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Holy handoff

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For members of this “religion,” it’s the holiest Sunday of the year — absent the collection plate.

For the 48th time today, Americans will soak in the atmosphere of the pinnacle of professional football. Super Bowl Sunday is a sacred ritual for sports fans from one end of this country to the other.

Everything about it is larger than life. The two-week waiting period following the playoffs, the press conferences, the player profiles, the sound-bites, the coin toss, the kickoff, the ads, the half-time entertainment — all of it helps build up the hype leading up to the moment when, just for one day, America adopts a new pastime.

The official name of the first matchup, played in January 1967, was the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. It featured the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers. Officials with the two leagues agreed to play this post-season game while they worked on merging, which took place in 1970.

Members of the media, however, caught wind of how Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt had been referring to the game: Super Bowl. From the start, the moniker stuck. The name started to be used officially for the championship matchup following the 1968 season, but the term had been used in common reference since the beginning.

And, indeed, there is something “super” about this game. The championships of other major sports — baseball, basketball and hockey — consist of a series. The loss of one game doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over.

But like every level of post-season play in the NFL, the Super Bowl is a winner-take-all event. There is no tomorrow or next week; it’s do or die.

It’s also the moment to get that clever new commercial seen by millions of people on television. No other annual event commands ad rates as high as those charged during the Super Bowl. That’s explains the drive to create a more memorable commercial than the one developed last year, which contributes to these ads taking on a life of their own.

The widespread interest in the Super Bowl is a fascinating phenomenon. Only two of the NFL’s 32 teams are playing, which means the vast majority of football fans will sit and watch someone else’s team achieve the glory.

But sportsmanship prevails here as it does with other athletic championships. The outcome of this contest is of great interest to all those who love the game.

While the two teams competing today are the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, people from New York and New Jersey have their own special interest. They’ll have a front row seat to the matchup as it is being played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

There is an apparent excitement in New York City about all the Super Bowl festivities. And the tourist dollars flowing in can’t hurt.

For the rest of us, the Super Bowl is a nice diversion from the extreme weather conditions we’ve endured this past month. We haven’t whooped it up since New Year’s Eve, so the time is right for a party.

And that means lots of food. In fact, Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving in the amount of food consumed. Chew on that while you’re watching the game.

So between all the great food, the football and the presence of loved ones, this is our true American secular holiday. Let’s all enjoy the show prepare for the kickoff.

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