In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, there is an almost tangible sense of anticipation, the feeling of a nation bracing itself for the excitement to come. The Super Bowl is one of those rare events in US life that unites the entire nation.
The game is on in nearly every home across the country, and hundreds of millions more are watching from overseas, while bookmakers try to one-up their rivals in offering the best Super Bowl odds.
But how you prepare for the game depends on your relationship with football.
Don’t break routine
Players have two weeks between the Conference finals and the Super Bowl itself and while that gives teams a little longer than usual to get fit, healthy and make their plans, those two weeks will pass agonizingly slowly if you are on a Super Bowl roster.
In the wake of winning the Conference final, the danger is that players celebrate a little too hard or forget about the routines – physical and mental – that got them to that stage. At the same time, players need to shut out the constant media attention and deal with the building nervousness associated with the game.
The consensus from players who have been in this position is that it is important to maintain your usual routine as much as possible, try to relax away from training and to focus on tangible plans and strategies rather than speculation. Fear of failure on the biggest football stage of them all is a constant danger, although if a player has reached a Super Bowl, they are already among the elite and likely will have developed ways to deal with the pressure and the fear.
Coaches feel it most
If the pressure on the players is intense, it is magnified even further for coaches. It is possible for most players to avoid the media circus, and those that have media commitments will be managed and assisted by their franchise, but no such protection exists for coaches.
Coaches who have led their teams to the Super Bowl will tell you that nothing can really prepare you for the intensity of the media whirlwind. In the two weeks going up to the game, everyone wants a piece of you, from distant relatives hoping for a ticket to local and national media all wanting their five-minute interviews. All these extra commitments mean that the biggest game of the season is the one that coaches will have the least time to prepare for.
In that sense, the preparation for the Super Bowl is done long before. There will be specific plans developed for the big game, but at this stage, the coach’s main role will be psychological. He or she must be aware of how the players are coping with the build-up, ensuring that every single member of the roster gets the support they need, while at the same time, projecting confidence and assurance.
Super Bowl is a party
For regular fans, the Super Bowl is the occasion for a party. The build-up begins almost as soon as the conference finals are over, with workplace sweeps and arguments over who will be hosting. A big part of the preparation is getting the right food in place. If you’re having the whole family over to watch the Super Bowl, catering can present a formidable challenge.
The other key part of the preparation is in deciding who to root for. Every year, fans of 30 NFL franchises don’t have a stake in the Super Bowl, so must pick one team or the other to cheer on. Sometimes, this is easy. If the Steelers are involved in the Super Bowl, for example, you can be sure that Ravens and Bengals fans will be rooting for their opponent. Sometimes, you need to dig a little deeper, maybe choosing the franchise from the state where you went to college or met your spouse or just because you like the colors. Yes, sure, you can be neutral, but where’s the fun in that!
If you’re going to have a wager on the Super Bowl, then your preparations should be a little more in depth. If you are going to bet on the game, remember that this is a unique football occasion and that it doesn’t always pan out in the way that a regular season game would, so expect the unexpected!