America’s Top Winter Game


On February 6, 2011 the Cowboys Stadium in Arling­ton, Texas will host the XLV Super Bowl in American history.


Zoom asked John Gallo, a great American football fan, what the game means to him.
John shares his thoughts on the Super Bowl.


The Super Bowl has become a large presence on the American social scene. What does it mean to me? I have been lucky, as a friend of mine has hosted a Su­per Bowl party every year since 1984. Back then my daughters were 6, 3 and 1 year of age and the Super Bowl was a combination of watching a football game and feeding or changing a child. I hate to admit it, but that changed in 1987 when my hometown team the New York Giants made it to the Super Bowl. I told my wife that year that the kids were on their own and to only come and get me if they were hurt. I had no voice for 3 days after that game because I yelled so much during the game and had similar results in 1991, 2000 and 2008 when the Giants were in the Super Bowl. In other years, the party is part foot­ball and part eating. In keeping with tradition, I bring donuts and pastries as part of the extensive dessert offering at the party.


On a Super Bowl Tour


When It Is Played


The Super Bowl has become a unique American ex­perience. Played in the depth of winter, it gives people an excuse to go out and have a party. The amount of food eaten on Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving. The next Super Bowl, the champion­ship of the professional American Football league, will be played on February 6, 2011 in Arlington Texas, just outside Dallas.


A Little History


How did the Super Bowl come to be such a major event? Our story starts in the late 1950s when the Na­tional Football League (NFL) was growing in popular­ity. While baseball continued to be the national game, football’s popularity grew as a result of increased ex­posure on television. In 1959 a group of men (sorry ladies), generally from places which did not have foot­ball teams, applied to join the existing 16 teams of the NFL. The league turned them down. These vision­ary men then decided to take a risk and form a new league called the American Football League (AFL). Franchises were established in cities which had no teams such as Boston, Buffalo, Oakland, Denver and Houston as well as cities which had NFL teams such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. Play began in 1960. Things were tough in the early days as the league did not catch on right away. At times payrolls were barely met and attendance was low. The style of play in the new AFL was more exciting than the old NFL and as a result, the new league was able to get a television contract from NBC. This enabled the league to show off its product to fans across the country and more importantly enabled the league to sign players out of college away from the old league. By 1966 it became apparent that the AFL was here to stay but still was not strong enough to overtake the old NFL. Thus talks to merge the two leagues started and an agreement was reached in 1966 to fully merge in 1970 and to play a championship game between the 2 league winners starting in 1967.


The Origins of the Name


So began what we now know as the Super Bowl. Back in 1967 though, the name of this game was the National Football League – American Football League Championship Game. This name was very cumbersome. One of the founders of the AFL was Lamar Hunt. One day he saw his child playing with a very bouncy ball called a Super Ball. Mr. Hunt came up with the idea to call the new championship game The Super Bowl. As they say, the rest is history.


Watched by Every Third American

Over these past 40 years or so football has grown tremendously in popularity, and interest in The Super Bowl has grown accordingly. The 2010 game was viewed by about 106 million Americans, the most of any television show in history. Since the network can promise advertisers a very large audience, they can charge a high price and in 2010 the cost was $3 mil­lion for 30 seconds of time on The Super Bowl. For the halftime show, artists such as Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones have per­formed. About $80 million was wagered in Las Vegas on the 2010 Super Bowl. As a side note, there is a legend, disputed by some people, that water works’ personnel in many cities can detect a drop in wa­ter pressure during Super Bowl halftime when many people flush toilets at nearly the same time.


© Text John Gallo



Football Terms and Rules


Like in every team sport, it needs some time and watching and/or playing to become familiar with the rules of American football. The words below followed by a short description of the game might help those who have not been very familiar with the game yet:


a down - a chance for a team to advance the ball, ending when the ball carrier is tackled or the ball be­comes out of play. A team must advance at least ten yards in a series of four downs in order to keep pos­session


to tackle - stop the forward progress of the ball car­rier by forcing them to the ground

to punt the ball - 1. (of an offensive team) turn pos­session over to the defensive team by punting the ball after failing to make a first down


2. kick the ball after it is dropped from the hands and before it reaches the ground


a touchdown - a six-point score made by carrying or passing the ball into the end zone of the opposing side

(from the New Oxford American Dictionary)


There are two teams of 11 players each. The game lasts four 15-minute quarters and a 12-minute half-time. If scores are tied, the so called sudden-death overtime of 15 minutes is added.

The teams are en­titled to three time-outs.

The aim of the game is to advance the ball towards, and finally to the opposition’s end zone for which a touchdown is scored. The players run until the ball is tackled or throw the ball down the field to a team mate.


The most fundamental part of the game are downs. The offensive team moves the ball forward and has 4 downs to gain ten yards. If the team manages to advance at least 10 yards within the four downs, an­other first down is earned with four more chances to go a further 10 yards. If the team is not successful in moving 10 yards within four downs, possession is surrendered.


The most important in scoring apart from 6-point touchdowns are field goals that earn the team three points. An extra point can be earned by kicking the ball through the uprights after a touchdown. If the team takes the ball again into the end zone, another two points are gained. If the offensive team is tack­led with the ball in their own end zone, the defensive team earns two points.


First published in Zoom in on America, Vol. VIII, Issue 77. January 2011.



© American Information Resource Center, Krakow