On Sunday in Las Vegas, the Kansas City Chiefs will be looking to win their second straight Lombardi Trophy, while a San Francisco 49ers victory would give the team its first Super Bowl since 1995, when Steve Young was under center.
I didn’t get a pass to media day, so I didn’t get a chance to ask Chiefs head coach Andy Reid about how he tends to his mustache.
But my colleagues and I were able to ask an all-pro lineup of scholars to write about a range of football-related topics, from the partisan food divide to the numbers behind the biggest gambling bonanza in league history.
1. Flag, you’re it
The Pro Bowl, the NFL’s version of the all-star game, usually gets scant attention. That’s because it happens the weekend before the Super Bowl – absent many of the stars playing in the big game – and the players seem most concerned about avoiding injuries, not winning the game.
A year ago, league officials decided to shake up the annual showcase. It would no longer be a tackle football game. It would be a flag football match. The thinking went that if the league’s stars didn’t have to tackle one another, they might play harder, be more likely to showcase their athleticism and, importantly, have more fun.
As West Virginia University sociologist Josh Woods explains, the NFL’s promotion of flag football is a big deal, particularly for an emerging sport that’s somewhat obscure outside of Florida, Georgia and New York, where roughly 80% of high school flag football players live. Its inclusion in the 2028 Summer Olympics will only further bolster its profile.
But Woods points to a gender divide and a political divide that could end up clouding the sport’s future.