Editor's note: Today's win marks the New England Patriots' eighth AFC Championship. Quarterback Tom Brady will be making his sixth Super Bowl appearance on Feb. 1 when the Patriots face the Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Ariz. - Stephanie
The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL), the highest level of professional football in the United States, culminating a season that begins in the late summer of the previous calendar year. The Super Bowl uses Roman numerals to identify each game, rather than the year in which it is held. For example, Super Bowl I was played on January 15, 1967, following the 1966 regular season. The most recent game, Super Bowl XLVIII, was played on February 2, 2014, following the 2013 season.
The game was created as part of a merger agreement between the NFL and its then-rival league, the American Football League (AFL). It was agreed that the two leagues' champion teams would play in the AFL–NFL World Championship Game until the merger was to officially begin in 1970. After the merger, each league was redesignated as a "conference", and the game was then played between the conference champions. Currently, the National Football Conference (NFC) leads the league with 26 wins to 22 wins for the American Football Conference (AFC). The Pittsburgh Steelers hold the record for Super Bowl victories with six.
The day on which the Super Bowl is played, now considered by some a de facto American national holiday, is called "Super Bowl Sunday". It is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving Day. In addition, the Super Bowl has frequently been the most watched American television broadcast of the year; the four most-watched broadcasts in U.S. television history are Super Bowls. In 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII became the most-watched American television program in history with an average audience of 111.5 million viewers, the fourth time in five years the game had set a record, starting with the 2010 Super Bowl, which itself had taken over the number-one spot held for 27 years by the final episode of M*A*S*H. The Super Bowl is also among the most-watched sporting events in the world, almost all audiences being North American, and is second to soccer's UEFA Champions League final as the most watched annual sporting event worldwide.
The NFL restricts the use of its "Super Bowl" trademark; it is frequently called the Big Game or other generic terms by non-sponsoring corporations. Because of the high viewership, commercial airtime during the Super Bowl broadcast is the most expensive of the year, leading to companies regularly developing their most expensive advertisements for this broadcast. As a result, watching and discussing the broadcast's commercials has become a significant aspect of the event. In addition, popular singers and musicians including Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Whitney Houston have performed during the event's pre-game and halftime ceremonies.