Gridiron's grand final grips US as millions settle in front of TV
Michael Wilhoite of the San Francisco 49ers yells as he answers questions from the media during Super Bowl XLVII Media Day ahead of Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 29, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The San Francisco 49ers will take on the Baltimore Ravens on February 3, 2013 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Photo: Getty Images
IT'S THE biggest holiday weekend in the US. Not Thanksgiving or Christmas - I'm talking about the Super Bowl.
If you think I'm exaggerating - well OK, maybe a little. But the numbers don't lie. The annual grand final of American football is watched on TV by more than 110 million people. That many people don't watch a Thanksgiving parade, or anything related to Santa. One in every three Americans is watching, and that doesn't count babies, or four-year-old twin girls named Anna and Claire who'll be complaining about how bored they are while the game plays in the background. So you can assume the real number of viewers is closer to 150 million.
Super Bowl Sunday is a tradition - even for people who don't know a football from a pumpkin. It's simply one of those things you're forced to acknowledge if you want to call yourself American.
You don't have to know the rules. Truth is, no one, not even the players and coaches know all the rules - but you do have to know it's on, and when.
You do have to attend a Super Bowl party at least once in your adult life. I'm pretty sure it's a law. Every party must have some form of chips, beer, and an annoying know-it-all who insists on using football terms like ''cover two'', and ''safety blitz''. It's always a man, usually a single man, who believes this intimate level of knowledge will impress single women. Alas, it does not.
The game isn't about the game any more. That's usually boring. It's about the commercials, and American football is the greatest commercial-friendly sport in existence. Short plays, long ad breaks.
This year, the price of a 30-second ad during the game is a mere $US4 million ($3.85 million) Which according to my maths is less than 4¢ per potential viewer. Seems cheap.
The other highlight/potentially embarrassing moment is the half-time entertainment. Janet Jackson's boob won't be there, but this year we'll suffer through Beyonce. I know she's pretty, and can sing - but she'll be lip-syncing, and miming every note in her range on every song, which means half-time could go until March. And there'll be generic, ethnically diverse ''fans'' below the stage holding glow sticks to give the scene energy - which I hate. I want a lion tamer and a guy stopping a cannon ball with his belly.
This year's game has it's own soap opera. The coaches of the opposing teams are brothers. Seriously. One team has a retiring veteran who's been crying his way through the post-season, the other team has a quarterback who's played 10 more games of professional football than me.
But if all that doesn't grab you, TV channel Animal Planet has its annual Puppy Bowl. Two hours of cute puppies running around a little football field, hedgehog cheerleaders and a kitten-filled half-time show. And all participants are available for adoption - something the NFL has not added to the Super Bowl. Yet.
Tim is a writer, TV producer and proud former Canberra resident who has lived in Los Angeles since 1997.