Bet now, or forever hold your peace

SCOTT FESCHUK: Welcome to my interactive Super Bowl Over-Under Challenge. (And yes, there are prizes.)

Bet now, or forever hold your peaceFor football fans, the two-week break before the Super Bowl is a grim, unholy fortnight—a soulless thing from the depths of hell, bereft of light and hope. Think of it as a 14-day Matthew McConaughey movie. Sure, the time off gives us a chance to reflect, to recuperate, possibly even to shower. But that’s small comfort to those of us left without an excuse to avoid antiquing on Sunday afternoon.

Happily, this year’s may be worth the ordeal. There’s real excitement in the air. We’re going to see a fierce battle—and not just one in which the elderly halftime act, the Who, fights players for possession of the sideline oxygen.

There’s only one way to make the NFL championship even more enjoyable: betting. I’m talking about rash, excessive wagering unsullied by reason or moderation. The Super Bowl isn’t just a football game—it’s also the Super Bowl of gambling, a chance to bet real money on every facet of the proceedings, up to and including the number of times Brett Favre will pop up to retire during the game.

Betting illegally is a fun and completely harmless pastime, assuming you don’t have further need of your money or fibulas. Sadly, I can’t take your cash because I’m not a bookie (wink), but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some good clean fun.

Below, you will find a list of Super Bowl XLIV “over-under” propositions. Go through it and forecast whether the actual tally will be over or under the benchmark I have set. Then email your entry before 2 p.m. ET on “Super Bowl Sunday” (or, as it’s referred to by most women I know, “next Sunday”) to scott.feschuk@macleans.rogers.com.

On the Monday, I’ll post the results on my blog at macleans.ca. The winner will receive something cheap and tacky in the mail, assuming Canada Post agrees to deliver Paris Hilton. (Kidding: the winner will get a real prize valued in the tens of dollars!)

An important note: the tallying of some of these categories will involve a certain degree of discretion from the presiding judge (i.e., me). The rulings of the presiding judge (hi again!) are final and will not change as a result of challenge flags, booth reviews or brazen sexual advances (I say again—wink).

The Maclean’s Super Bowl XLIV Over-Under Challenge:

1. Number of times, during the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner, that the performer does one of those vocal diva-type things with at least three “whoa-whoa-whoa-oas!”: 2.5

2. A typical rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner runs about 85 seconds. Duration of the Super Bowl version: 101.5 seconds

3. Number of U.S. military aircraft involved in the post-anthem flyover: 4.5

4. Total number of shots, between the kickoff and the final gun, that showcase cheerleaders for either team: 7.5

5. Total number of cheerleader navels televised (all shots combined—navel must be visible, not inferred): 15.5

6. Number of promotional mentions, during the Super Bowl and halftime, for the new CBS series Undercover Boss, which is scheduled to premiere after the game: 8.5

7. CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe is renowned for saying words that aren’t part of any known language, such as “Zoomf” or—and this is a rough transcription—“Mftwulach.” Number of words he “invents” this Sunday: 2.5

8. Number of hurricane Katrina references (including pre- and post-game shows): 11.5

9. During the halftime show, total number of windmill guitar twirls executed by the Who’s Pete Townshend: 9.5

10. Number of instances in which, after making a play, a jubilant player raises his arm and points to the sky to praise God (or, possibly, the pilot of the Goodyear blimp): 4.5

11. Number of cutaways to coach Sean Payton on the Saints’ sideline: 47.5

12. Number of cutaways to mild-mannered Colts coach Jim Caldwell in which he is making an expression other than his typical countenance where he looks as though he’s watching a documentary on smelting: 2.5

13. Number of TV commercials in which Colts quarterback Peyton Manning appears (U.S. feed): 4.5

14. Number of times during the game that CBS cuts to a shot of Peyton Manning’s father and/or brother: 9.5

15. Number of direct or indirect references to God made by a Colts or Saints player (pre-game and post-game): 7.5

16. Number of shimmies, shakes, dances, prances and other post-play gyration-type manoeuvres performed by defensive players: 6.5

17. Total number of end-zone celebrations that are certain or likely to have been choreographed or, at minimum, thought out in advance: 1.5

18. Time remaining in the game when the winning coach is doused with liquid from the Gatorade jug: 57 seconds

19. Number of young children carried onto the field by members of winning team: 1.5

20. Super Bowl XLIV begins at 6:25 p.m. ET. Time at which it ends: 10:19 p.m. ET.

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