Although no scientific studies prove it, a poll conducted during any January would probably show a high percentage of Americans able to correctly identify the two teams in the Super Bowl.

The game that awards the ultimate trophy at the end of the season captures the interest even of those who never attended a game or tailgate party, and possibly hadn’t followed the regular season week-by-week – let alone the preseason that begins before Labor Day when most people aren’t ready to think about fall and football.

Something about the uniquely American rite finds people who don’t have a favorite team suddenly opining about zone-read blocking schemes, turnover ratios, and whether (fill in the blank with player’s name) is past his prime.

The same applies to the intricacies of any sport where only the truly immersed understand the rules, including the quadrennial practice of choosing an American president.

Most Americans become interested in the election during the primaries, so the realization that they may not actually be choosing their party’s nominee may come as a shock to voters who have enjoyed the focus of the candidates trying to win their votes.

In fact, the nomination process is nowhere near as settled as voters believe, with fifty different state rules governing how delegates vote at the convention.

Delegates may be obligated to vote for the candidate who won their state’s primary or caucus, may be allowed to change their vote on subsequent ballots if no winner is declared, or vote their personal preference as so-called “unbound” delegates.

If none of the three Republican contenders secures the 1,237 needed to win the nomination on the first ballot, unbound delegates may be the ones to decide who will be the party’s standard-bearer in November by backing one candidate over the other, or forcing a contested convention.

Now, three months before the convention, the candidates have already begun wooing unbound delegates to secure their allegiance under rules that permit virtually any kind of entertaining or gift-giving short of actually handing over cash, and American voters are getting into playoff mode as they learn what it takes to get to the Super Bowl of politics.


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