Unofficially a national holiday
in the United States, the Super Bowl is the championship game
of the National Football League
, pitting the champion of the American Football Conference (AFC) against their National Football Conference (NFC) counterpart. The Super Bowl began as the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game" in 1967, played between the champions of the NFL and the upstart American Football League, as the first step in eventually merging the leagues. In 1969, the name "Super Bowl" was introduced, and the first two were retroactively designated "Super Bowl I" and "Super Bowl II". Once the merger was completed in 1970, the existing NFL teams became the NFC and the AFL was integrated into the NFL as the AFC. Thus, for the first four years, the Super Bowl championship and the NFL championship were separate titles.
Occurring in late January or early February, it is usually the single most heavily-viewed program in the U.S. for a given year by a very large margin. Anything less than 90 million viewers — in a country where one-third that is mega-hit territory for a regular show (as a point of reference, American Idol
has been pretty consistently the number one show in America for the last decade, and will pull in about 30 million on a good night) — is considered a disappointment. As such, advertising time on the Super Bowl is the most expensive; thus, Super Bowl ads are well known for being the most elaborate, expensive, and showy pieces of solicitous short-subject film ever produced
, many of which will never be shown again (until they show up on YouTube
). It is also the time to introduce new campaigns and slogans (not to mention new products
), or to pull out the most elaborate version of an existing series of ads. This tradition of advertising grandeur leads many people to tune in just to watch the ads, even those that might not watch football the rest of the year, a seeming paradox that suits the advertisers just fine. Many non-fans also use the game an an excuse to host parties where copious amounts of food and drink (and sometimes other substances) are consumed.
Also of note is the halftime show, which, since Michael Jackson
's 1993 appearance, has featured major acts in popular music in expensive spectacles. Presuming football fans may not be that interested in non-football material, several clever broadcasters have tried to counter-program this portion of the day (the Saturday Night Live
's empty arena match, the Lingerie Bowl, the Puppy Bowl
, etc.).The Big Game
in American sports, and one that's less prone to Hype Backlash
than you might think. The network airing the Super Bowl often takes advantage of the huge audience to debut a new series immediately after the game
, The Wonder Years
, Homicide: Life on the Street
, Family Guy
, and American Dad!!
being among the shows to premiere in this manner) or use it to try to give an existing series a popularity boost. Meanwhile, most other channels put on a No Hoper Repeat
. Super Bowl XLVI, which drew an estimated audience of nearly 167 million in the U.S. alone, currently holds the record for the the most-watched TV program ever
. Non-Americans, picture what it'd be like if the FIFA World Cup
happened every year
. And it was only one game
. That's the Super Bowl.
It was the target of a terrorist attack in Thomas Harris' book and The Film of the Book Black Sunday
, as well as Tom Clancy
's The Sum of All Fears,
and nearly in reality, too - which is why it's designated as a high profile event meriting additional security by the U.S. government, like the Presidential Inauguration or the State Of The Union Address. A man with an assault rifle thought better of his plan to open fire on the crowd in Arizona and turned himself in in 2008.
By the way, if you're an advertiser or retail store, don't you dare
use the term "Super Bowl" without express permission from the NFL
Although the Super Bowl is not an official holiday, it appears personified as a character in the webcomic Holiday Wars
The Super Bowl is also known for its extremely expensive tickets, and for being hosted exclusively (in the modern era) in southern or western stadiums or in domed/roofed facilities due to taking place in the middle of winter. Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey is set to break that trend by hosting Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.
known for the NFL exaggerating the extent of its trademark rights to the "Super Bowl" name. The NFL insists that it's illegal for churches and other nonprofit organizations to advertise their Super Bowl viewing parties with the name "Super Bowl" or even "Super Sunday", which is widely seen to be contrary to the broad recognition of Fair Use
in the United States. But given how expensive a court challenge would be, most everybody complies with the NFL's demands anyway. The NFL was near-universally considered to have taken it a step too far when they tried to also trademark "the Big Game" (a term that has frequently been resorted to for Super Bowl parties)...despite the fact that the term predates the NFL itself by twenty years: it has referred to the annual Stanford/Cal college football game
This Competition Provides Examples of:
- Awesome Moment of Crowning
- Batman Gambit: Bill Belichick has famously used Super Bowls to demonstrate his skill at this trope, generally with strong results. On the other hand, the directions "make Manningham beat us" have gone down as Tempting Fate.
- Battle in the Rain: Super Bowl XLI between the Colts and the Bears.
- Big Applesauce: As discussed in the intro, the Super Bowl has always been played in warm climates or in domes. The only market large enough to avert that so far will be New York City (okay, technically New Jersey) in 2014.
- Big Blackout: Super Bowl XLVII (2013) was delayed for over half an hour when about half the stadium's lights went out. This was arguably the most memorable moment of the night.
- And it had happened before in 2011 for XLV (2011), but for a shorter time.
- Big Game
- Bladder of Steel: If your favorite team is one of those vying for the Vince Lombardi trophy, AND you're interested in watching the commercials, your bathroom break opportunities will be limited.
- There's always Depends.
- If you're a fan of the halftime performer, you're pretty much doomed.
- This trope was spoofed in the Super Nintendo version of SimCity. One scenario in the game has you rebuild a city after a nuclear power plant has a meltdown. The cause of said meltdown? The championship football game had captivated 5 million citizens of the city, and they held it in so long that when halftime came, each and every last one of them flushed at the exact same time, forcing all the cooling water to drain from the tank of the reactor.
- This has been somewhat alleviated in recent years, as all the Super Bowl commercials are up on YouTube immediately following the game. Sometimes even before the game.
- Butt Monkey: The Buffalo Bills in the early 1990s. They managed to reach four consecutive Super Bowls, only to lose them all. Even worse is that the first of their defeats was lost by a missed field goal, which is today the only thing Scott Norwood is remembered for.
- The Minnesota Vikings have also lost all four Super Bowls they played in the 1970s. They at least had the decency of losing them intermittently.
- The Denver Broncos had also lost four Super Bowls in the 70s and 80s, all of them by blowouts, before they finally managed to get that elusive title, 8 years after they'd lost their 4th.
- Compounding it for the above teams was the fact that, aside from the Bills in Super Bowl XXV, these teams completely came apart when they got to the Super Bowl and suffered horrendous, fandom-scarring defeats. Even more interesting, when the Vikings lost their 4th Super Bowl (32-14 in Super Bowl XI), the Broncos lost their 1st the following year (27-10 in Super Bowl XII). When the Broncos lost their 4th (55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV), the Bills lost their first in Super Bowl XXV, 20-19 in an absolute heartbreaker. Going by this pattern, the Chargers better watch out (they lost Super Bowl XXIX, a year after the Bills lost their 4th).
- For a long period of time, the entire American Football Conference qualified as butt monkeys, as AFC teams lost 13 straight Super Bowls between the 1983 and 1997 seasons.
- The New England Patriots, formerly considered to be one of the greatest teams, now seem to be on the way to becoming this, losing both of their last 2 appearances to the same team. The first of those two losses coming after the Patriots had been undefeated in the regular season and looking to become the first team ever to go 19-0.
- The 2005 Seattle Seahawks. In the leadup to the game, the Seahawks were 13-3 in the regular season, with the best record in the NFC, and facing the 11-5 Pittsburgh Steelers, who despite their record had snuck into the playoffs at the #6 wild card slot. Despite having the regular season MVP in star running back Shaun Alexander, a top 5 quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, and one of the top performing defences in the league, the Steelers were favored by 4 to win, which in gambling parlance is equal to a Curb-Stomp Battle. A majority of the media coverage was showered on the Steelers, specifically the story that long-time veteran Jerome Bettis would retire at the end of the current season. On top of that, the game (unluckily for the Seahawks) itself took place in Ford Field in Detroit, nearly 2,000 miles from the Seattle faithful and just a stone's throw away from Pittsburgh (not to mention the hometown of the aforementioned Jerome Bettis). In almost every measurable metric, Seattle outdid Pittsburgh, except for the score itself, which was heavily influenced by a number of highly questionable calls by the refs, especially in scoring situations. Polls taken after the game concluded that a large majority of fans thought officiating mistakes influenced the game's outcome, but overall outrage was surprisingly subdued, since it was the Steelers on top rather than the Seahawks. Though to this day, some detractors refer to the Steelers as the "Refsburgh Reflers".
- Really, any team that has yet to win the big game.
- Conveniently Timed Attack From Behind: On the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV, Kevin Dyson of the Tennessee Titans was tackled from behind on the one yard line by the St. Louis Rams' Mike Jones, preventing a game-tying touchdown.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Many Super Bowl matches have ended up in big routs.
- There has been a trend lately of close fought Super Bowls, with 6 of the last 9 Super Bowls decided by one possession (with each of the other 3 decided by two possessions, the winning team pulling away late). Ironically, the last Super Bowl before this streak, Super Bowl XXXVII, between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders, is considered one of the biggest Curb-Stomp Battles in NFL history.
- Not much has been able to even compare to the 49ers utterly annihilating the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV though.
- The closest to that might be Super Bowl XX, a 46-10 dismantling of the New England Patriots by the Chicago Bears.
- Ratings-wise, the Super Bowl trumps pretty much everything else on TV the night of the big game (and really, every other activity that isn't related). See also No Hoper Repeat.
- For decades, there was talk of a Super Bowl Loser's Curse, in that all the teams who had lost (which you would logically expect to still be good) missed the playoffs the following season. The losers "curse" was broken in the early 2000's and hasn't been very relevant since, as we now have:
- The Super Bowl Winner's curse, in which the team that won the Super Bowl the previous year will either fail to qualify for the playoffs, or lose their first playoff game. The "curse" began in 2006 (when the defending Steelers went 8-8 and missed the playoffs) and has gone uninterrupted since; the most recent example as of this writing is the Giants' failure to make the playoffs in 2012.
- A more mundane explanation is that Super Bowl teams, win or lose, are often raided for their talent (coaches and players) in the off season, and the fact that they have played more games than non-playoff teams contribute to more injuries the following year. There's also a tendency for star players considering retirement to do so after a Super Bowl to go out on a high note, meaning they won't be back to play another season.
- Every team who has existed in Super Bowl history (Including teams who changed names such as the Houston Oilers becoming the Tennessee Titans) has at least made it to the Super Bowl, except for four: The Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars. There seems to be a curse in place on these teams that prevents them from even getting to the Super Bowl in the first place. The Jaguars and Texans can be excused since they are less than 20 years old and are generally decent playing teams, but the Lions and Browns are long-runners who have become infamous for never being able to make their way to the top. An explanation may be that these 4 franchises have rarely, if ever, had elite quarterback play in the Super Bowl era. Indeed, these 4 teams have historically been built around running games, not passing.
- To add insult to injury for the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001. Five years prior, the Ravens were known as the Cleveland Browns (the current incarnation of the Browns is an expansion team from 1999). Much of the front office personnel with the Ravens at the time of their victory was with the team when they were the Browns.
- Dark Horse Victory: Happens quite often, but the most recent would be the Giants' victory over the "perfect season" Patriots.
- The New York Jets for Super Bowl III were 17-point underdogs to the Baltimore Colts at a time when their league (American) was mocked as weaker compared to their rival league (National). Led by Joe Namath - who "guaranteed" victory before the game - the Jets went on to win 16-7, proving an AFL team could beat an NFL team. The images of Namath wagging his finger gesturing "We're Number One" as he left the field became iconic.
- Determinator: As many players never even get close to making it to the Super Bowl in the first place, injured players do whatever it takes to play. Arguably the most famous instance of this is Los Angeles Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood, who went into the game and played every single down on a broken leg. Terrell Davis of the Broncos won the game's MVP honors despite being blinded at one point in the game.
- Down to the Last Play: On a handful of occasions, usually a last-second field goal attempt. Super Bowl XXXIV notably came down to the final play itself coming down to the final yard.
- It's become one Adam Vinatieri's signature move, really. He kicked game-winning field goals in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII. In Super Bowl XLI, he kicked three field goals, but ironically missed an extra point.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Like all sports, there are players/coaches/teams that have won the Super Bowl, but only after suffering great setback in the process. The NY Giants upset of the Pats in XLII came following a time when many New York fans and media questioned the wisdom of keeping coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning. Particularly with Manning, many said he'd never succeed like his brother has. (For the record he hasn't, Eli has two SB wins while his brother has one.)
- QB John Elway suffered some of the most demoralizing defeats in the SB. He won two in a row in his final two seasons, just as it seemed his opportunity to win had passed.
- Coach Tony Dungy was fired from the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, just as the team won the SB with players he helped draft and develop. He then went to Indianapolis, where they had great regular success and usually were defeated by the Pats. In 2006, they finally won it all, and Dungy got the ring that had eluded him.
- His QB Peyton Manning was dogged by assumptions that while he was a great QB, he'd didn't have it in him to win a championship, with the added sting of being compared to Tom Brady. The doubts vanished (or at least, greatly diminished) with the Colts win.
- Many teams got their championship following years of mediocrity or, in the case of the New Orleans Saints, being so bad their fans were embarrassed to watch.
- The New England Patriots, prior to their dynasty, were one such team.
- The Baltimore Colts never quite erased their famous defeat in Super Bowl III, but their last-second victory two years later counts as this.
- Similar to both Manning brothers, Steve Young of the 49ers finally escaped the shadow of predecessor Joe Montana and the choke artist label in spectacular style in Super Bowl XXIX, lighting up the San Diego Chargers for a record six touchdowns, even managing to pitch in as the game's leading rusher in the process.
- Failsafe Failure: Hilariously, in 2013 immediately after Beyonce's halftime performance, the stadium's power went out despite many failsafes designed to prevent such a thing, due to the same thing happening two years previously.
- History Repeats: Some Recent Examples
- Rams' Wide Receiver Ricky Proehl caught a touchdown with less than two minutes left in Super Bowl XXXVI to tie the game against the New England Patriots. Tom Brady then drives his team into field goal position where Adam Vinatieri kicks the game winning field goal. Two years later Proehl (now a member of the Carolina Panthers) catches a game tying touchdown with less than two minute to play in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Again Tom Brady drives the Patriots into field goal position where Adam Vinatieri kicks the game winning field goal.
- Both of Giants' most recent Super Bowl runs (XLII and XLVI). After late season slumps, the Giants barely make it into the playoffs (6th seed 10-6 vs. eeking out a Division win at 9-7). First round they beat up an NFC South team (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons), then they defeat the NFC's top seed in the divisional round (Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers). They win the championship round game in overtime against a 2 seed due in large part to a blunder by the other team (Brett Favre throwing an OT interception for the Packers, Kyle Williams muffing a punt for the San Francisco 49ers), and advance to the Super Bowl to play the Patriots, the number 1 seed in their conference. Both times, the drives where the Giants got the game winning points thanks to an epically athletic catch by a wide receiver in at a crucial 3rd down juncture (David Tyree's helmet catch, Mario Manningham's tiptoeing along the sidelines catch). Both times the Giants score but leave time on the clock for Tom Brady to lead a comeback. Both times, Brady and the Patriots fail.
- Hope Spot: Some teams have managed to mount a comeback from a big hole, but they all fell short. In fact, the largest deficit that has ever been overcome for win in Super Bowl history was a mere 10 points.
- Even more of a stomach punch: there have been three teams that did come back from deficits of more than 10 points to at least erase the lead, only to lose in the end. The Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV and the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI each came back from being 16 points and 14 points down to tie the game, only to lose on, respectively, a long bomb on the second to last drive of the game with a little under two minutes left and a last second field goal. The Cardinals had it even worse. They came back from 13 points down to take the lead and only had to hold the Steelers on the next drive. The Steelers drove it all the way down the field for a touchdown and the Cardinals ended up losing by 4.
- The San Francisco 49er's had this in Super Bowl XLVII: Trailing 21-6 at the half, they kicked off to Baltimore-Who then returned the ball 108 yards for a TD. But then the power went out for close to half an hour, and San Francisco rallied, pulling within 3 points. However, Baltimore managed to win 34-31.
- Irony: The power outage during Super Bowl XLVII was caused by the activation of a power relay when it wasn't supposed to. The purpose of the relay? To activate and relay power from another source in the event of a power outage.
- I Surrender, Suckers: In Super Bowl XLVI, the Patriots deliberately parted to allow the Giants to score, in order to give their offense more time to come back. The Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw realized just too late what was going on, and had an Oh Crap moment when he tried to stop on the 1 yard line. His momentum caused him to tumble into the endzone onto his ass for a touchdown. As it happens, sneaky football isn't always winning football: Bradshaw's TD proved to be the game-winning points when the Patriots offense couldn't deliver.
- In Super Bowl XXXII (which saw John Elway win his first Super Bowl); the Green Bay Packers tried a similar gambit in allowing eventual MVP Terrell Davis to run for his third touchdown with 1:45 left and two timeouts (though head coach Mike Holmgren later said he thought it was first and goal instead of 2nd and goal). Green Bay got the ball back in an attempt to at least tie the game with a touchdown; only for the last pass of the game to be broken up with seconds remaining to preserve a Denver win.
- Miracle Rally: Super Bowl XLII is the truest example (a last minute touchdown when nothing else would do), though several games have ended with a climactic rally. The Titans' charge to the one yard line as time expired is also a subversion.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The Halftime show can sometimes veer into this territory.
- No Communities Were Harmed: For varying reasons, many recent Super Bowl hosts use a region name rather than that of a host city. Super Bowl XLV was listed as "North Texas" since the actual host city of Arlington is right between Dallas and Fort Worth, and those two communities have been forever civic rivals, with Arlington beginning to edge in as the big "third" city of North Texas. So North Texas is used to prevent any slight. Same with Miami for Super Bowl XLIV and XLVII; the stadium is actually in suburban Miami Gardens, and Miami has a similar rivalry with Fort Lauderdale to the north, so "South Florida" is used there to make everyone happy.
- No Hoper Repeat: Basically everything else on TV that night. It usually is an old rerun of a prime time show or a movie.
- Numbered Sequels: Always in Roman numerals; the next one as of this writing will be Super Bowl XLVII (47). Finding a specific bowl in history can be confusing because not only do you have to translate the Roman numerals, but the bowl is played the calendar year after the season (Fall 2011 games lead to a Super Bowl in February of 2012).
- There were a few jokes for Super Bowl XXX (30) in 1995, wondering if kids would be able to watch. Oddly enough, 13 Super Bowls later for XLIII (43), some Arizona Comcast Subscribers got exactly that for 30 seconds. Comcast apologized.note
- Precision F-Strike: One will inevitably be picked up by the microphones by a member of the winning team.
- Put Me In, Coach!: Jeff Hostetler won Super Bowl XXV as the backup for Star QB Phil Simms. But the unquestioned king of this trope was Max McGee, WR for the Packers in Super Bowl I. So convinced was he that his services would not be required, that he spent the night before the game getting blind drunk. When the starter was injured, he came in with a borrowed helmet and a hangover and scored the first TD in Super Bowl history. Subverted in Super Bowl XLVI, when backup Patriots WR Tiquan Underwood was cut from the team hours before the game. That said, the Patriots lost.
- Then, of course, you've got the miracle play in Super Bowl XLII, made by David Tyree of the New York Giants, who spent the majority of his Giants career up to that point riding the pine, gets a shot to catch a deep heave from his embattled quarterback and makes it count.
- Arguably even bigger than Max McGee is Washington RB Timmy Smith in Super Bowl XXII. Only in the line up because of an injury to George Rogers, Smith ran for a still-standing SB record 204 yards and two touchdowns. Smith never came close to those numbers again and was out of football within two seasons.
- Second Place Is for Losers: No one really remembers the loser of the game. Former coach-turned-broadcaster John Madden once opined that the biggest gap in sports is that between the winning and losing team in the Super Bowl.
- Championship t-shirts are printed ahead of time for both teams. Players on the winning team are handed their shirts on the field at the end of the game, and the rest go up for sale. Losing team t-shirts are shipped off to foreign countries as donations to clothing programs, with in-country sale expressly forbidden.
- There are a few exceptions that have built up levels of infamy over time. Some teams, such as the Butt Monkey examples listed above, have never been able to recover from their losses in the eyes of the general fandom, often having jokes made at their expense of how you have a greater chance of having... pretty much ANYTHING you can imagine happening than those teams have of winning the championship. The Broncos managed to partially redeem themselves by finally scoring a win and giving the Packers their first loss, but losing 55-10 by the 49ers still remains one of the greatest embarrassments in NFL history. The Patriots' loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII is also fairly well remembered, as it was their only defeat in an otherwise perfect season.
- Serious Business
- Sibling Rivalry: The media around Super Bowl XLVII liked to focus on the fact that the opposing coaches were brothers; Jim Harbaugh with the 49ers and John Harbaugh with the Ravens.
- Super Bowl Special: Trope Namer.
- Wardrobe Malfunction: Trope Namer. Janet Jackson's infamous "Nipplegate" scandal happened during the 2004 game's halftime show.
- Who Needs Overtime: As of 2013, no Super Bowl game has ever gone into OT. The New England Patriots survived a furious rally from the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, but received the ball with only a short time remaining. With the announcers openly suggesting they should settle for the tie and overtime, they drove for a game-winning field goal as time expired.