Forget Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter — when I was growing up, Super Bowl Sunday was the biggest holiday of the year. But not everyone was raised in a household run by football fanatics. Even if you’ve never seen your mom jump on the couch to celebrate a touchdown — and even if you don’t know what a touchdown is — there is still hope for you. Whether you plan to watch the game at a party, with your significant other or all by yourself, follow these tips to ensure that your Super Bowl experience is a winning endeavor.

Know the basics. When a team has possession of the ball, their goal is to keep moving it down the field until they get to the opposite team’s end zone (those are the areas on either end of the field, with the pitchfork-looking-thing behind them). They have four chances (called downs) to move the ball 10 yards, at which point they earn a new set of four downs. If a player runs or catches the ball in the end zone, he has scored a touchdown, which is worth six points. If a player kicks the ball between the uprights (that’s the pitchfork thing) immediately after a touchdown, it’s worth one point. At any other time during the game, a kick between the uprights is worth three points and is called a field goal. When a team doesn’t have the ball, they try to stop the other team from moving the ball down the field.

Know the main positions. This is especially important on offense, when a team has possession of the ball. The quarterback is the guy who throws or hands off the ball. Running backs are the guys who take handoffs, and receivers are the players who run downfield to catch passes.

Know the teams. This year’s big game — Super Bowl XLVI (that’s 46 for those of you who missed Roman numeral day in fifth grade) — will pit the New York Giants against the New England Patriots. The game will take place in Indianapolis, Ind., home of the Colts.

Know who you’re rooting for. Even if you don’t really care who wins, the game will seem much more exciting if you’re pulling for one side or the other. If you’re watching the game with other people, I can pretty much guarantee that at some point, one of them will ask you which team you’re cheering for. If you have an immediate answer, you’ll appear less clueless.

Know a trivia fact or two. You might not know a whole lot about what’s happening on the field, but you can still add to the conversation with comments like, “Did you know this is the fifth time in history that two teams have played each other in the Super Bowl for the second time?” Or: “It’s hard to believe that Tom Brady has already started and won three Super Bowls before the age of 30.”

Know that it’s not all about the game. The Super Bowl is meant to amuse, and its entertainment value isn’t limited to the action on the field. The pre-game show will feature performances by The Fray and Lenny Kravitz, and Kelly Clarkson will sing the National Anthem. Madonna is set to rock the stage at halftime. And let’s be honest: no matter how good the game is, it’s the commercials that will be the topic of conversation at most workplace water coolers on Monday morning.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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