The Official 7BLR Super Bowl Primer - 1/30/2013

America, gird your loins.

This Sunday, the kid gloves are coming off. This Sunday is the Sunday. The one Sunday to rule them all. The Sunday that shall not be named. This Sunday, all across this fair nation of ours, Americans shall assemble before their 52 inch HD TVs, huddling close around screens that can be seen from space, all in hopes of wrestling the greased pig of the American dream into a breathless heap, trussing it up right there in the deep shag pile of the living room carpet and feeding it bacon-wrapped chicken wings as the neighbors look on in rapt amazement.

Make no mistake: everyone will be there. The Cheeseheads shall stand together with the Boo Birds. The 12th Man shall merge with the 4th Phase, and lo, Raiders Nation shall meld together with Steelers Nation as one all-encompassing Ubernation, a perfect Voltron of unthinkable gridiron delight, for indeed, this Sunday is the Super Sunday.

A holy day, indeed. And yet, for those few Americans left uninitiated into the exciting world of professional football, Super Sunday can be an exercise in frustration. If you are one of those sad few, have no fear. Our crack sports writing staff here at 7BLR has put together a guide to help you get caught up on the intricacies of this fascinating sport that they call “America’s pastime now that baseball sucks.” So strap on your pads and pull a helmet over that melon you call a head. Are you ready for some football?

The answer is, “Yes.” You are, without question, ready for some football.

Football: The Good Kind (Not Soccer)

The Super Bowl is the annual NFL championship game played between the champions of the AFC (American Football Conference) and the NFC (Non-American Football Conference, obviously). The year’s iteration is referred to as “Super Bowl XLVII.” In order to impress people at the neighborhood Super Bowl party, you’ll want to be sure that you aren't pronouncing the event “Super Bowl Ecks-Ell-Vee-Eye-Eye.” This is a common rookie mistake. Those seemingly meaningless letters at the end of the name are, in fact, Roman numerals, so you will want to use the proper Latin pronunciation, which is: “Ecks-yay, Ell-yay, Ee-vay, Eye-yay-eye-yay.” That is how ancient Romans (referred to in present times as “Latinos”) said “two-score-and-seven.”

The use of Roman numerals might lead one to believe that football comes from ancient Rome. This is not the case. In their heyday, ancient Romans were fond of sports such as “gladiatorial combat” and “feeding slaves to lions,” and, in later years, “being sacked by the Visigoths.” Contemporary American football would have been, from an ancient Roman’s point of view, far too violent a spectacle for a civilized people to enjoy as sport. One should also be certain that American football is in no way related to the sport that every other country on the face of the planet would call “football.” That sport is actually soccer, or as it is referred to in the US, “competitive napping.”

In fact, contemporary American football is a uniquely North American pastime owing its origins to a unique variant of the Native American sport “rugby” in which two teams of young braves faced off in an attempt to carry the severed foot of a vanquished enemy into the “zone-of-the-enders” to earn the opportunity to spin a colorful wheel and win fabulous cash prizes. (Note: though similar, the modern day “Wheel of Fortune” is actually derived from a game played by ancient Egyptians and has nothing to do with football whatsoever.)

The Fine Points of a Rough Game

Football is, indeed, a complicated game. While a complete and thoroughgoing description of all various positions necessary for a football team would be impossible to attempt here, a few positions warrant mention. Both teams have a complete complement of players for both offense and defense, and there are a dizzying number of them. Quarterbacks. Halfbacks. Running backs. Nickelbacks. Wide receivers. Free and strong safeties. There are multiple guys for kicking the ball. Honestly, considering the mind-boggling variety of players that are supposedly necessary for this game, you would think they were doing something more complicated than moving a ball up and down a field and giving each other concussions.

The main player on offense would be the “quarterback,” of which there are two types: “quarterbacks” and “black quarterbacks.” For more on the distinction between the two, do a Google search for “Donovan McNabb,” “Rush Limbaugh,” and “fat racist piece of shit.”

Players from both sides line up along what is known as the “line of cribbage,” and the quarterback calls play to order by reciting a number of strange, even arcane phrases (“hut one,” “blue thirty two,” “expecto patronum”) finishing the incantation with a command to: “Hike!” The football is then handed to him from between the legs of the player who stands before him. This player was originally called “the hiker,” for obvious reasons, but over the years came to be known as the “center” because that’s where he stands, and because most accomplished centers have taken so many shots to the dome that if they aren't named after where they are supposed to stand there’s no telling where they will end up.

The instant play begins, each player along the “offensive” and “defensive line” hurl themselves at each other with an amount of force that your average human being couldn't hope to generate without the use of a diesel engine. Imagine, if you will, a group of individuals so apt at breaking human bodies that they are able to do it at a professional level. Now imagine that they have found the one context in American life where they can do these things and not be charged with attempted murder. We are talking about an amount of sheer violence so garish one might think that what one was viewing was not a “sport” but instead a psychological evaluation administered to convicted murderers and psychopaths to test them for empathetic response.

Some call it “the sport of kings.”

At this point, the quarterback just sprints as fast as he possibly can away from the eldritch madness unveiled before his unbelieving eyes, because guess what, champ: he is the guy that half of everyone on the field is trying to crush. This means that anywhere from twenty to thirty charging brutes are looking at him and seeing not a human being but a ham in a skirt. What ensues is a nightmarish melee during which the “offensive” line tries to keep the so-called “defenders” from reaching the quarterback before they take hold of the poor wretch and snuff the life from him altogether.

To escape this onslaught, the quarterback has precious few options. He can either hand the ball backwards to some other unlucky player, throw it further down the field to another teammate, or just sprint like hell to the sidelines at which point the defenders are no longer supposed to hit him. (Make no mistake: they invariably hit him anyway. Every time!) If it sounds like I am overselling the violence of this whole spectacle and the inherent importance of said violence to the sport, here’s a challenge for you: see if you can type “Joe Theismann” into Google fast enough to get all the way through the man’s last name before autocomplete pulls up either “leg,” or “injury,” or “good lord I just saw a man crippled.” Google isn’t some stooge. It’s got algorithms! It knows that when someone is typing “Joe Theismann” into it, what they are really trying to say is: “wat does compound frakcher look like?”

So the offense gets four turns (which are called “downs” for no discernible reason) to try to move the ball ten yards in order to get another four turns to fly directly into the heart of a murderstorm. All of this is done in hopes that points might be scored. Points in football are scored in bizarre batches and in a variety of fashions. An offense can earn six points for a “touchdown” if one of their players somehow manages to reach the defense’s “end zone” alive and with the football in hand. They can earn three points for what’s known as a “field goal,” or a “oh, look, baby’s just gonna kick it in” goal. The defense, believe it or not, can score two points on the rare occasion that they manage to murder the quarterback in his own end zone--a fate made all the more humiliating because of recent rule changes that have made it legal for defensive players to “teabag” the QB’s mangled body. Finally the kicker can score one point after a touchdown by kicking the ball through the uprights for the “extra point,” a point which is considered such a gimme that players in some locker rooms have been rumored to call it “the pussy point.”

A football game last sixty minutes, which translates to four hours with commercials. Yeah, settle in, amigo. You’re in for a haul.

The Big Day

Sunday has long served as the primary day during which most NFL games are played because of the NFL’s strict adherence to the pacifistic tenets of Christianity. This year’s Super Bowl will be played on Sunday, February 3rd. “Super Sunday” is traditionally celebrated with such devotion that even ministers are known to skip church, let the kids sleep in, and spend the morning and early afternoon shopping for beer, salty snacks, and vast amounts of chicken wings. Seriously, Super Bowl fans are just stupid about the chicken wings.

The Super Bowl match-up this year finds the Mighty Ravens of Baltimore going up against the San Francisco Forty-Niners. For the Ravens franchise, this marks their second trip to the Super Bowl, whereas the San Francisco squad will be going for their sixth championship. This year, Ravens fans have rallied around the team motto of “Make it Two for Old Ray Lew!” San Francisco fans, on the other hand, have stuck with the same cheer they have used for years: “Let’s Win Once More Before We Are Plunged To Our Doom In The Pacific!”

The Baltimore Ravens are named after the well known poem by famed Baltimore writer, Edgar Allan Poe. Their mascot, “Big Ed,” is a whimsical take on the famed writer who is known for firing up fans with zany antics such as chaining up the opposing team’s mascot, sealing him in a brick wall, and then dying of rabies. It should also be noted that the Ravens have only made their home in Baltimore for the last sixteen years. Previous to 1996, the Ravens were the Cleveland Browns. Many Cleveland fans still follow the Ravens to this day, because even after years of empty promises from the NFL, professional football has never returned to the city of Cleveland.

No one knows exactly how the San Francisco team came to be known as “The 49ers,” though most Bay Areas sports writers agree that the name features “more math than is altogether necessary.” Their mascot is named “Cornflower Joe.” Joe is an ex-hippy Baby Boomer who, in recent years, has traded in his old-fashioned Flower Power-themed sideline show for a new routine that involves griping about Estate Tax and just relaxing in his Barcalounger and listening to Bill O’Reilly.

There are several storylines that the savvy Super Bowl fan will want to know about before the big day. Perhaps the biggest story of this Super Bowl is the fact that it will mark the final appearance of beloved Ravens icon, surefire Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis. Lewis is a beloved figure in Baltimore and, indeed, throughout the NFL. His charity work is legendary, and he is as renowned for his philanthropy as he is for his wit and charm. He is also known for his trademark end-zone dance, a happy ditty that that is inexplicably known as “The Double Murder Shuffle.”

On the San Francisco side, look for most of the talk to center around their perennial All-Star quarterback, Joe Montana.

Finally, the most unique element to this year’s match-up is that the head coaches of these two teams are brothers Jim and John Harbaugh. The “Harbaugh boys,” as they are known, come from a famous football family. Their father, Earl “Popeye” Harbaugh, played as a middle linebacker for the Oakland Raiders and did a short stint as defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers. Their mother, Sally Sue “Spike” Harbaugh was the first woman to play in the National Football League and is well known for her tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers and for her Super Bowl winning “Immaculate Reception.” “Ma Harbaugh,” as she is lovingly known to football fans, has been jovial about the upcoming game, saying, “Of course, I’m very proud of both my boys, and I’ll be happy for whichever one of them wins,” adding, “But whichever one loses? Well, he’s a loser, isn’t he? A pussy-faced, nancy-boy LOSER!”

Super Bowl Sideshows

Football won’t be all that’s on display this Super Sunday. Over the years, the Super Bowl has become a media extravaganza with some fascinating intricacies. For instance, much has been made about the fantastic fees advertisers must pay in order to market their products during the Super Bowl. As a result, Super Bowl ads have become a sort of event within an event, with a portion of the viewing audience tuning in solely to enjoy the commercials. We should reiterate this point, as it is indeed an important one on which to be clear: human beings possessed of sentient minds and apparent free wills who have no interest whatsoever in football choose of their own volition to watch the Super Bowl solely for the privilege of being included in the audience to whom corporations attempt to peddle their wares. One can only guess that the most dedicated advertisement fans “live-tweet” their reactions to this boozy spectacle on their frigging smartphones, then retire to their laptops after the game to blog about the whole sordid thing right out in front of God and everybody without so much as a hint of self-consciousness.

In fairness, the commercials are usually pretty funny.

The Super Bowl Halftime Show has also become a media spectacle of its own, drawing such superstars as Prince, the Rolling Stones, and The Black Eyed Peas. As popular as it has become, the Halftime Show has engendered its fair share of controversy. In 2004, during a lively performance by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, heads were turned when Mr. Timberlake, in a spasm of unbridled sexual yearning, took hold of Ms. Jackson’s bra and jerked away what was apparently the "nipple-covering-codpiece" of the device, leaving her standing onstage with the best part of her boob exposed to thousands of leering Super Bowl fans. The incident likely wouldn't have made much on an impact on the audience--liquored-up, as they were, on the thirty minutes worth of carnage they had already witnessed--had Ms. Jackson’s exposed nipple not opened its grinning, toothy maw and, in a boisterous voice, sang: “Hello, my baby! Hello, my darling! Hello, my ragtime gal,” chuckled darkly, then grumbled, “That’s Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty, bitches.”

Team Strategy and the 7BLR prediction

Football is a game of complex strategy and mental fortitude. It requires years of study to accumulate enough knowledge to even watch the game knowledgeably, let alone comment on it. However, after taking a look at how the Ravens and 49ers stack up, you can expect the teams to pursue the following strategies.

For the 49ers to win, they will need to play defense well enough to keep the Ravens' score as low as possible, and their offense will have to be strong enough to outscore the Ravens. From the Ravens, on the other hand, you should look for an effort by their offense to score as often as possible coupled with a stingy defensive effort that holds the Niners to a lower amount of scoring than that which the Ravens manage.

While many variables need to fall into place for both teams, the staff at 7BLR is now comfortable in making the prediction that your 2013 Super Bowl Champions will be... the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Honestly, everybody knows they can’t be beat.

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