the 1970s season. To mark the occasion, the two teams would have a world championship, which would later become known as the Super Bowl.

The first two championship games were called the AFL-NFL Championship Game. After the first few games, however, the owner of the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs began to refer to the Championship as the “Super Bowl.” It was said that the term “Super” was inspired by his children’s toy called “Super Ball,” and the term “Bowl” was taken from the popular college football championship games: the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and the Cotton Bowl. The media capitalized on the marketability of the name and by the third championship match, the official name of the game was Super Bowl.

How to Get to the Super Bowl: The Playoffs

A typical NFL football season consists of 512 games total (for all teams), with each team playing an average of 17 games  each season (this does not include four pre-season games). This is plenty of time to separate the losing teams from the winning teams. Twelve teams–six teams from each conference–advance to the playoffs. Four of the six teams are division winners and advance automatically. The remaining two teams are called wildcard teams; they advance to the playoffs based on their win-loss record.

The two division winners of each conference with the best records skip the first round of games. Instead, they each host the second round. The third and fourth division winners, on the other hand, play the wild card teams. The team that wins this round advances to the Divisional Playoff games. In this round, the lowest ranking wildcard teams plays the division winner with the best record. The winners of this round advance to the third round, which is called the Conference Championship game. If a division winner still remains, then that team hosts the game. If not, the team with the best in-season record hosts the game. The two winners of each of the Conference Championship games advance to the Super Bowl.


Over the years several teams have stood out from the rest. The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers have each won five Super Bowl games. The Pittsburgh Steelers, on the other hand, have won six. This is the most number of Super Bowl wins ever. Several teams have also appeared in the Super Bowl without any wins. Both the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills have each played in the Super Bowl four times, but neither team has ever won.

Some teams such as the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins have dominated in certain decades. In this case, these two teams dominated the 1970s Super Bowls, while the 49ers, New York Giants and Washington Redskins dominated the 1980s and 1990s.

Half-Time and Television Commercials

The Super Bowl is watched as much for the football as for its entertainment. The half-time entertainment spots and television commercials are widely anticipated each year, and the commercial spots are coveted by marketing executives. Advertisers know that the Super Bowl is one of the best advertising venues of the year because of its high viewer ratings. Because of this, companies prepare special commercials to air during the game and pay as much as $3.5 million for a 30 second spot that will only be aired one time. Nevertheless, commercials aired during the Super Bowl are usually discussed just as much as the football game.

Celebrity entertainers that are featured in the Super Bowl halftime show also garner a great deal of attention. Sometimes this is as much due to the quality of the performance, as well as the performance’s shock value.


The ratings for the Super Bowl are so high that network television stations compete to broadcast the game. In years past, ABC,NBC, Fox and CBS have all broadcast the game. In recent years the Super Bowl has become the most watched television show of all time in the United States. In 2011, the Super Bowl XLIV became the most watched show in U.S.’s history, after beating the ratings of the 1983 finale show of M-A-S-H. However, this ranking has already been surpassed by the 2012 Super Bowl XLVI television ratings, making Super Bowl XLVI the most watched televised event in U.S. history. It was viewed by 167 million people around the globe, and one hundred and eleven million people were Americans.


Tom Brady leaves the field as the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.

(Image by Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff, Courtesy of