TIME Super Bowl

How Science Could Determine Who Wins the Super Bowl

A football science expert on how coaches can minimize randomness and take risks

Consider the fumble. Unlike a basketball, soccer ball or baseball, a football will never fall the same way twice. Its cone shape causes it to bounce in random directions, and every time the ball is fumbled, players must dive on top of where they think it might be going in an attempt to recover it. It’s the most exciting part of the game—and, it turns out, perhaps the most important.

The reason we call a football a pigskin is because the balls were originally made from a pig’s bladder. Those balls were about the same size as today’s but were not as pointy on the ends. The balls only began to take their modern shape—what’s known as a prolate spheroid—after the forward pass was introduced, because it’s easier to throw a pointier ball, even though’s harder to predict what will happen to it when it hits the ground.

“These guys are gladiators, the best specimen of humans that we have, but when it comes to the ball being dropped, they’re reduced to kindergartners because they just throw themselves on top of it. That’s the best you can do in terms of recovering this ball,” says Ainissa Ramirez, and scientist and author of the book Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game.

MORE How Digital Footballs Could Have Saved Us From Deflategate

It’s a problem for coaches in a game where so much of the play is precise. “Randomness, which is part of this bigger field called chaos theory, is sort of one of the last ways coaches have to beat another team,” says Ramirez. “We studied two different teams that looked pretty much the same on paper, but they had different performances when it came to recovering fumbles. One team did better than the other, and its performance that year was better than the other.”

This attempt to control randomness has become particularly important during the Deflategate debate leading up to Super Bowl Sunday. Since 2000, teams that have won the turnover scramble won 79% of their games. Warren Sharp at Slate argues that statistics suggest the Patriots—who allegedly used under-inflated balls in the AFC Championship game that clinched their trip to the Super Bowl—have been trying to eliminate fumbles and therefore win more games by deflating balls. He points out that the Patriots have been nearly fumble-free since 2006 and probably not because of any new carrying strategy—players who left New England had drastically worse individual fumble rates after their departure.

Without cheating, there’s no real skill that goes into recovering the ball. It depends on luck. So what else can coaches do to win games? One suggestion might be combatting their biological instincts.

Why, for example, don’t coaches go for it on a fourth down? It’s a question Ramirez gets a lot, and the the answer, she says, actually has to do with monkeys.

She describes one experiment in which scientists taught monkeys how to exchange money for grapes. The monkeys interacted with two people: A generous person and a stingy person. The generous person would show the monkeys one grape; the monkeys would give them money; and the generous person would give them two grapes. The stingy person would show the monkeys three grapes; the monkeys would give them money; and the stingy person would give them two grapes. “In both cases, the monkey got two grapes, but the monkey didn’t like the stingy person at all,” says Ramirez. “They actually quantified this: The monkeys hated the stingy person by 2.5 times.”

MORE The Simple Way to Make Football Safer

Humans have the same instinct: Our dislike of risk is 2.5 times greater than our appreciation of a benefit. “So coaches don’t want to go for it on the fourth down because their sensitivity to risk is higher than the benefits of actually going for it,” says Ramirez.

Whatever coach can find (legal) ways to recover fumbles and teach himself to bet against his instincts during the Super Bowl will likely win.

 

TIME 2015 Super Bowl

The Ad That Changed Super Bowl Commercials Forever

How "The Force" has remained the most shared Super Bowl ad of all-time

In 2011, on the Wednesday before the Super Bowl, a new Volkswagen commercial popped up on YouTube. “The Force” featured a kid ambling about his house dressed as Star Wars’ Darth Vader while attempting to use the Dark Side on everything from the family dog to the new Passat sitting in the driveway.

From the early 1980s—when Super Bowl ads became as anticipated as the game itself—until that moment, advertisers generally kept their spots under wraps, careful not to jeopardize the big reveal. But for the 2011 Super Bowl, Volkswagen was in a bind. The company had bought two 30-second spots—one for “The Force,” advertising the new Passat, and another called “Black Beetle,” showing off the new Jetta, both created by the ad agency Deutsch. But everyone involved felt a 60-second version of “The Force” was their best work. It was just too long to play during the game.

VW’s marketing team also knew they were facing big obstacles on game day: the company hadn’t run a Super Bowl ad in over a decade, and the two commercials they planned to run would be competing against multiple spots from larger automakers with more ad dollars. So they decided that one possible way to stand out was to release “The Force” early, even though it defied what was widely accepted as smart advertising strategy around the biggest ad day of the year.

“It’s hard to think about now, but at the time, it was not the conventional wisdom to air or put online a commercial that was meant for the Super Bowl,” says Tim Ellis, who was the head of marketing for Volkswagen North America at the time and is now the chief marketing officer for video game maker Activision. “The wisdom was you hold it, because you would get the most value out of that impression by waiting.”

Ellis says it was a controversial decision to run it early, even among the ad agency and VW’s marketing team. “But I thought if everything goes right, this thing will catch fire and go viral,” he says.

By 8 a.m. Thursday, “The Force” had been viewed 1.8 million times on YouTube and had racked up 17 million views before kickoff, according to figures provided by Deutsch. Today, “The Force” has 61 million views on YouTube and is still the most shared Super Bowl ad of all-time and the second most shared TV commercial ever.

“It paid for itself before it ever ran,” says Mike Sheldon, CEO of Deutsch North America.

MORE 5 Ways This Year’s Super Bowl Ads Will Be Like No Other

The ad’s runaway success changed how advertisers approach Super Bowl Sunday ever since. Instead of standalone spots, Super Bowl ads have become the anchors of extended marketing campaigns with vast social media presences often launched weeks before the game. This year, more than 20 brands have already released their full Super Bowl ads or special teasers for them.

“Super Bowl advertising has changed fundamentally,” says Tim Calkins, a Northwestern University marketing professor. “It’s gone from being a one-time event to a months-long marketing campaign.”

For years, the Super Bowl ad was a fleeting thing. 1984—the Apple ad still widely considered the greatest Super Bowl commercial—aired just twice, once in 10 local outlets on Dec. 31, 1983, and once more during the game the following month.

As the audience for the game grew, brands expanded their Super Bowl marketing budgets (think Budweiser’s talking frogs and Pepsi’s splashy productions with Ray Charles and Cindy Crawford). During the first Super Bowl, the average cost of a 30-second spot was $40,000 ($280,000 when adjusted for inflation). This year, NBC is charging $4.5 million, and at least one NBC executive claims that the exposure brands get during the Super Bowl is closer to $10 million in value. And as our media consumption habits have been transformed by social networks and mobile devices, a Super Bowl ad now needs to resonate on social media to be considered successful. Budweiser, for example, has launched the social media campaign #BestBuds urging people to help a rancher find his lost puppy in its latest spot, and Pepsi and ShopTV will send out tweets during Katy Perry’s halftime performance with links for viewers to buy related merchandise.

“What was just a bunch of 30-, 60-second TV commercials, everybody now has turned this into a full-on social media integrated play,” Deutsch’s Sheldon says. “I don’t look at Super Bowl ads as TV commercials. The Super Bowl is a social media and PR phenomenon that has a number of integrated components in which one is a TV commercial.”

MORE Watch Victoria’s Angels Play Football (in Actual Football Attire)

This photo of a kid dressed as Darth Vader inside a Burger King inspired the creative team at Deutsch as they were making “The Force” ad. Courtesy of Deutsch

More than any other ad agency, Deutsch appears to have been the first to recognize that new paradigm. Back in 2010, when the agency won a bid to develop the TV campaign for Volkswagen’s Jetta and Passat lines, employees in Deutsch’s Los Angeles offices had placed funny photos above their four-color copy machine, one of which was a kid in a Darth Vader costume sulking inside a Burger King. That inspired the company’s creative team to come up with a spot featuring a similar kid dressed as the Star Wars villain who keeps failing in his attempts to use the Force around his home until he succeeds in turning on his dad’s new Volkswagen (the assist from his dad, who actually turned on the car, was a clever way to tout the Passat’s new remote starter). It was a perfect combination: the enduring popularity of Star Wars, childhood nostalgia, touching moments between a father and son, a narrative arc that went tidily from conflict to resolution, and plenty of humor thanks to a 6-year-old dressed as a notorious movie villain.

“If you don’t have all of these ingredients, the spot really doesn’t work,” says Tom Else, Deutsch’s VW account director.

Deutsch executives say it was a rare spot where there were essentially no changes or edits coming from inside creative or from the client.

“Very early on we knew it was extraordinary, but you can never predict what the world thinks is fantastic,” Else says.

Soon after it launched, “The Force” became the most shared TV spot of all-time, according to Unruly, which tracks and analyzes viral videos. The ad held the top spot for three years, until July 2014, when it was knocked off by a music video sponsored by yogurt brand Activia and featuring the singer Shakira. But “The Force” is still considered the most shared Super Bowl ad of all time.

“Every decade or so, there’s lightning in a bottle,” says Matt Jarvis, chief strategy officer of ad agency 72andSunny, which produced a popular Super Bowl ad for Samsung in 2013 and created a spot for Carl’s Jr. this year. “And I think this is one of those cases.”

Jarvis says “The Force” successfully used a combination of both earned media—YouTube hits, for example—along with paid media, such as a 15-second teaser spot that aired on “Saturday Night Live” the night before the game, to create momentum that continued through the Super Bowl.

“It was about building that wave and then riding that wave,” Ellis says.

It helped that the ad contained all the components of a viral hit. Unruly recently group-tested “The Force” and found that it still resonated with viewers, discovering that it hit five of 10 “social motivators” that Unruly’s execs say trigger people to share something. They found that viewers sent the ad to others in part because it reflected a shared passion with someone else (love for Star Wars, for instance) and that sharers believed it could be useful (their friend might be looking for a new car). But Unruly also found that it resonated on a more gut level, eliciting feelings of joy and surprise when the kid “turns on” the car, which researchers says is a key component in motivating us to share.

MORE Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad About a Lost Puppy is an Emotional Roller Coaster

“It’s a great example of emotion,” says Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, adding that the peaks and valleys of the kid failing and finally succeeding, as well as the nostalgia it can elicit, are the main triggers for why it went viral.

After “The Force’s” success, Deutsch sensed that other advertisers would start releasing their ads early as well. So in 2012, the agency released the first full-length ad for an ad when it launched The Bark Side, which included dogs bark-singing Star Wars’ Imperial March. For the game, it released The Dog Strikes Back as its official Super Bowl ad, which again included the Darth Vader Kid from the previous year’s commercial. Both ads have remained in Unruly’s top 20 viral Super Bowl ads of all-time.

Since “The Force,” advertisers have increasingly created teaser ads, alternate versions of their Super Bowl commercials, or have released the ad in its entirety early. Among this year’s efforts to gin up early buzz are a T-Mobile spot featuring Kim Kardashian, a teaser for a Nationwide ad with actress Mindy Kaling, and a Bud Light spot that debuted on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.” Dove, meanwhile, posted a version of its ad almost two weeks before the game, while Lexus released its full ad more than two weeks before Super Bowl Sunday.

MORE Watch a Dude Run Through a Life-Size Pac-Man Game in Bud Light’s Super Bowl Ad

There are now essentially three groups of brands competing during the Super Bowl: those who release their ads early, those who tease their ads, and those who keep the ads a surprise. Northwestern’s Calkins says that for most advertisers, getting out early is often the best strategy.

“The Super Bowl builds over a matter of weeks, so if you’re a marketer, you have an opportunity to engage with customers for seven, 14, 21 days,” Calkins says. “You can really get some mileage from your creative.”

The challenge for Super Bowl advertisers, Calkins says, is twofold: breaking through the noise and saying something important about the product. “The hard thing is doing both of those things at the same time,” he says. “Ideally, you come up with an ad as charming as ‘The Force’ that also delivers a product benefit. But that is incredibly difficult to do.”

This year, Deutsch is working on two ads: one for mobile battery company mophie, and the other for Sprint. The company released the mophie spot on Thursday:

It’s designed to be understood even if you can’t hear the TV over loud and rowdy friends. “If you’re relying on some sort of audio or voice gag, it can get missed,” Sheldon says. “You can run that spot with no audio and you get the joke.”

But Deutsch is going in a different direction with its Sprint ad. While the agency has created a teaser, the actual ad won’t be released before the Super Bowl. The hope is that it can distinguish itself by swimming against the tide the agency helped create.

“When everybody else is screaming, the one whispering stands out,” Sheldon says. “It has a different volume than others. We’re breaking our own rules a little bit. It’s the kind of spot that you wouldn’t want to release early.”

Read next: 49 Super Bowl Facts You Should Know Before Super Bowl XLIX

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Super Bowl

Watch Obama Joke About ‘Deflategate’ Ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl

"I want you all to keep it clean"

President Obama weighed into the ‘deflategate’ controversy by cracking a few jokes ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Speaking at the annual House Democratic retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday, Obama called on any supporters of the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks to keep it clean, CNN reports.

“I want to just remind the New England and Pacific Northwest contingents [that] this is the City of Brotherly Love, so regardless of what you think about Sunday, I want you all to keep it clean,” he said.

Rep. Joe Crowley then shouted from the audience, “bring your own balls!

The Patriots have been accused of deflating their footballs during the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

[CNN]

TIME tennis

Murray Into Final; Williams, Sharapova to Meet in Australia

Australian Open Tennis
Andy Murray of Britain chases down a shot to Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic during their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Jan. 29, 2015 Andy Brownbill—AP

This is Murray's fourth time reaching the Australian Open final

(MELBOURNE) — Andy Murray has reached the Australian Open final for the fourth time, beating Tomas Berdych in a tension-filled semifinal to earn one more shot at a long elusive title.

Serena Williams has five titles from five finals at Melbourne Park, and earned a chance at another one when she advanced to a championship match against Maria Sharapova, who has one Australian title from three trips to the final.

Top-ranked Serena Williams beat 19-year-old Madison Keys 7-6 (5), 6-2 in an all-American semifinal Thursday, after Sharapova beat fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets.

In the night match, sixth-seeded Murray beat No. 7 Berdych 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5. There was obvious animosity between the players due to a coach switching from the Murray to the Berdych camp.

An aggravated Murray bristled when Berdych spoke a few words to him after the first-set tiebreaker, and yelled profanities throughout the match. TV cameras appeared to show his fiancee, Kim Sears, uttering expletives in support.

Murray, the former U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion, said the emotional reactions were understandable given the hype leading into the match.

Murray has lost three finals at Melbourne Park — to Roger Federer in 2010 and Novak Djokovic in ’11 and ’13. He’ll get a chance to end that streak on Sunday, against either Djokovic or defending champion Stan Wawrinka.

“Obviously losing in the finals is disappointing. But making four finals is a very, very difficult thing to do,” he said. “And, yeah, I’m proud of my record here. I’ll go in with best tactics possible, prepare well — I literally couldn’t have done anything more to put myself in a better position come Sunday.”

Williams has put herself into a prime position. The 18-time Grand Slam champion, who has struggled with a cold for a week, said she’d benefit from a tough workout against Keys, who pounded her with heavy groundstrokes and a big serve for the first set.

“She pushed me really hard the first set … and I had to really dig deep mentally to get through that,” Williams said. “It was a little frustrating. I had like nine or 10 match points and couldn’t close it out.”

Keys, playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal, saved seven match points on serve in a penultimate game that lasted more than 11 minutes. Williams kept her cool, though, wasting one match point on her serve before closing with an ace to reach her 23rd major final. Williams was at her best after dropping her opening service game, finishing the match with just one double-fault, firing 13 aces and defending when she needed to defend.

Keys had control until she was broken in the sixth game.

She held in the 12th game, closing with an ace to force a tiebreaker, but quickly fell behind 4-1 with Serena firing two aces. She saved two set points with aces but had no chance of extending the tiebreaker when Williams hit another unreturnable serve, and started jumping for joy.

Williams led 5-1 lead in the second set when Keys held, denying victory for one more game the woman who inspired her to take up tennis.

“It’s been so long since I’ve even been in a final here,” said the 33-year-old Williams, who will be the oldest woman to play an Australian final in the Open era and will retain top-ranking regardless of the result. “My theory now is to relax and play the match as best as I can.'”

Sharapova, who beat No. 10-seeded Makarova 6-3, 6-2, has lost her last 15 matches against Williams. Her only two wins in their 18 career meetings were in 2004.

She won the 2008 Australian title, but was comprehensively outplayed in her two other trips to the final — by Williams in 2007 and by Victoria Azarenka in 2012.

“I think my confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a Grand Slam no matter who I’m facing and whether I’ve had a terrible record, to say the least, against someone,” Sharapova said. “It doesn’t matter. I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot.”

The five-time major winner opened the 2015 season in confident style by winning the Brisbane International title but had a close call in the second round here, having to save match points against No. 150-ranked Russian qualifier Alexandra Panova.

“It’s been a strange road for me to get to the finals, but I’m happy,” Sharapova said. “I felt like I was given a second chance. I just wanted to take my chances.”

TIME College Basketball

Duke Dismisses Junior Guard Rasheed Sulaimon

Rasheed Sulaimon of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates against the Louisville Cardinals in the first half of the game at KFC Yum! Center on Jan. 17, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Rasheed Sulaimon of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates against the Louisville Cardinals in the first half of the game at KFC Yum! Center on Jan. 17, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. Joe Robbins—Getty Images

He's in good academic standing and expected to finish the spring semester

Duke has dismissed guard Rasheed Sulaimon, the school announced on Thursday.

Over 20 games this season, Sulaimon has averaged 7.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists. The junior was shooting 41.3 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from three-point range.

His playing time has decreased since his freshman season, from 29.2 minutes per game to 19.3. Sulaimon had scored only seven points on 2-of-9 shooting combined over Duke’s last two games.

“Rasheed has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a news release. “It is a privilege to represent Duke University and with that privilege comes the responsibility to conduct oneself in a certain manner. After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program.”

The release notes that Sulaimon is in good academic standing, and is expected to finish the spring semester.

The No. 4 Blue Devils lost at No. 8 Notre Dame on Wednesday and will face No. 2 Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Advertising

This Is How To Make Your Super Bowl Ad Go Insanely Viral

Super Bowl
Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after his team won Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Elsa—Getty Images

Make sure the ad packs an emotional much and gives people a specific reason to share

Super Bowl XLIX won’t just be about the Patriots battling the Seahawks. We’ll also see Sprint vs. T-Mobile, Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi and Toyota vs. Nissan. Since the big game itself is often a blowout, the advertisements could very well offer more spectacle than the gridiron bout.

But the way we view Super Bowl ads has changed drastically in recent years. It’s no longer enough for advertisers to drop a great 30-second spot in the first quarter and hope for watercooler buzz the next day. The success of Super Bowl ads is now largely measured by how many views and shares they can rack up online, often well before kickoff.

What separates a decent Super Bowl ad from a great one that people need to share with their Facebook friends? We talked to experts at Unruly, a video ad tech firm that tracks social sharing of advertisements, to discover the secrets that help Super Bowl ads go viral.

Bet Big on Emotion

The Super Bowl ads that gain the most traction online are the ones that try to evoke one or two emotions very strongly instead of trying to hit several different notes at once. In particular, ads that try to evoke happiness or warmth have performed well in recent years, says Richard Kosinski, Unruly’s U.S. president.

Last year’s “Puppy Love” by Budweiser, which featured an unlikely but adorable friendship between a Clydesdale horse and a dog, was the most-shared ad from the game. While many ads try to be humorous, Kosinski says comical ads are rarely shared as much as heartwarming ones, because it’s harder to write jokes that people universally find funny.

Get the Ad Out There Early

The week before the Super Bowl is actually the best time to debut ads for the game. Unruly has found that Wednesday is the ideal day, because video ads generate the vast majority of their views in their first 72 hours online. Launch too early, and interest in the ad will have dissipated before the Super Bowl. Launch too late, and the ad won’t have enough time to disseminate across social media before the game itself.

Increasingly, brands are choosing to debut their ads well ahead of kickoff. Even those that don’t want to reveal the entire commercial will often post teasers online before the ads air.

Give People Reasons to Share

Ads that provide a specific social motivation for viewers to share them tend to perform better. In the U.S., Unruly has found ads that let viewers share a passion with others, present a product or service that would be useful to friends or express some trait of their own character spread the furthest across social media. The 2011 spot by Volkswagen featuring a miniature Darth Vader, for instance, was a chance for Star Wars fan to revel in one of the series’ most iconic characters. That ad is the most-shared Super Bowl spot of all time, according to Unruly:

Don’t Be Afraid of Branding

Super Bowl Sunday is the one day when Americans are excited to see brand messages, so there’s no need to be coy about the fact that an ad is an ad. Last year, Chrysler had a would-be hit with a patriotic ad about American resilience that was narrated by Bob Dylan. But the spot was so broad in reach and so light on Chrysler branding that more people thought it was about revitalizing Detroit than buying Chrysler cars, Kosinski says. He says Unruly found no negative effect on sharing for companies that place their brands at the very start of their ads.

TIME NFL

Drew Brees on Deflategate: Air Pressure Imperceptible in Game

Brees was able to correctly guess the pressure levels of different footballs

Saints quarterback Drew Brees was on Conan on Wednesday, where he was inevitably asked about the NFL topic on everyone’s mind.

Brees briefly discussed Deflategate somewhat seriously before his appearance devolved into something more absurd.

Conan asked Brees if he can tell the difference between a ball that is properly inflated and one that is not.

“Throughout the course of a game, no,” Brees replied. “A ball will come up and you don’t even think about how it feels. You’re just programmed to go through your read, throw the ball, no excuses.”

Given a chance to sit and thoroughly examine some footballs, Brees was able to correctly guess their pressure levels. He wasn’t quite as successful when trying to throw those balls into the crowd, though.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME NFL

How the NFL Convinced Michael Jackson to Perform in the 1993 Super Bowl Halftime Show

The league was eventually able to make a convincing argument

Michael Jackson gave one of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime show performances when he rocked the stage in 1993.

But it wasn’t easy for the NFL to convince a star like the King of Pop to perform in the middle of a sporting event back then. As this Austin Murphy story about how halftime became “The Halftime Show” details, the league was eventually able to make a convincing argument to Jackson:

For a month they got nowhere. (The NFL’s Jim) Steeg sat down with the King of Pop’s manager, Sandy Gallin, 11 months before Super Bowl XXVII. “I remember pitching them,” he says, “and them not really having a clue what we were talking about.” At a subsequent meeting, producer Don Mischer pointed out that the Super Bowl would be broadcast in more than 120 countries. Now he had Jackson’s full attention.

Steeg recalls Jackson saying, “So you’re telling me that this show is going live to all those places where I’ll never do a concert?” A pause. “I’m in.”

“Michael worked harder than anybody [who’s done the halftime show], before or since,” says Steeg, who remembers seeing Jackson still rehearsing his act at seven the night before the game, in a tent outside the Rose Bowl.

And it showed. Jackson, rocking a bandolier-draped frock coat on loan, apparently, from Muammar Gaddafi, was sensational. The final moments of that show were the most viewed in the history of television at the time.

You can read more about Jackson and all the other star-studded performances here.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME super bowl 49

Seattle Seahawks Star Unsure if He’ll Skip Super Bowl for Son’s Birth

Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks speaks during a Super Bowl XLIX media event on Jan. 28, 2015 in Chandler, Arizona.
Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks speaks during a Super Bowl XLIX media event on Jan. 28, 2015 in Chandler, Arizona. Christian Petersen—Getty Images

"We'll cross that bridge when we get there"

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said he has not thought about the possibility of skipping the Super Bowl for the birth of his son, ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss reports.

Sherman’s girlfriend, Ashley Moss, is pregnant with their first child and expected to give birth within the next week. She is in Arizona and Sherman did not say if he would miss the Super Bowl to be with her during labor if it overlaps with the game.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Sherman said. “We’re not thinking about the possibility.”

Sherman also said they have already picked a name, but aren’t ready to reveal it.

In 2013, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco skipped his son’s birth to play in a Week 2 game against the Cleveland Browns. Former NFL head coach Herm Edwards missed the birth of his son in 1981 to play in a game, but said he would understand if Sherman skipped the Super Bowl, NJ.com’s Randy Miller reports.

In baseball, Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy skipped the first two games last season to see his son’s birth, and Mark McGwire didn’t play in the final two games of the 1987 season to see his son’s birth and finished with 49 home runs.

Sherman’s status for the game was temporarily in doubt after he injured his elbow during the NFC title game against the Green Bay Packers, but he completed treatment for the injury earlier this week.

The Seahawks will try to win their second straight Super Bowl on Sunday against the New England Patriots.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME apps

These 7 iPhone Apps Will Help You Tackle the Super Bowl Like a Pro

New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks
Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against defensive tackle Vince Wilfork #75, and outside linebacker Jerod Mayo #51 of the New England Patriots at CenturyLink Field on October 14, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. Otto Greule Jr—Getty Images

Are you ready for some downloads!?

Now, more than ever, America is a nation divided — we are a collection of red states (rooting for the New England Patriots) and blue states (rooting against the New England Patriots, because let’s be honest, outside the Pacific Northwest, no one cares about the Seattle Seahawks).

But ours is also a land of iPhone users and everyone else. If you happen to huddle around an Apple smartphone or tablet, these seven apps can help make your game day a big hit, from planning your snack attack to posting your post-game celebratory photos.

NFL Homegating: If you’re going to pull on your game jersey and throw a party, don’t just dress the part — do it like a pro with the help of an official NFL app. Stuffed with football-friendly recipes from Marc Payero, the executive chef at the NFL Huddle Cafe, Homegating can help you craft a menu from finger foods, like honey sesame chicken wings, through fourth quarter sweets, like cinnamon streusel cake.

You can also hand off all your party invites to the free app, signing into it through Facebook (or other online accounts) and then sending all the get-together details to your friends through the service. It will also aggregate an entire season of party pics and videos from all your Sunday gatherings, which could be epic if your team eventually goes on to win the big game.

Football Squares Plus: Football pools help make Super Bowl Sunday fun for everyone, even if your team is on the losing end of the score. This $2.99 iPad app can help you streamline the tedious square-selecting process, not just by making it paperless, but by letting your party people buy their boxes with the free Squares Buyer for Football Squares Plus companion app.

Of course, not everyone has an iPhone, so mirroring the iPad app using Airplay and an Apple TV can give all your attendees a peek at the side action. And the app can also run other kinds of pools, like baby birthdate guessing, so it’s not a one-trick pony (unlike some team’s offensive schemes).

Super Bowl XLIK Digital Game Program: Capture all the excitement of actually going to the game — without having to pay the $5,700 that Stubhub is currently asking fans for — with this digital download of the official game program. With recaps of the current season, interactive content, and video clips, it’s an excellent summary of the road that brought the Patriots and Seahawks to Arizona. And loaded with trivia from championships past, the app is a great way to learn about the history of the big game, or to settle some sideline arguments.

Betting Odds: What are the odds on the biggest game of the year? Well that depends on who you ask and when you ask them. SportsInsights, a wagering analytics company, keeps tabs on more than 40 sports books from around the world and constantly updates the line. This free iPad and iPhone app gives you ongoing access to their expert takes, with lines, spreads, odds, over-unders and even line movement data, sending push alerts for breaking news such as injuries or weather.

This kind of information can help you make perfect picks not just for the Super Bowl, but also for NBA and MLB games, greatly enhancing your enjoyment of the sports . . . because it’s for entertainment purposes only, right?

NFL Mobile: Whether you’re at the game (lucky you) or not, the league’s official mobile app is a must-tap for football fans. On site, it provides maps and guides for all the weekend’s events. But in living rooms across America, this thing is stuffed with everything from live streaming of Media Day player cams to videos of the Super Bowl Commercials (which some people enjoy more than the game). Verizon customers get an added perk of being able to live stream the game itself through the app, which is great if you can’t blitz the couch and catch it on a big screen.

Madden Mobile: With both teams featuring strong defenses, it’s unlikely Sunday’s championship will be a blowout. But if it is — or if you’d rather take a pass on Katy Perry’s halftime fireworks — this free game should already be downloaded and ready to go. Fully-sponsored by the NFL and the player’s association, this football game franchise not only has every team and all the players, it also offers a variety of ways to play, like head-to-head matches or creating your own league.

In addition, leading up to Sunday’s showdown, live events give players the opportunity to earn bonus points, letting you get your team as stacked as possible.

Fancred: Win or lose, you’re going to want to be surrounded by your fellow fans once the final whistle blows, and online that can be difficult. There’s a lot of haters out there — especially on social networks — and they’re quick to rip their opposing fans. Fancred, a mixed media social network focussing on sports, is a place where you can connect with people who also follow your team (and avoid those yahoos rooting for the other guys).

Pulling in photos, news stories, and more from your friends, athletes, official team online presences, and media members, Fancred a great way to connect post-game, in the off-season, or even in the middle of a match with people who wear the same colors that you do.

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