This Sunday is the biggest sporting event of the year for Americans: the Super Bowl. More than ninety million people in the United States watched the National Football League championship game on television last year. That was several million more than voted in the November elections.
There are thirty-two teams in the league. They battle each other through a sixteen-game season, and then playoffs. This year the Chicago Bears face the Indianapolis Colts for the championship. The Colts are favored to win.
|Lovie Smith, left, head coach of the Chicago Bears and Tony Dungy, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts|
But something is already different about this year's game. In the N.F.L., about seventy percent of the players are black. Yet that was true of just seven of the thirty-two head coaches this season. In the forty-one year history of the Super Bowl, no African-American coach has ever led a team to the big game. This year, all that has changed.
Bears head coach Lovie Smith and Colts head coach Tony Dungy are both black. They are close friends known for their calmness on the field and respectful treatment of their players. Both men also share a strong Christian faith, which they often talk about with reporters.
Lovie Smith has said he looks forward to the day when it is no longer news that a Super Bowl team is coached by an African-American.
This year the Super Bowl is in Miami, Florida. But the state that profits most will likely be Nevada. Nevada is the only state where widespread betting on sports is legal. And more bets are placed on the Super Bowl than any other single sports event.
The State Gaming Control Board estimates that more than one hundred million dollars could be bet in Nevada casinos on this year's game. That would top last year's record-setting ninety-four and a half million.
Most Internet gambling is illegal in the United States. And the government has succeeded in making it more difficult for Americans to use foreign gambling sites.
But experts believe that five to six billion dollars is bet illegally on the game in the United States. That includes small bets with friends or at work, but it also includes bets placed with a local bookmaker. Hundreds of different kinds of bets are made on the Super Bowl, way beyond simply trying to guess which team will win.
CBS television will broadcast the game this year. People watch the Super Bowl -- or at least parts of it -- not just to see the players, but also the famous performers at halftime. Even the specially produced commercials throughout the game are popular. Advertisers can pay two and a half million dollars or more for thirty seconds of airtime.
Some people think it is not enough that Super Bowl Sunday has become a national celebration. There is an online petition campaign by a group of men in North Carolina to make it a national holiday, followed on Monday by a "day of observation."
IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Brianna Blake. I’m Steve Ember.