Here’s a secret for football novices: Unless you’re a Belichick, virtually no one truly understands the nuances of most plays during a game. After all, it’s 11 players responding to 11 other players with frequent substitutions: That adds up to a whole lot of variables.
So view this as your license to talk like a big shot, since everyone else is ultimately as ignorant as you are. (In fact, they’re more ignorant: At least you read this stupid article.)
Blurt out these sentences to suggest you have a deep understanding of the Super Bowl’s 51-year history and savor the feeling of being, in the immortal spelling of Homer Simpson, S-M-R-T.
1. “They’re getting beaten like the AFC in the ’90s!”
When to Say It: When one team is being absolutely destroyed.
Why It’s Smart: From 1990-’97, the AFC lost eight straight Super Bowls. (Indeed, the losing streak actually started in the ’80s and reached 13 games.) And often not just lost, but were obliterated by scores including 55-10 and 52-17. Your remark pays tribute to a strange era when Bills and Broncos fans—who witnessed a combined seven losses during the streak—viewed Super Bowl appearances with less anticipation than terror.
2. “I know his team’s losing, but damned if he isn’t the second coming of Chuck Howley.”
When to Say It: When, despite his team struggling, one player still looks like the best man on the field.
Why It’s Smart: Dallas Cowboy Chuck Howley is the first and only player to be named Super Bowl MVP despite his team losing, as voters decided his two interceptions and fumble recovery in a 16-13 loss to the Colts were too good to ignore in 1971.
Bonus Smart Saying: “And who can forget that Howley was the first defender to win Super Bowl MVP? Not I, sir, not I!”
3. “That guy’s going all Timmy Smith on this game.”
When to Say It: When a player seemingly no one (including the announcers) has heard of starts taking over.
Why It’s Smart: For a single game, Washington’s Timmy Smith was a superstar, rushing for an insane 204 yards in Super Bowl XXIII in 1987. He decidedly was not one before or after this incredible moment, as he made just nine regular season starts and gained 602 rushing yards in his entire career; today he works in the oilfields of Texas and New Mexico.
Bonus Smart Statement: “The recent drop in crude oil prices may have the indirect consequence of causing a sharp decline in New Mexico’s population, since there tend to be fewer additional employment options in rural areas than urban ones.” (Hey, there’s more to life than football, people.)
4. “They’re deciding to go bold or go home like the Saints.”
When to Say It: When a team seems to be considering a play that shall be either brilliant or catastrophic.
Why It’s Smart: Trailing the Colts 10-6 at halftime in Super Bowl XLIV, naturally the Saints began the second half with… an onside kick. If it doesn’t work, the Colts have a short field and a potential 17-6 lead. It did work though. The Saints scored and before you knew it they’d won 31-17, forcing sportswriters to postpone their articles proclaiming Peyton Manning undeniably the greatest quarterback ever another season.
5. “He might just Dilfer his way out of this one.”
When to Say It: When a thoroughly mediocre player shows an inexplicable knack for winning.
Why It’s Smart: Trent Dilfer will never be mistaken for a Hall of Fame quarterback. (Career stats: 113 touchdowns, 129 interceptions—no, football novice, this is not a good ratio.) Yet in 2000 he took Baltimore to a Super Bowl title and the next season, when the Ravens “upgraded” to Elvis Grbac, they couldn’t get back to the big game. So Dilfer clearly was doing something right, though damned if anyone knows what it was.
6. “What the Bevell?!?”
When to Say It: When a play call is made that isn’t bold so much as stupid.
Why It’s Smart: Any Seahawks fans at the party? Ask them. (They’ll be delighted to explain!) Or just watch this video.
7. “It’s like leaving Unitas on the bench.”
When to Say It: When a team is struggling, yet still declines to put in an aging star.
Why It’s Smart: Broadway Joe Namath led his Jets to a legendary upset over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, a task made easier by the Colts starting Earl Morrall at quarterback and keeping him in for three interceptions before going, “Say, isn’t that Johnny Unitas on our bench?” Unitas eventually entered and led them to their only touchdown before time ran out.
Bonus Smart Statement: “That was the worst thing to happen to the Colts until the Irsays got those moving vans.” Ask any longtime Baltimore resident in attendance to explain. (They’ll be delighted!)
8. “He could pull a Manning!” (Eli version.)
When to Say It: When a normally erratic quarterback abruptly becomes clutch at the moment it matters most.
Why It’s Smart: Twice playing as an underdog and trailing in the fourth quarter against the Patriots, the younger Manning engineered comeback victories, complete with a borderline impossible catch in each game.
Bonus Smart Statement: “Memorable though the Tyree helmet catch might be, I think Mario Manningham’s reception has the higher degree of difficulty.”
9. “He could pull a Manning!” (Peyton version.)
When to Say It: When a usually flawless quarterback abruptly becomes inept.
Why It’s Smart: Having already won a title against the Bears, twice the elder Manning brother entered Super Bowls as the defending MVP with his team the solid favorite. Twice things brutally slipped away—combined score from the losses: 75-25—with Peyton throwing a crushing pick-6 in each game. (In fairness, Peyton did “lead” Denver to a Super Bowl title last year… going 13 for 23 for 141 yards, no TDs and one pick.)
10. “I’ll have what Max McGee’s drinking!”
When to Say It: When everyone’s a little buzzed in the second half. (Not all the Super Bowl action occurs on the field.)
Why It’s Smart: Backup wideout Max McGee helped the Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl I with 138 receiving yards, overcoming both the Kansas City defense and a massive hangover after a night of partying with two flight attendants. Yes, this man did pack a lifetime of awesome into a 24-hour period. Approach your Super Bowl party accordingly.