Super Bowl Sunday is akin to a national holiday, one of the few times of year that tens of millions of Americans do the same activity at the same time. By that standard, today may beat even Thanksgiving, given the variation in meal times.
The Super Bowl is reliably the year’s most-watched broadcast, a status that reflects football’s dominant role in contemporary culture. Years ago, before cable television and the internet, other forms of mass entertainment — sitcoms, dramas and the nightly news — also drew enormous audiences. Few do today, and it’s only a modest exaggeration to say that football is mainstream American culture.
Consider this chart by my colleague Ashley Wu:
We’re devoting much of today’s newsletter to the Super Bowl, with help from colleagues around the Times newsroom. You’ll find that coverage below our summary of the day’s news.
Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. And if you are not interested, it’s a great time to do some shopping without having to wait in any lines.
Other Big Stories
Many American men demand respect; what they need is purpose, David French argues.
For half a century, Joe Biden has talked about being president. He’s not about to kiss it away because some fret about his age, Maureen Dowd writes.
The Sunday question: Is China’s spy balloon a punchline or a threat?
The humiliation of getting caught exceeds the balloon’s surveillance value, Michael A. Cohen argues in The New Republic. But the episode is the kind of provocation that could drive China and the U.S. into a Cold War-style conflict, The Economist notes.
Sometimes, a lesser team will get hot in the playoffs and sneak into the Super Bowl. Not this year. The Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles were by many measures the two best teams.
Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ quarterback, is the heir to Tom Brady, the best of his generation. Still just 27, Mahomes won his second M.V.P. award this year. The big question today: How much has his injured ankle healed?
Jalen Hurts, the Eagles’ 24-year-old quarterback, is having a breakout year. He has a powerful running style and a strong offensive line, which enabled him to rush for 13 touchdowns this season, more than any other quarterback.
As Field Yates of ESPN noted recently, the two teams are evenly matched: Both went 14-3. Both have six All-Pro players. Both scored exactly 546 points this season. And both have a member of the Kelce family on their rosters.
More about the teams
The Eagles are so good because they are balanced. Hurts, the quarterback, is as good at running as he is at passing. Philadelphia’s defense can attack a quarterback (it led the league in sacks) as well as it can bottle up receivers.
Kansas City’s success stems from a perfect pairing. The Chiefs are appearing in their third Super Bowl in four seasons with Mahomes as quarterback and Andy Reid as head coach. Reid favors a pass-first offense, filled with creative formations that take advantage of Mahomes’s mobility and strong arm.
— Emmanuel Morgan, N.F.L. reporter
A bounty of booze ads
Since 1989, every alcohol ad to air during the Super Bowl has been for an Anheuser-Busch product. That changes today. Last summer, the company, which owns Budweiser, gave up its exclusive advertising rights, and the competitors have come rushing in. Heineken, Coors Light and Miller Light will appear in commercials for the first time. Spirits such as Rémy Martin and Crown Royal will also be in the mix. Still, Anheuser-Busch will be the largest advertising spender of any company this year.
— Lora Kelley, business reporter
Rihanna in the spotlight
Rihanna, this year’s halftime headliner, isn’t just a hitmaker — she’s also a mogul. She has founded three successful companies, which have helped make her the world’s wealthiest female musician, with an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion. She has brought that business savvy to tonight’s performance: Her cosmetics brand, Fenty Beauty, is selling a special edition “Game Day Collection” (with a football-shaped sponge), while her clothing line, Savage x Fenty, is selling a $60 graphic T-shirt expressing a sentiment many of her fans share: “Rihanna Concert Interrupted by a Football Game, Weird but Whatever.”
— Lindsay Zoladz, pop critic
What to cook
There are two types of Super Bowl party people: those who are there for the game, and those who are there for the food (and maybe the halftime show). If you don’t want to take your eyes off the screen, stick to make-ahead dishes: A homemade sweet-and-salty snack mix can’t lose. Dips win, too. Pulled pork can hang out on the stove alongside chili. If you want to serve a dish hot and have a little fun, check out these baby back ribs — glazed with grape jelly!
— Genevieve Ko, Cooking editor
Betting on anything
This year’s Super Bowl might become the biggest gambling event in sports history. Roughly half of legal wagers won’t be on the outcome of the game; they will be on prop bets, which allow people to gamble on more obscure subjects. They include:
How many punts will there be? (The odds favor more than six.)
What color of Gatorade is poured on the winning coach? (The most popular guess is yellow.)
Will the country star Chris Stapleton miss any words when he sings the national anthem? (He is heavily favored to sing them all.)
For more: In 2018, the Supreme Court cleared the way for legal sports betting. Five years later, more than half of U.S. states allow gambling, thanks in part to a lobbying blitz in state capitals.
A violent game
Today’s spectacle can distract viewers from an uncomfortable truth: Football players face danger every time they take the field. That was evident this season, when Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills collapsed after a seemingly routine tackle. Most injuries are less visible, accumulating over years of repeated blows.
Poem: “Lost in America” writes of killings, workers and a certain type of bread.
Read the full issue.
THE WEEK AHEAD
What to Watch For
U.S. consumer price data for last month will be announced on Tuesday.
Valentine’s Day is Tuesday. Many historians believe the holiday has origins in a raucous Roman bacchanal.
Nikki Haley, the Republican former governor of South Carolina, is expected to announce her 2024 presidential campaign on Wednesday.
The gunman in the racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket last year will be sentenced on state charges on Wednesday and is expected to be sent to prison for life.
Carnival begins in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, the first time the festival will be in full swing since Covid hit.