A matter of seconds: the precision put into the first play of the Superbowl

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Broncos_vs_49ers_preseason_game_at_Levi's_StadiumIn the second before the Super Bowl, executives will be sitting in skyscrapers monitoring social media’s reaction to their advertisements, which cost millions of dollars to buy space for (last year it was $4.5million for just 30 seconds) and even more to produce. Other executives in other skyscrapers will be nervously waiting to see their massive investment in the sport to be finally exhibited to hundreds of millions of homes all over America.

In the second before the Super Bowl, Chris Martin will be backstage warming up his vocal chords, as he and the other members of Coldplay rehearse for a 12-minute performance that will be placed under greater scrutiny than almost anything else they’ve ever done. Producers, directors, and logistics people will be running around, trying to perfect the final details of the operation, planned with a military level of detail, which will transform a sporting venue into a concert arena and back again within half an hour. They also have to coordinate performances from Beyonce and Bruno Mars into the set, as if matters weren’t complex enough.

In the second before the Super Bowl, a small army of commentators will prepare their notes and compose themselves to commentate on the game in 25 languages, from Spanish to Russian to Mandarin Chinese. Behind the scenes, producers, directors, cameramen and engineers will work to make sure that all of the hundreds of millions of people expecting to see the Super Bowl in High Definition from every conceivable angle receive the perfect experience.

In the seconds before the Super Bowl begins, nervous players will patrol the sidelines, trying to stay loose and remember the intricately designed gameplans their coaches have drawn up. If they are unlucky enough to be injured for the game, such as the Panthers’ Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin or the Bronco’s Offensive Tackle Ryan Clady, then they will try to talk to the other players, making sure they remain focused and upbeat throughout. In the second before the Super Bowl, the kicker for one of the two teams will prepare himself. He will go through his stretches and adjust his shoes (which are two sizes too small, for tightness) and prepare to execute the kick his special-teams co-ordinator has planned. Running through the back of the kickers’ head will be the knowledge that, in addition to his duties on kickoffs and extra-points, there is a real chance that, in four hours’ time, the entire game, and one team’s entire season, will come down to one kick of his.

That outcome is most terrifying for kickers: They have the chance to write themselves into consideration for the Hall of Fame, as Adam Vinatieri did for the New England patriots in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVII, or forever define themselves as a failure, as Scott Norwood did when sailing his kick wide to the right in Super Bowl XXV. The kickers will know that it could happen to them, and it will weigh on them. In the second before the Super Bowl, the kick returner will stand alone in the endzone. He will consider the film he watched in the preceding week, where an intern will have cut together every kickoff made by the other team over the entire season. His special teams co-ordinator, who is employed to watch over only around twenty plays a game, will have then gone through this film with a fine-tooth comb, evaluating where there is likely to be the eighteen inches of daylight that can lead to a game-breaking touchdown, like the one Percy Harvin scored on a kickoff return in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The kickoff returner will wait, he will think about all of this, and he will breathe in. In the second before the Super Bowl, months of preparation, going back to Organized Team Activities back in the spring, will all come to fruition. The legacy of decade-long careers will be decided, and lifelong reputations forged in the simple words “Super Bowl Champion”. Getting to that point, that instant before the two teams collide, requires a vast number of resources, from jerseys and shoulder pads to tablet computers and oxygen tents, not to mention hundreds of thousands of hours of effort from coaches, personal trainers and medical staff. These resources are provided at all levels, including high schools and colleges, meaning that starting an American Football team, even at somewhere as cosmopolitan as St Andrews, is a massive uphill battle. The Super Bowl, in that sense, is only the tip of the iceberg: the commitment to the sport goes all the way down.

That said, it is worth bearing in mind that American Football has been a registered BUCS sport since 2012 and six other Scottish Universities currently have teams, so maybe it is high time we had one too! Eventually, though, the moment ends. The ball is kicked off, the hundreds of flashbulbs go off, and the Super Bowl finally begins. Whoever wins the biggest game in American Football this weekend, be it the Denver Broncos for the third time or the Carolina Panthers for the first time in their history, one thing is certain.

The eyes of the world will be watching and it promises to be a fantastic game. Both sides have played 18 games to make it to Santa Clara on Sunday but it all comes down to this game. The pressure will be on, the camera’s rolling, the crowds cheering, and the ultimate decider over who wins and who goes home empty handed could very well come down to a matter of seconds, the precious opening seconds of the game.

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