Super Bowl LVIII: did I mention the hype?

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce with his girlfriend, pop star Taylor Swift. PHOTO:...
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce with his girlfriend, pop star Taylor Swift. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. PHOTO: USA TODAY 
SPORTS
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. PHOTO: USA TODAY 
SPORTS
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS
San Francisco 49ers' running back Christian McCaffrey. PHOTO: TNS
San Francisco 49ers' running back Christian McCaffrey. PHOTO: TNS
Star of the halftime show, musician Usher. PHOTO: REUTERS
Star of the halftime show, musician Usher. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Super Bowl is here again. Big plays, loud music, flames and fireworks, honouring the military, hilarious and expensive advertisements, dreams crushed and made - you know the drill. Sports editor Hayden Meikle does not have a dog in the fight, as his Los Angeles Rams dipped out, but he can tell you all you need to know.

The game

Super Bowl LVIII (that’s No 58 for you heathens) takes place on Monday, kicking off at 12.30pm NZ time.

What is it? Well, it’s the single biggest single game in the global sporting calendar outside the Fifa World Cup final, matching the two conference champions of the National Football League, with the Vince Lombardi Trophy at stake.

Big men in helmets and pads, forward passes and a lot of hype. So much hype.

Tickets for the game are reportedly going for up to US$50,000 ($NZ81,600) on the resale market, and they are tipping this Super Bowl to be the biggest television event in the US since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Not sure why.

It is also a time of year when mega-companies spend mega-money to run advertisements before and during the game. Some are funny, some clever, some painful. Look them up on YouTube.

Oh, and it’s two words. Super. Bowl. Never Superbowl.

The teams

The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.

Did you know Kansas City is in Missouri? Tuck that away for The Chase some day.

The 49ers are named to honour the 1849 Gold Rush when dream-seekers and fortune-chasers flooded into California in search of the glittery stuff.

This is a rematch of Super Bowl LIV, when the Chiefs beat the 49ers 31-20 four years ago.

Both teams should be motivated, if for different reasons. The defending champion Chiefs could seal a legacy if they win back-to-back Super Bowls, and their third in five seasons, while the once-mighty 49ers would dearly love their first "world championship" (sorry, but some Americans do actually use that phrase) since 1995.

The Chiefs have the best single player (see below) but the Niners, as they are commonly known, are actually the slight favourites, according to the bookies, as they seek their sixth overall title.

While Manchester City might win 10 straight English Premier League titles until they are finally busted for financial doping, and the Crusaders destroy Super Rugby a little bit every time they win a final, American sport gets competitive balance gloriously right, and it is particularly rare in the NFL for teams to win consecutive championships.

If the Chiefs can win it again, they will be the first back-to-back Super Bowl winners since the evil Patriots in 2003-04.

The venue

Sin City, baby!

The Super Bowl is being held in Las Vegas for the first time.

The gambling capital has started getting into sport in a big way. The Vegas Golden Knights are NHL champions, the NFL’s Raiders have relocated from Oakland to Vegas, and both the NBA and Major League Baseball have eyes on the city.

Allegiant Stadium, which opened in 2020 at a cost of US$1.9 billion, is just a bit fancy.

The domed stadium has a capacity of 65,000, 2300 televisions, a 90-foot (27m) "torch" (not a real flame) that burns in memory of late owner Al Davis, a roof a bit like Forsyth Barr Stadium, and a retractable natural turf field.

Being Las Vegas, this is a Super Bowl naturally linked to gambling. A record 68million Americans, already gambling with the globe’s future as they prepare to re-elect Donald Trump, are expected to place bets on the game.

The quarterbacks

You think first fives and openside flankers are important in rugby? Oh, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Everything in every NFL team revolves around the quarterback, the guy who throws the passes and makes playmaking decisions, and this Super Bowl offers an intriguing match-up.

The Chiefs have the main man, superstar QB Patrick Mahomes, who already has two Super Bowl rings and was the MVP in both games.

Mahomes is basically a magician, able to conjure up game-breaking plays with his dazzling feet and surreal vision. Some feel he is on track to go down as one of the two or three greatest quarterbacks of all time.

His opposite is a man with a classic QB name, the Niners’ Brock Purdy.

His is a fascinating story as he was taken with the very last pick of the NFL draft — a draft is the primary mechanism by which American sports seek talent equalisation, so something Super Rugby badly needs — and was saddled with the famous "Mr Irrelevant" tag.

Turns out young Brock was not so bad. He has put up outstanding numbers, led his team on numerous comebacks, and seemed utterly unfazed by his rapid rise.

The other star players

There is another future Hall of Famer in the Chiefs in the form of tight end Travis Kelce. Not sure if that dude has a girlfriend or not.

The Chiefs have a great defence led by Chris Jones and Trent McDuffie, while Isiah Pacheco is a quality running back.

If the Niners are to win, they will probably be led by Christian McCaffrey. The brilliant running back led the NFL in rushing by a massive margin and just seems to know how to find the gap.

San Francisco have other key offensive players in left tackle Trent Williams, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle.

The Niners will also fancy their chances of stifling Mahomes with a defence led by the outstanding Nick Bosa and Fred Warner.

The entertainment

The halftime show in the Super Bowl is a VERY big deal.

Eight-time Grammy winner Usher is the main performer this year, following in the footsteps of absolute giants like Michael Jackson, U2, the Rolling Stones and Beyonce.

Before kick-off, country musician Reba McEntire will sing The Star-Spangled Banner, while hip-hop artist Post Malone will offer his rendition of America the Beautiful.

The pop star

Well, I managed to get this far.

It is time to talk about Taylor Swift.

Unless you have been living in a cave, Swift is a pleasant singer-songwriter most famous for ... um ... some pleasant songs and the undying devotion of her "Swifties".

She dates Chiefs star Kelce and it’s become the biggest story in American sports/pop culture for ages. People are seriously obsessed. Now bonkers actual politicians are alleging it is all part of a conspiracy to get Joe Biden re-elected. Um, OK.

Swift’s appeal leaves some of us nonplussed, but she is one of the biggest stars on the planet, and the Vegas stadium dome will explode if, as some are predicting, the Chiefs win and Kelce gets down on one knee.

The prediction

This is genuinely a difficult Super Bowl to pick.

The Niners have more weapons, but the Chiefs have Mahomes.

It would be cool to see a genuinely great quarterback take another step to the Hall of Fame, but it would also be nice not to have 18 shots of Tay-Tay every time the Chiefs score.

Chiefs 37, Niners 30.

hayden.meikle@odt.co.nz