Monday, January 31, 2011

After All The Hoopla, It's Still A Football Game. Here Are 10 Tips to Enjoy The Main Event

It's Super Bowl Sunday and all of the parties are over, the NFL Experience is closing and the eyes of the world are upon Arlington, Texas for Super Bowl XLV.

If you are lucky enough to go to the game, Super Bowl is very difficult to maintain focus for all of the extra-curricular activities off-the-field. But it is the football championship of the world so it's kind of a big deal.

You don't want to miss anything on the field because of something off the field, so here are 10 things to watch for during the game: (NOTE: Some of these don't apply if you are at home watching along with the 100 million+ other viewers so if you don't want to read about what you'll be missing, you might want to skip this next part.)

1. Down and Distance/Play Clock--It's the most important part of the game. Regardless of how many flash cards, or how big the coaches laminated play chart is, he doesn't start until he knows the down and distance and what time the play clock was set. Cowboys Stadium did not account for this important stat in the original video boards but have made improvements over the last year. Locate the down and distance scoreboard before the game starts and check it after every play along with the play clock because it will help with #2 below.

2. Alignments--It's not really necessary for the average fan to recognize cover two from single coverage but it will help if you notice the teams alignments before the snap. If Green Bay lines up three wide receivers to one side it usually means they are passing. Conversely, if Pittsburgh features a two tight end formation, they are usually running. Pay attention and after a couple of series you will be able to play along.

3. Tendencies--Super Bowl game plans usually don't vary from the regular season because coaches are leery of changing what got them to the big game in the first place. So know before the game that Green Bay features a balanced offense that uses a spread passing game to set-up the run (30 passes vs. 32 runs in the NFC Championship.) Pittsburgh has a run-heavy, ball control offense that sets up the pass(43 rushes vs. 19 passes in the AFC Championship.) Both defenses are similar because both coordinators were coaches together in Pittsburgh when the popular 3-4 Zone Blitz defense both teams use was created in the bowels of Three Rivers Stadium. Watch the game within the game as Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers move their defensive players around like chess pieces trying to disrupt the opposing teams quarterbacks. The goal is to make the other team one dimensional. Notice any deviations from the above during the game and it usually means that team is the first to blink.

4. Key Playmakers--Football is the ultimate team sport but just like Michael Jordan once said: there may not be an "i" in "team" but there is one in "win." So, yes a single playmaker can make the difference. For Green Bay, watch Clay Mathews and Charles Woodson on defense. For Pittsburgh, watch Troy Palomalo and James Harrison on defense. On the offensive side, in addition to the two quarterbacks, for Green Bay, watch rookie James Starks and Greg Jennings. When Pittsburgh has the ball, watch Rashard Mendenhall and Hines Ward. Listen for the announcer closely and whichever players' name is being called the most is usually the winning team.

5. Watch the Play Not the Ball--Once the ball is snapped is where most casual fans lose track of the play. Television has spoiled us because it just follows the ball. However, if you really want to enjoy the game, after you have mastered the first 4 items, pick a key playmaker on specific down and distance plays and focus the binoculars on them. Try watching them move without the ball. If you have done your homework, you'll amaze yourself how many times the ball ends up in your field glasses.

6. Binoculars--Speaking of binoculars, take them and use them during the game. They also are great for people watching during timeouts and during the half time show. But leave the case at home. NFL prohibits binocular cases from Super Bowl.

7. Headset--Depending upon your seat, you may not be able to follow along very well at certain points when the play is at the other end of the field regardless of the gigantic video board at Cowboys Stadium. Take a headset and pre-set it to the NFL radio network before the game. Their analysis and insight into injuries, timeouts and in-game statistics will make your experience more enjoyable.

8. Seat Location--Be sure and find where your seat is located with respect to the nearest watering hole, bathroom and exit upon arrival. You'll appreciate that simple fact four hours later when you are searching for the bathroom and concession stand during the game or nearest exit after the game.

9. Pace Yourself--Advertisers don't pay $2.8 million for a :30-second television commercial to air during Super Bowl for nothing. Television rules so in addition to the regular breaks at the end of quarters, two minute warnings and injuries, there are more commercial breaks during the Big Game than regular season games. So be prepared and attentive and you won't miss a play. Watch the 20-yard lines during breaks. If the network television coordinator with the oversized yellow or orange glove comes out onto the field and holds his glove in the air, it means a 2-minute network television timeout. Take your cue and run to the bathroom. If he comes out onto the field and uses a circular motion with his glove, it signals the referee to keep on playing. Oh and be careful of the dreaded :30-second timeout. Most coaches timeouts are :30-seconds.

10. Beer Man Is Your Best Friend--You didn't pay big bucks to miss a play waiting in the beer line. Upon arrival at your section, locate the nearest beer man, introduce yourself, tell him you're thirsty and tip him handsomely. It will pay off when you need a refill during the big play and lower your stress level.

So now that you have the basics, do your homework and enjoy the biggest football game in the world.

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