Nine reasons why the Six Nations is better than the Super Bowl
More than 100 million people watch the Super Bowl annually – and last night’s thrilling finale to the NFL season certainly didn't disappoint.
Tom Brady guided the New England Patriots to a narrow 28-24 victory over defending champions Seattle Seahawks, cementing his place among American football’s all-time greats.
Excellent. Now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. It’s Six Nations time.
Gone are the adverts, the lengthy breaks, the protective helmets and padding – and in comes mud, blood, sweat and beers. What better way to kick off the annual Northern Hemisphere tournament than an Anglo-Welsh clash at the Millennium Stadium on a Friday night, with England travelling to Cardiff to begin their final preparations ahead of a home Rugby World Cup.
So, here are nine reasons why the Six Nations is better than the Super Bowl. Judge as you will.
1. Six countries as opposed to one
Yes, any player from around the world can make a name for themselves in the NFL, but the fact is that the overwhelming majority hail from the United States.
Furthermore, any team that wins the Super Bowl will be American, yet they are oddly enough credited with the accolade of ‘World Champions’.
The Six Nations does exactly what it says – six different countries competing for the right to be called the best in the Northern Hemisphere.
There’s even a second tier set-up that could see changes made to the current format should other nations improve, and the competition between the current crop couldn’t be fiercer.
2. There’s a genuine reason to follow a team
You probably have a favourite NFL team, right? But have a think about why you support them – is it because they have a cool name, were the best team when you started following the sport or visit London each year and you feel you have to support them despite experiencing defeat at Wembley annually?
Chances are you support a Six Nations team too, but this was decided at birth. There’s no better feeling than getting behind your country and spurring them on to victory, and when the going gets tough you won’t be flicking over to watch the latest episode of Downton Abbey.
3. 80 minutes of action v 240 minutes of adverts
Maybe every rugby union game isn’t jaw-dropping entertainment, but you know you’re going to get a hard-fought match that is full of aggression, commitment and passion.
Across the pond, you’ll get over 80 minutes of grown men squatting down in a huddle, and despite the Super Bowl lasting a commendable four hours, only a quarter of that is game time (and around a quarter of that is when the ball actually is in play).
Rugby loses time when it comes to scrums, but trust me, that’s being addressed, and the average time of ball in play is considerably more than it’s American cousin.
4. It takes more skill to score in rugby
Think about it. In NFL, a quarter-back can hurl the ball forward as far as his arm can allow in order to try and find the end-zone, whereas in rugby, you have to move the ball forward by passing it backwards.
That sentence alone doesn’t make logical sense, but it works (most of the time). Furthermore, there’s 15 players trying to stop you, and will do by any means necessary.
5. They have Katy Perry, we have Laura Wright and Katherine Jenkins
Sure, Katy Perry may be the most followed person on Twitter in the world and enjoyed success in the form of numerous Number One singles, but has she ever brought 82,000 to their feet in a stadium to sing an anthem so passionately that it causes grown men to cry?
We hope not, for the sake of mankind, but there’s something ever-so-rugby about Six Nations regulars such as Laura Wright and Katharine Jenkins. Such is their standing in the tournament, it just wouldn’t be right it they weren’t in Cardiff come Friday to begin proceedings.
6. You don’t need to take the next day off work to watch it
Unless you overdo it on the tipple, chances are you’ll make work the next day, unlike the Monday after the Super Bowl that is recognised as National Sickie Day in the United Kingdom.
The NFL can’t help that the time difference between the UK and United States mean that the Super Bowl begins close to midnight, and if you want to see the outcome, chances are you won’t make the early train into work the following morning.
Not only does the Six Nations usually feature two games on a Saturday afternoon (at 2pm and 5pm) and a third on Sunday at 3pm, it gives you ample time to enjoy a post-game drink, head on home and get a good night’s sleep.
7. Rugby players don’t need to be protected
This one always seems like the obvious one, but it’s worth reiterating.
The helmets, shoulder pads and even bum protection won’t be a sight commonly seen on the rugby field.
Barring a thin layer of protection across the shoulders – for the smaller man in the 15-man game – all players will have a gum shield, a bit of tape here and there and nothing more, or they’d risk the ridicule of their team-mates after the full-time whistle.
8. Players have to attack and defend
Don’t feel like tackling? Tough. If you miss a tackle or don’t put the work in, you risk completely letting your team-mates down and losing the game for more than just yourself.
However, fail to do your job in the Super Bowl and a new line-up of player can take to the field and bail you out.
Rugby matches change in an instant from attack to defence, and this means a players skill set must be much more developed if they are to perform at the highest level in both aspects of the game. Scoring a try doesn’t mean you’ve earned five minutes of rest – apparently a touchdown does.
9. A touchdown just doesn’t make sense
The name alone is inaccurate. Touchdown implies that you have to touch the ball down on the ground in order to secure your team six precious points, but as soon as the ball crosses the plane of the goal line on a running play, the officials hands will be raised and celebrations can begin.
Passes are a little different in that you have to have complete control and touch both feet inside the end-zone limits, but the ball is not required to touch the playing surface.
What about a try, I hear you ask? Back in the early days of rugby, no points were awarded for a try. Instead, you were rewarded with what we now call a conversion – a ‘try’ at goal – and thus, the name stuck.