Unofficially a national holiday in the United States, the Super Bowl is the championship game of the National Football League, pitting the champion of the American Football Conference against their National Football Conference counterpart.
Occurring in late January or early February, it is usually the single most heavily-viewed program in the U.S. for a given year by a very large margin. Anything less than 90 million viewers -- in a country where one-third that is mega-hit territory for a regular show -- is considered a disappointment. As such, advertising time on the Super Bowl is the most expensive; thus, Super Bowl ads are well known for being the most elaborate, expensive, and showy pieces of solicitous short-subject film ever produced, many of which will never be shown again (until they show up on YouTube). It is also the time to introduce new campaigns and slogans (not to mention new products), or to pull out the most elaborate version of an existing series of ads. This tradition of advertising grandeur leads many people to tune in just to watch the ads, even those that might not watch football the rest of the year, a seeming paradox that suits the advertisers just fine. Many non-fans also use the game an an excuse to host parties where copious amounts of food and drink (and sometimes other substances) are consumed.
Also of note is the halftime show, which, since Michael Jackson's 1993 appearance, has featured major acts in popular music in expensive spectacles. Presuming football fans may not be that interested in non-football material, several clever broadcasters have tried to counter-program this portion of the day (the Saturday Night Live specials, WWE's empty arena match, the Lingerie Bowl, the Puppy Bowl, etc.).
The Big Game in American sports, and one that's less prone to Hype Backlash than you might think. The network airing the Super Bowl often takes advantage of the huge audience to debut a new series immediately after the game (The A-Team, Airwolf, The Wonder Years, Homicide: Life on the Street, Family Guy, and American Dad! being among the shows to premiere in this manner). Meanwhile, most other channels put on a No Hoper Repeat. Super Bowl XLVI, which drew an estimated audience of nearly 167 million in the U.S. alone, currently holds the record for the the most-watched TV program ever. Non-Americans, picture what it'd be like if the FIFA World Cup happened every year. And it was only one game. That's the Super Bowl. Another example: The Super Bowl once coincided with U.S. President Ronald Reagan's inauguration. The President re-scheduled. (The NFL has since tried its damnedest to ensure this never happens again, with natural playoff expansion over the years moving the game thankfully for the networks into the February Sweeps period).
It was the target of a terrorist attack in Thomas Harris' book and The Film of the Book Black Sunday, as well as Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears, and nearly in reality, too - which is why it's designated as a high profile event meriting additional security by the U.S. government, like the Presidential Inauguration or the State Of The Union Address. A man with an assault rifle thought better of his plan to open fire on the crowd in Arizona and turned himself in in 2008.
Although the Super Bowl is not an official holiday, it appears personified as a character in the web comic Holiday Wars.
The Super Bowl is also known for its extremely expensive tickets, and for being hosted almost exclusively (in the modern era) in southern or western stadia or in domed or roofed facilities. Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey broke that trend by hosting Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.
- Assumed Win / Dewey Defeats Truman: After Super Bowl LI, some Boston Globe editions in Florida said the Patriots lost the game, presumably based on the halftime score. The Patriots actually won over the Falcons in the first Super Bowl to go into overtime, with a final score of 34-28.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning
- Battle in the Rain: Super Bowl XLI between the Colts and the Bears.
- Big Applesauce: As discussed in the intro, the Super Bowl has always been played in warm climates or in domes. The only market large enough to avert that so far has been New York City (okay, technically New Jersey) in 2014.
- Big Game: The biggest in American football.
- Bladder of Steel: If your favorite team is one of those vying for the Vince Lombardi trophy, and you're interested in watching the commercials, your bathroom break opportunities will be limited.
- There's always Depends.
- If you're a fan of the halftime performer, you're pretty much doomed.
- This has been somewhat alleviated in recent years, as all the Super Bowl commercials are up on YouTube immediately following the game. Sometimes even before the game.
- Butt Monkey: The Buffalo Bills in the early 1990s. They managed to reach four consecutive Super Bowls, only to lose them all. Even worse is that the first of their defeats was lost by a missed field goal.
- The Minnesota Vikings have also lost all four Super Bowls they played in the 1970s. They at least had the decency of losing them intermittently.
- The Denver Broncos had also lost four Super Bowls in the 70s and 80s, all of them by blowouts, before they finally managed to get that elusive title, 8 years after they'd lost their 4th.
- Compounding it for the above teams was the fact that, aside from the Bills in Super Bowl XXV, these teams completely came apart when they got to the Super Bowl and suffered horrendous, fandom-scarring defeats. Even more interesting, when the Vikings lost their 4th Super Bowl (32-14 in Super Bowl XI), the Broncos lost their 1st the following year (27-10 in Super Bowl XII). When the Broncos lost their 4th (55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV), the Bills lost their first in Super Bowl XXV, 20-19 in an absolute heartbreaker. Going by this pattern, the Chargers better watch out (they lost Super Bowl XXIX, a year after the Bills lost their 4th).
- The New England Patriots, formerly considered to be one of the greatest teams, now seem to be on the way to becoming this, losing both of their last 2 appearances to the same team.
- Curb Stomp Battle: Many Super Bowl matches have ended up in big routs.
- There has been a trend lately of close fought Super Bowls, with 6 of the last 9[when?] Super Bowls decided by one possession (with each of the other 3 decided by two possessions, with the winning team pulling away late). Ironically, the last Super Bowl before this streak, Super Bowl XXXVII, between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders, is considered one of the biggest Curb Stomp Battles in NFL history.
- Curse: For decades, there was talk of a Super Bowl Loser's curse, in that all the teams who had lost (which you would logically expect to still be good) missed the playoffs the following season. The more mundane explanation is that the teams were often raided for coaches and players, who weren't as loyal as the winning team, and the fact that they had played more games contributed to more injuries the following year. The "curse" was broken in the early 2000's and hasn't been relevant since.
- Dark Horse Victory: Happens quite often, but the most recent would be the Giants' victory over the "perfect season" Patriots.
- The New York Jets for Super Bowl III were 17-point underdogs to the Baltimore Colts at a time when their league (American) was mocked as weaker compared to their rival league (National). Led by Joe Namath - who "guaranteed" victory before the game - the Jets went on to win 16-7, proving an AFL team could beat an NFL team. The images of Namath wagging his finger gesturing "We're Number One" as he left the field became iconic.
- Determinator: As many players never even get close to making it to the Super Bowl in the first place, injured players do whatever it takes to play. Arguably the most famous instance of this is Los Angeles Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood, who went into the game and played every single down on a broken leg.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first Super Bowl was called the "World Championship", it was aired by both CBS and NBC (and neither network kept a copy of the tapes), and 30,000 seats in the stadium were empty.
- Hope Spot: Some teams have managed to mount a comeback from a big hole, but until Super Bowl LI they all fell short. Before that game, the largest deficit that had been overcome for win in Super Bowl history was a mere 10 points.
- Even more of a stomach punch: there have been three teams that did come back from deficits of more than 10 points to at least erase the lead, only to lose in the end. The Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV and the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI each came back from being 16 points and 14 points down to tie the game, only to lose on, respectively, a long bomb on the second to last drive of the game with a little under two minutes left and a last second field goal. The Cardinals had it even worse. They came back from 13 points down to take the lead and only had to hold the Steelers on the next drive. The Steelers drove it all the way down the field for a touchdown and the Cardinals ended up losing by 4.
- I Surrender, Suckers: In Super Bowl XLVI, the Patriots deliberately parted to allow the Giants to score, in order to give their offense more time to come back. The Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw realized just too late what was going on, and had an Oh Crap moment when he tried to stop on the 1 yard line. His momentum caused him to tumble into the endzone onto his ass for the (ultimately) game winning points.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The Halftime show can sometimes veer into this territory.
- No Communities Were Harmed: For some reason, many recent Super Bowl logos have declined to name the host city. Instead of Dallas or Arlington, Super Bowl XLV was listed as "North Texas." Ditto Miami and Super Bowl XLIV and XLVII, which are in "South Florida."
- No Hoper Repeat: Basically everything else on TV that night.
- Numbered Sequels: Always in Roman numerals. Finding a specific bowl in history can be confusing because not only do you have to translate the Roman numerals, but the bowl is played the calendar year after the season (Fall 2011 games lead to a Super Bowl in February of 2012).
- One-Scene Wonder: It's almost uncanny the number of plays that are made in a game of this magnitude, from players that are on the fringe of the roster.
- Put Me In, Coach: Jeff Hostetler won Super Bowl XXV as the backup for Hall of Famer Phil Simms. But the unquestioned king of this trope was Max McGee, WR for the Packers in Super Bowl I. So convinced was he that his services would not be required, that he spent the night before the game getting blind drunk. When the starter was injured, he came in with a borrowed helmet and a hangover and scored the first TD in Super Bowl history. Cruelly Subverted in Super Bowl XLVI, when backup Patriots WR Tiquan Underwood was cut from the team hours before the game. That said, the Patriots lost.
- Then, of course, you've got the miracle play in Super Bowl XLII, made by David Tyree of the New York Giants, who spent the majority of his Giants career up to that point riding the pine, gets a shot to catch a deep heave from his embattled quarterback and makes it count.
- Second Place Is for Losers: No one really remembers the loser of the game. Former coach-turned-broadcaster John Madden once opined that the biggest gap in sports is that between the winning and losing team in the Super Bowl.
- Championship t-shirts are printed ahead of time for both teams. Players on the winning team are handed their shirts on the field at the end of the game, and the rest go up for sale. Losing team t-shirts are shipped off to foreign countries as donations to clothing programs, with in-country sale expressly forbidden.
- Serious Business
- Who Needs Overtime: Finally averted after a half-century of games, with Super Bowl LI. (The New England Patriots survived a furious rally from the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, but received the ball with only a short time remaining. With the announcers openly suggesting they should settle for the tie and overtime, they drove for a game-winning field goal as time expired.)
- As of August 2022, twenty-nine of the thirty highest-rated TV programs in United States history are Super Bowl games - the other one, which stubbornly refuses to leave the top ten, is the series finale of M*A*S*H.
- U.S. Presidential inaugurations are never held on Sundays. The custom of moving it to Monday predates the Super Bowl
- This has given rise to the "Superb Owl" meme both online and off.
- Note that Arizona was in the Super Bowl that year, and had just scored, ensuring the highest possible number of watchers.