The culmination of a sporting year tends to lead to a similar scenario, regardless of the sport in which you are participating.
Win or Go Home.
In popular sports within England, this can realised at the end of a cup run or in the latter stages of a tournament. In American sports, the Playoffs become the integral part of the season. Regular season form and regular season strategy tends to go out the window and the pressure on players and teams is exponentially increased. Winning, no matter how it is done, is prioritised above performance and individual and team legacies are built around the premise of performing in the pressure cauldron that is playoff sport.
Whilst America stages a playoff atmosphere better than most countries and most other sports around the world, even within the USA there is one stage that stands highest above all else; the Super Bowl.
In America’s other major sports of Baseball, Basketball and Ice Hockey, the eventual champion is crowned after a series of games. In American Football, the Super Bowl is used as a one-off decider to crown the champion of the sport. The pressure amplifies under the premise of a winner-takes-all game and, as such, there is a spectacle that accompanies the Superbowl as one of the greatest shows on earth.
For 2022, the show travelled to one of the most suitable homes in the country; Los Angeles.
Super Bowl LVI Contenders
The Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams share the majority of the city’s NFL fan-base. In 2020, the SoFi Stadium became the shared home of the two franchises and, in order to celebrate its’ induction into the NFL, was chosen as the home of Super Bowl LVI.
Whilst the Chargers snuck home a winning record at 9-8 and third place in the AFC West, the Rams excelled to a 12-5 record and the NFC West title. The Rams would excel through the playoffs, ending the run of Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on their route to a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
Despite their pre-match schedule being uninterrupted by travel and unfamiliar surroundings, it was in fact their opponents that would be named as the home team due to the league alternating between conferences each year.
Those opponents came in the form of the underdog Cincinnati Bengals.
With a second-year quarterback in Joe Burrow leading their offence, the Bengals started the year at 100-to-1 odds to win Super Bowl LVI. In short, there were only three teams in the entire 32-team league that oddsmakers gave less of a chance than the bengals.
After finishing with a 10-7 record through the regular season, they remained as underdogs throughout an improbable post-season run that included a historic and dramatic overtime victory away at Championship favourites Kansas City in the AFC Championship game; booking their ticket to LA for the culmination an incredible season.
Super Bowl Showcase
One of the biggest spectacles of a Super Bowl Sunday comes in the form of the half-time show. In order to accommodate this, the match itself undertakes an extended thirty minute half-time interval. In this time, the biggest acts in music have delivered iconic performances that have been witnessed the world over. For Super Bowl LVI, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J Blige delivered a Hip-Hop montage of their greatest hits. Despite the plethora of stars that have preceded this years’ performers on the biggest stage, the collective enthusiasm and excitement was palpable both in the stadium and across social media.
With an estimated 167million tuning in for Super Bowl LVI this year, there was more to be won than simply within the lines of the field of play. For advertisers, the Super Bowl represents a prime opportunity to have their brand in front of a massive audience and often have the opportunity to be recalled in years to come in an alternative branch of the Super Bowl’s famed history. TV advertisement prices rose this year to $6.5million for 30 seconds of screen time. As such, Super Bowl adverts have become a topic of conversation in the build up to the main event in the same manner that many sub-plots underpinning the game itself do.
Super Bowl LVI
With the total viewing audience estimated at over 208million people, Super Bowl LVI carried an astonishing amount of pressure and managed to deliver an exciting game that went down to the wire.
Despite their underdog status, Cincinnati pushed LA to the brink, finally succumbing 23-20 in front of a live crowd of over 70,000 fans. LA had made some big acquisitions throughout the season to field an impressive array of talent that included the eventual Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp. Kupp had come off a historic season, claiming the triple crown for leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, becoming the first player since 2005 to do so.
On defence, the imperious Aaron Donald led a pass rush that had wreaked havoc throughout the regular season and ultimately made the pivotal play to seal the victory and the franchise’s second championship at the end of the game.
As is tradition in American sports, a parade soon followed for the victors, with the franchise revelling in their victory on the Wednesday that followed.
With such an incredible array of talent on and off the field, the spectacle and magnitude of the Super Bowl transcends the sport itself. For many sports around the world, their respective pinnacles are calendar highlights for their legions of fans and the communities they represent.
In America and continuing to spread throughout the world, Super Bowl Sunday has become embedded in mainstream culture to a degree that few other sporting events can rival. The magnitude of the occasion and the showcase that is created for fans and players alike has transcended the sport itself and provided a model that other sports could do far worse than to look to emulate.