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How long is the Super Bowl?

How long is the Super Bowl?


We spend 672 human lifespans on one night of football

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Illustration by James Bareham / The Verge

Every year when the American sporting event the Super Bowl approaches, people seem to ask the exact same questions:

  • “Who’s playing?”
  • “What day is it?”
  • “Who’s having a party? I really can’t after what happened last year with Stacy’s boyfriend getting overexcited and cutting his fingers off on the ceiling fan.”
  • “Who is the musical act?”
  • “What time does it start?”

These questions are easy to answer. You can Google them, text your friends, or send a company-wide email. One question that is harder to answer, and which rarely gets asked: how long is the Super Bowl?

don’t you want to know how long the super bowl is?

In 2010, Super Bowl XLIV started at 6:30PM and ended at 10:12PM. Three hours and 42 minutes. In 2011, Super Bowl XL started at 6:30PM and ended at 10:23PM. Three hours and 53 minutes. In 2012, Super Bowl XLVI started at 6:30PM and ended at 9:53PM. Three hours and 23 minutes. 2013’s Super Bowl was 4 hours and 15 minutes long (that’s very long!). 2014’s Super Bowl was 3 hours and 25 minutes long (pretty short!). 2015’s Super Bowl was 3 hours and 37 minutes long (this porridge is just right!). Last year’s Super Bowl was 3 hours and 53 minutes.

On average, so far this decade, a Super Bowl is...

Three hours and 44 minutes

Every year, an average of 111.9 million people tune in to watch the Super Bowl. Each of these people will watch the Super Bowl for probably 3 hours and 44 minutes this year, assuming they don’t get bored or fall asleep. Together, they will watch the Super Bowl for a cumulative 25,065,600,000 minutes. Thanks to a famed song from the musical Rent, I know there are 525,600 minutes in a year. Therefore, individually, human beings will spend just one Sunday night watching the Super Bowl this year, but together they will spend 47,689 years.

If the average human lifespan is 71 years, this means we are all going to come together on Sunday, February 5th, and spend 672 human lives watching the sport of football. 47,689 years is also roughly 30 Roman Empires, 477 Galapagos tortoise lifespans, or the total shelf life of 290,108 gallons of organic milk.

6,316 people die every hour: 23,579 people will die as we watch the Super Bowl

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “I don’t watch the football part, I only watch the commercials and the half-time show if it’s not something lame.” Okay, smartie. Here are some numbers that apply to you and your personal customs.

MarketWatch estimates that a full hour of the Super Bowl broadcast is advertisements, while the halftime show is usually about 13 minutes. That means that even if you don’t watch football, you watch 73 minutes of the Super Bowl. If everyone did this, we would cumulatively watch the Super Bowl for 8,168,700,000 minutes — 15,541 years or 219 lives on Earth.

Most live football coverage is replays, people standing around, and men talking. The actual action of the football game — when the ball is in play — is about 12 minutes long. If you wanted to watch the entire “Super Bowl” for the love of the sport, you could do so in less time than it takes to heat a frozen lasagna in the oven.

If you choose to opt out of the Super Bowl and only participate by watching the broadcast’s most popular commercial on YouTube, you will expend a mere 30 seconds to three minutes of your life. The most popular commercial of 2016 was Seal’s bizarre music video about how many babies get conceived following “the big game.” It is three minutes and 7 seconds long and has 4.6 million views on YouTube (plus about 114.4 million live views), and thereby has occupied 679 years of human attention.

Time is a currency — how will you spend it?

112 million people watch the Super Bowl, but there are many reasons to abstain.

The fact that watching the Super Bowl endorses these American power structures and does not actually consume three hours and 44 minutes of my life is unconscionable. So if I have an interest in burning through three hours and 44 minutes of my life for real, what are some things I could do instead?

What other stuff is 3 hours and 44 minutes long?

  • All but the last 14 minutes of the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.
  • The 1996 film Titanic plus 29 minutes of something else. Maybe Mitski’s appropriately lovelorn patriotic anthem “Your Best American Girl” (3 minutes, 32 seconds) played eight and one-third times.
  • The baking process for three to four apple pies. Very American.
  • Walking from my home in Brooklyn to a Dunkin Donuts in Staten Island, buying a coffee, walking to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach, and admiring the water. FDR was a flawed patriot — as am I, as are the New England Patriots.
  • Watching the “Hollaback Girl” remix of Richard Spencer getting punched in the face 2,240 times.

Anyway, when I decide which one of these activities I’ll be doing I’ll get back to you. If you want to watch the Super Bowl with your friends and family that is obviously fine, as it’s a good excuse to hold them close to you and share a highly caloric meal. We all need that, regardless of what is or isn’t on a screen in front of us while we do it.

Why can’t you call it the Super Bowl?