The San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs face off in Super Bowl LIV, which will air live in Tokyo on Monday, February 3, at 8:30am. This last fall when Japan hosted Rugby World Cup 2019, our British creative director Liam Ramshaw clued in our American editor Nick Narigon to the rules of rugby, not once, but twice. Now the tables have turned.

LR: After all the excitement of the Rugby World Cup a large void has been left in my life and I’m absolutely intrigued by this version of football that you Americans are so keen. Big chaps, wearing helmets smashing each other over the course of a couple of hours. What’s not to like? Although I know next to nothing about the intricacies of professional football and I don’t want to look like a noob in a room full of pumped up Americans so I’m going to need your help to help me look like I know what I’m talking about.

So let’s start with the basics I guess…. Why are we calling it football? I’ve watched a couple of games and I rarely ever see anyone’s foot make contact with the ball.

NN: I am happy to hear Brits are taking an interest in the American version of football. Four NFL games will be held in London again in 2020, and six Englishmen are playing in the NFL, including your man Christian Wade who signed a futures contract with the Buffalo Bills just this month. I was swept up in rugby fever last autumn, but I must admit I still looked forward to waking up at 5am on Monday mornings to catch the NFL game before coming into work. Whether or not my team wins can certainly determine how the rest of the week goes.

Starting off with the difficult questions, I see. American football was originally a hybrid of two sports imported in the 1800s from England – soccer and rugby. The forward pass was introduced in 1906, and today’s NFL is a passing game with kickers and punters becoming less and less important every year.

LR: Okay that makes more sense. So that actually leads on nicely to my next question. From what I can see football teams have a team for offense, a separate team for defense and an entirely different chap to kick the balls. So I’d like to know how many players are on a match day team and why do they need so many?

NN: To answer the basics first. Each NFL team has a roster of 53 players, 46 of whom are active on gameday. Each team fields 11 players at a time. Back in the day there were two-way players, such as hall of famer George Blanda, who played both quarterback and kicker for the Chicago Bears, even filling in as linebacker from time to time.

The days of the ironman are long gone, and with all things related to the NFL, it all boils down to money. Teams can afford to hire players who specialize in one skill. Some teams hire three kickers – one to punt, one for field goals and one for kickoffs (don’t forget the guy whose only job is to snap the ball to the kicker). Also, there is no way they will let a quarterback earning $32 million a year try to tackle a 220-pound running back (sorry 100kg).

LR: So my years on the soccer fields of England could have proved quite profitable if I’d pursued a career as a kicker. In fact I was well-known in my high school team for smashing the ball miles over the goal rather into it. So the next thing I really need to know is a little bit about the two teams that will be playing on Sunday. I thought the Patriots of New England were generally the team to root for in the Super Bowl, but they don’t seem to be there this year. So who should I be cheering for and what players should I be looking out for?

NN: Your football career probably would have been as lucrative as mine, which ended at age 15 when I realized I didn’t like practice. The New England Patriots have appeared in nine Super Bowls this century, winning the title last year. Your opinion of the team determines whether you appreciate winning at all costs, or if you frown upon a team caught cheating and whose billionaire owner allegedly received sexual favors at an Asian day spa.

This year’s match-up between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs is a tantalizing game for diehard football fans. The 49ers are looking to return to the glory days of the ‘80s and ‘90s when Joe Montana and Steve Young led the team to multiple titles. Meanwhile, the Chiefs return to the title game for the first time in 50 years, after winning Super Bowl IV in 1969. With two young, talented and dreamy quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo squaring off, this should be a good match-up worth watching despite the lack of tabloid fodder. My money is on the Chiefs, who finally win a title for head coach Andy Reid.

LR: So next on to more important matters. The game will kick off in Japan in the wee small hours of Monday morning and I’m wondering:
1. What is the traditional food and beverage accompaniment for the Super Bowl. Will fried chicken be involved?
2. Is it too early to start pounding beers at that time in the morning given that it is a special occasion?
3. Where should I go to watch the game in Tokyo to get that authentic atmosphere?

NN: Thanks to the late start time the game kicks off in Tokyo at 8:30am. While you won’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn, you will have to come up with a good excuse for why you are sneaking in late to work. If you’ve had a few beverages, then you’ll need a better excuse. If I was watching the game back home, watered down, cheap American beer is a staple of the Super Bowl, though a Bloody Mary is a must if you are watching over breakfast.

Every Super Bowl party is highlighted by a platter of chicken wings with a range of dipping sauces, which you can find at all three Hooters locations in Tokyo, where you can watch the game live. Back home my friends held an annual chili cook-off during the Super Bowl, with the winner being crowned “Pope of Chili Town.” Maybe we can start our own TW Super Bowl tradition. Who will be the first “Cardinal of Yakisoba City?”

Feature image by Mike Orlov /