Super Bowl XLIX: what to watch out for and where to see it
Katy Perry, Marshawn Lynch and under-inflated balls all add to the excitement ahead of the Super Bowl
The climax of the NFL season takes place on Sunday night but the clash between reigning champions, Seattle Seahawks, and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX has an appeal that extends beyond the American football fraternity.
Here's what to watch out for on Sunday night:
The build-up to the game has been dominated by a row over the balls that were used in the AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. The game was played in bad weather and it has been alleged that the set of balls used by New England were slightly deflated to allow them to be more easily gripped and thrown by quaterback Tom Brady.
After the match, won convincingly by the Patriots, it emerged that the NFL had begun an investigation into the under-inflation of some of the Patriots' balls. The scandal was dubbed 'deflategate'. It probably did not affect the outcome of the match but could have repercussions for the Patriots who were at the centre of a spying scandal in 2007.
The furore has prompted the NFL to announce that the 108 balls used in Sunday's Super Bowl will have "added security", reports the BBC.
It's usually the quarterbacks who dominate the headlines in American football. But Patriots QB Tom Brady and his Seahawks counterpart Russell Wilson have had to share the limelight with Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks’ running back, this week, thanks to his bizarre press conference performances.
Rather than answering questions, the gnomic Lynch has essentially refused to speak. On Tuesday the 29-year-old was presented to the media and, during his five-minute slot, simply repeated the same phrase - "I'm just here so I won't get fined" - 29 times. On Wednesday he appeared again, announced that "nothing had changed" and proceeded to answer all questions with the words: "You know why I'm here."
On Thursday he was slightly more forthcoming, but only slightly. He began his conference with a diatribe aimed at the media for continually asking him questions and ended it by ignoring the assembled press and offering "shout-outs" to various people across America.
The half-time show
This year the star of the glittering half-time show will be Katy Perry. Following in the footsteps of recent performers like Bruno Mars, Madonna and Beyonce, the pop singer has spent months perfecting the 12-minute slot.
Lenny Kravitz has been confirmed as one of Perry's guests but she has let slip that there will be another "throwback" joining her on stage in Phoenix. "Jaws will drop and faces will melt," she promised. There are rumours that it could be rapper Missy Elliott.
"Perry's selection makes sense, thanks to her eye-popping live shows and the fact the American airwaves are blanketed with her hits," says The Guardian. But it's no easy task. "Having so many eyeballs trained in a performer's direction at once can be a challenge for even the most seasoned veteran; woe to the artist who hits a bum note or picks a less-than-thrilling song."
Unlike the Big Mac and Black Friday the phenomenon of the Super Bowl ad has yet to take off in Britain - possibly because brands are unwilling to spend millions on an advert that will debut at 2am on a Monday morning on Channel 4. However, the usual array of blockbusting sales pitches will be unveiled on US TV this Sunday, and many of them are already available on YouTube
Where to watch it
As ever the game will be broadcast on Channel 4 and Sky Sports on this side of the Atlantic, and there will be radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 live. Kick-off is at 11.30pm and if watching it at home in your pyjamas does not appeal there are plenty of places to enjoy the action with likeminded nightowls.
The NFL UK official Super Bowl viewing party at Indigo at the O2 in London is already sold out, but bars across the capital will be open late to show the match. Most will be ticket only so its best to check first. Riley's Sports Bar on Haymarket and the Jetlag Bar in Cleveland Street will be two of the most popular venues. Club Aquarium on Old Street is hosting an American themed night and there will be an authentic feel to events at Joe’s Southern Kitchen in Covent Garden. There are plenty of other venues in London to choose from.
In Manchester, Black Dog Ballroom in the Northern Quarter will be showing the action with a huge projector. In Liverpool, Camp and Furnace on Greenland Street will host a “Fanpark” event featuring US street food and strong coffee for those who are struggling to stay awake. In Birmingham, Riley’s in the city centre will be open until 5am. And up in Edinburgh, The Peartree House on West Nicolson Street will have a big outdoor screen, hot dogs, burgers and an outdoor BBQ shack.
There will be bars open elsewhere across the country, with details available locally.