I Challenged Myself To Understand Football By Super Bowl Sunday


I don't care about sports. Like at all.

I just really genuinely don't give a sh*t about any of them. Yeah, sure, I'll pretend like I care if it means I get to drink outside, but would I ever just casually tune into ESPN? No, not even if my only other option was an episode of "Say 'Yes' to the Dress" that I'd already seen a million times over.

I know this sounds sexist and stereotypical, but honestly I pick "Say 'Yes' to the Dress" over ESPN every time. It's not because I'm a girl, it's because I'm ME. Most of my closest girl friends know more about sports than any random dude. But unfortunately, I do not possess this knowledge.

I'll cheer along with everyone else at a game or a sports bar, but do I ever really know what I'm cheering for? No.

This is especially embarrassing when it comes to football. I went to a HUGE football high school. Our team was fantastic. We made it to the state championships my junior year, and I even flew all the way to LA to see them play, just as any good bandwagon fan would.

Then, when I decided to go to college at Santa Clara University, a school with no football team, I thought I would be done with this whole football thing. Turns out, I thought wrong.

Even though we didn't have a football team of our own, it seemed as though every person and their mom passionately rooted for an NFL team. I spent Sundays hungover by myself while everyone else continued the drinking and enthusiastically cheered on their home teams. Either that, or I would join in and pretend to care while mostly just trying to get drunk and beat my high score on Candy Crush.

My disinterest in sports is never really a huge deal. UNTIL the one day of the year when it seems to be totally unacceptable to be clueless about football: the Super Bowl.

If you haven't heard about it, the Super Bowl is kind of a big deal. When I was a kid, we would all gather at my family friend's house and eat seven layer dips and BBQ and basically everything else delicious and heart-clogging that you can imagine (like, sign me the F*CK up) while we watched this oh-so-special Super Bowl.

I could keep myself entertained. The commercials were cool, and the halftime shows were always pretty entertaining (like, um, HELLO, throwback to when Justin Timberlake ripped off Janet Jackson's dress).

But there was always the point at the end of the game, after one team won and one team lost (don't ask me who or how), when the room split into people feeling extreme joy and people feeling extreme anguish.

I didn't understand how this game could have so much power as to evoke real EMOTIONS from people who were miles and miles from where it was being played. And it always sort of bummed me out that I couldn't understand the game enough to let it affect me like it affected everyone else.

So this year, I have decided to try to learn enough about football that the results of the Super Bowl will actually matter to me me. Basically, I had to a ) figure out how the game worked, b) determine who's even playing this year and, c) get to the point where I could make a SOMEWHAT educated guess as to who to root for.

Yes, I realize that the game is this Sunday and, yes, I realize that this gives me, like, one day to figure it out and also care, but NOTHING WILL STOP ME.

Step 1: Understand the basic premise of the game.

Before I could really get into football, I had to understand how the game worked.

So I went to my friend, Charlotte, a huge football fan (don't ask me for what team) whom I could trust to explain the game to me in words that I would understand. I literally texted her: "Can you please explain football to me in words I can actually understand."

And, my friends, she did not disappoint:

My other friend, Nora, gave me a more direct description to work with along with Charlotte's:

So, OK, that made sense. You've got 60 minutes to get your shoe in the other team's end zone. Yes, it took a shoe analogy for me to understand football. I'm basic, what can I say?

Step 2: Figure out who is even playing this year.

This started with a simple Google search: "Who is playing in the Super Bowl 2016." Because I'm not going to lie to you here, I had no idea at all. And neither did any of my co-workers at our meeting this morning, so you can go ahead and put them on blast as well.

My simple Google search actually provided me with this SWAGGY video:

NFL on YouTube

Like, tell me that preview didn't just get your juices GOING!?! Seriously, did I just watch a sports game commercial or the preview for an Academy Award Best Picture nom?! The lighting, the dramatic music -- OK, NFL, you've got my attention. I'm into it.

So I found out the Carolina Panthers (they're just called the "Carolina" Panthers, but don't worry I did some research and they're located in Charlotte, NORTH Carolina) are playing Denver Broncos (that one is pretty geographically self explanatory). I also found out that Cam Newton and Peyton Manning are the big stars on each team. TIME TO LOOK UP WHO THEY ARE.

According to Google, Cam Newton (PANTHERS) and Peyton Manning (BRONCOS) are both quarterbacks. But what's with all of this "first pick" stuff?

My dear friend and co-worker, Kevin, just explained to me that this means they were each the NFL's first draft pick the years they were drafted into the league. According to the National Football League website, Cam Newton was the all-time number one draft pick in 2011. This means when the NFL was drafting players in 2011, he was their FIRST pick.

Peyton Manning, an OG NFL quarterback, was the all-time number one draft pick in 1998 (BRB MEMORIZING THESE STATS AND BRAGGING ABOUT THEM TO EVERYONE I MEET).

OK so, quarterback is like the team captain. They call the shots and are apparently the only ones who throw the ball? Seems weird, but whatever. ROLLING WITH IT. Time to pick a team to root for.

Step 3: Pick a team to root for.

Now, who do I root for?! The decision would have been simple for the Old Candice: Panthers, because Cam is hotter. But the New Cool Sporty Candice is educated.

So what do I know so far? The teams both have fantastic quarterbacks. I also now know what a quarterback is (HOLLER @ A PLAYER). Cam is a young new star, and Peyton is an experienced NFL legend.

But what about the teams as a whole? I went ahead and looked into some stats (yes, I now know how to look into "stats") and found that the Broncos have won 12 games and lost four, while the Panthers have won 15 and lost one.

I know it's cool to root for the underdog and all, but that's never been my thing. Why the f*ck would I root for the underdog when there was an alpha for me to throw my support behind?! I'm a numbers girl.

The Panthers have a hot new(ish) quarterback AND have only lost one game. Not to mention the fact that Charlotte told me that the Panthers DESTROYED the Cardinals in the semifinals (aka where you go to make it into the SUPER BOWL).

Numbers clearly told me there was one alpha here: The Panthers. They have my vote...money...support? IDK what the word is, but you get the picture. I'm rooting for the Panthers this Sunday.

Step 4: Drop some KNOWLEDGE on my friends.

I went home STOKED to tell my roommates about my plans to cheer on MY PANTHERS this Sunday.

"Why the Panthers?" they asked.

Psh. Give me a challenge. I explained to them all of my research: "They SLAYED the Cardinals in the semi-finals. Not to mention the fact that they've only lost one game all season!"

They were impressed. So impressed that they invited me to place some bets. This is where things started going a little South for good ol' Candy J (new nickname, just roll with it).

Apparently in order to "place bets," you have to make an educated guess as to how many points the team is going to win by...and apparently people have ways of determining this?!? Sorry, I know just I learned a LOT, but do I look like a mathematician to you? How am I supposed to know how many points they're gonna score?

So I didn't quite end up making my way into the betting pool. But I STILL THINK THE PANTHERS ARE WINNING SO HAHA MARK MY WORDS.

I'm not on the fast track to coaching an NFL team or anything, but you know what? I literally knew nothing about this sport (or any sport for that matter) before this experience and suddenly I am ENLIGHTENED. Heck, I just might pick ESPN over "Say 'Yes' to the Dress" tonight.