(This story was published in 2002).
The biggest day in American professional sports comes on Sunday when the Super Bowl is played in New Orleans. I assume everyone knows at least what a football is and that the team with the most points wins. I do know that not all of you can intelligently discuss Ty Law's 40-yard time or dissect the Rams' passing attack. As a public service I offer this handy guide to the Super Bowl. You'll thank me later.
WHAT: The Super Bowl decides the championship of the National Football League. It has become a de facto American holiday. This is the 36th edition of the game, though the snooty NFL would say it's the XXXVIth edition.
More food is consumed Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day in the U.S. except for Thanksgiving. Municipal sewer systems brace for large volumes that occur at halftime and after the game.
HOW IT GOT ITS NAME: The game, which was first played in 1967, was originally called simply the championship between the AFL and NFL, back when there were two separate leagues. But one day, Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt saw his kids playing with a Super Ball and from that he coined Super Bowl. We can be grateful he wasn't enamored with the Tidy Bowl man.
WHO: Sunday's game features the St. Louis Rams of the National Football Conference and New England Patriots of the American Football Conference. The Patriots have always been based in the Boston area, the Rams moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles in 1995.
WHERE: The game is being played in New Orleans at the Louisiana Superdome. The game was originally set for Jan. 27, but was postponed a week because of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The NFL paid the National Car Dealers Association $7.5 million to move its convention to accommodate the change. The car dealers threw in a free tank of gas and rust-proofing.
FASHION NOTE: The Rams will wear their away white uniforms, with New Century Gold and Millennium Blue Helmets. The Patriots will wear their home uniforms: blue tops, silver pants, with a red, white and blue helmet logo.
THE TEAMS: The Rams finished with a record of 16 wins and 2 losses and are the heavy (14-point) favorites to win. The Patriots are 13-5 and considered the Cinderella story. The Rams have the league's best offense and third-best defense. The Patriots are in the middle of the pack in both areas, but seem to find a way to win. These teams met once in the regular season, with the Rams winning, 24-17
THE COACHES: Bill Belichick coaches the Patriots, Mike Martz the Rams. Belichick is like the somewhat reclusive neighbor who seldom says two words to you but winds up shoveling your walk; you never know what to make of him. Martz is like the insufferable neighbor who has a lawn that could grace the cover of ``Town and Country'' and let's you know about it ad naseum. You hope some exotic virus turns it all brown one day.
THE QUARTERBACKS: The quarterback is the team's most important player; he runs the offense, makes a fortune and gets to do Chunky Soup commercials.
Kurt Warner is the Rams' quarterback, while we're not sure who will start for New England. Drew Bledsoe, all 6'5'' of him, started the season but suffered a collapsed lung on a play Sept. 23 and was replaced by Tom Brady, a second-year player with a dimple the envy of Kirk Douglas. Brady led the Pats to an 11-2 record, but was hurt Sunday in the AFC Championship game. Bledsoe then replaced Brady and helped the Patriots win. It is uncertain if Brady is healthy enough to start. One thing is clear: who has the bigger bank account. Before the season Bledsoe signed a 10-year, $103 million contract; Brady makes about $300,000.
THE QUARTERBACKS' WIVES: Brady is single (he thanked his sisters after the Patriots qualified for the Super Bowl). Bledsoe and his wife, Laura, run a foundation that promotes and teaches effective parenting skills. Warner's wife Brenda, frankly, looks like she lives in Northampton, Mass., has a huge Melissa Etheridge collection and spends Aprils at the Dinah Shore in Palm Springs. The Warners run a foundation dedicated to ``impacting lives by promoting Christian values.''
THE OWNERS: Robert Kraft, your typical middle-aged rich, white guy, owns the Patriots. Yawn. The Rams, meanwhile, are owned by former showgirl Georgia Frontiere, who inherited the club when her husband and team owner Carroll Rosenbloom drowned in the Miami surf in 1979. She's been married seven times. Hubby #7,Dominic Frontiere, went to prison for income tax evasion after scalping Super Bowl tickets in 1980 (they divorced after his release). She is a big believer in astrology and was made very rich when the Rams moved to St. Louis (it must have been in the stars). In an Outsports poll, 70% of the readers chose death over having to have sex with Georgia.
GAME ENTERTAINMENT: The theme this year is patriotism, so get ready to be red-white-and-blued over. Mary J. Blige and Marc Anthony will combine to sing "America the Beautiful" and the national anthem will be performed by Mariah Carey. Prior to this, Paul McCartney will perform a new anthem ``reflecting the spirit of freedom.'' Also set to perform are Barry Manilow, Yolanda Adams, James Ingram, Patti LaBelle, Wynonna and the Boston Pops. I think I'll be in the bathroom then.
U2 will perform at halftime -- I'm sorry … wasn't being corporate enough -- U2 will perform at the E*Trade Super Bowl XXXVI Halftime Show.
After the game Fox will feature a one-hour episode of ``Malcolm in the Middle,'' where Lois mud-wrestles Susan Sarandon.
In an attempt at counter programming, NBC will air a special edition of ``Fear Factor,'' timed for halftime. It will feature Playboy Playmates and I can guarantee you I will not be watching.
TV: The game will be on Fox, with announcers Pat Summerall and John Madden. We only hope Madden can come up with gems like he did Sunday in the Rams' NFC Championship Game win. A Ram defensive coach was violently tugging on his belt and jerking his pants up and down in some sort of signal. ''He's telling them everyone has to suck it up,'' said Madden.
THE COMMERCIALS: There won't be idiotic dot.coms blowing millions on ads with monkeys. This year, the theme will be comedy (though companies with no profits blowing millions on commercials is pretty funny). USA Today reports that Anheuser-Busch will feature ads showing ``battling robots, the Clydesdales and comedian Cedric the Entertainer.'' And a sandwich chain will show a customer getting shot in the neck with a dart gun. That last one sounds like a real thigh-slapper.
ON THE FIELD: Between the ads and the nearly five-hour pregame show, a game will be played. Here is what to look for:
- The Rams feature an explosive offense, led by Warner, Marshall Faulk (the best running back in the league), and speedy receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. The Rams averaged more than 30 points a game this season. If St. Louis gets ahead by 10-14 points early you can focus more on the food at your party than the game; it will be too hard for New England to overcome such a deficit. If the Patriots are within seven points midway through the third period, they will have a real chance for an upset.
- The Rams defense in 2000 was a joke. In 2001, with the addition of eight new starters, it has become a force. An early key will be whether the Patriots can move the ball. In their two playoff wins this year, the Rams forced the other team to turn the ball over early and the Rams went on to victory.
- The Patriots offense is efficient, but not spectacular. Their best offensive player is Troy Brown, a fast receiver, who is also a threat when returning punts. Expect New England to unveil a trick play, such as having a wide receiver throw a pass, something they did for a touchdown earlier this season.
- The Patriots defense is complex and uses deception and multiple formations to confuse quarterbacks. If New England can slow down Faulk, they can stay in the game because it's a pretty good bet that Warner will be coerced into throwing an interception. The best name on the Pats' defense is Teddy Bruschi(pronounced Brew-ski).
- Both teams have kickers who are both cute and very accurate, Adam Vinatieri for the Patriots and Jeff Wilkins for St. Louis. Vinatieri appeared shirtless on the cover of Strong magazine, and the author (who posted his comments on the Outsports discussion board) said, ``Just because Adam's clearly not gay it doesn't make him automatically narrow-minded nor homophobic. In fact, he was nothing short of fall-down funny and candid on the subject when I told him I was gay. He's cool and he's a great kicker.''
FACTOIDS TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS: The Rams are the first team in NFL history to score 500 points in three consecutive years. … The game will be broadcast Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Catalan, Mandarin, Greek, Thai, Icelandic, Flemish, Cantonese, Hebrew, Hindu and Korean. … No team that has ever lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the regular season has won the Super Bowl. The Rams lost to the Bucs this season. ... The Patriots have appeared in three Super Bowls, all in New Orleans. … Kurt Warner was bagging groceries and stocking shelves for $5.50 an hour in 1995, after his NFL career was seemingly at an end. Four years later he led the Rams to their first Super Bowl win. … Drew Bledsoe was so unimpressed by the millions he earned after signing with New England in 1993 that his mom used to find $40,000 uncashed checks in the visor of his car.
JEWELRY: The winning team is awarded the Vince Lombardi Trophy, which has a sterling silver football resting atop a vase (valued at $12,500). The league pays for up to $5,000 per ring for as many as 125 members of the winning organization.
HOMOEROTIC FOOTBALL TERMS: Tight end. Over the top. Line plunge. Going all the way. Getting penetration. Man in motion. Going deep. He scores.