Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Super Bowl isn't just a football game. It's the halftime show; it's the ads; it's the seven-layer dip; it's the fact that, for four hours on Sunday night, nobody is expected to be doing anything else.

Why it matters: The Super Bowl is one of the last remnants of an era when we all watched the same things at the same time. It is the "live sport" of all live sports, which is currently the only form of content tethering many consumers to traditional TV.

  • The game: With the Patriots absent for the first time since 2016, Super Bowl LIV feels like the dawn of a new era. Patrick Mahomes leads a pass-heavy Chiefs attack against the NFL's best defense, while Jimmy Garoppolo leads a 49ers offense that has run the ball on 71 of its last 88 plays.
  • The booth: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call their sixth Super Bowl together for FOX, while Erin Andrews and Chris Myers will handle sideline reporting.
  • The music: Yolanda Adams will sing "America the Beautiful" before kickoff, Demi Lovato will sing the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will co-headline the halftime show.
  • The ads: Good news, football fans! (And bad news, commercial fans!) In a bid to reduce the number of interruptions in this year's game, Fox is cutting one commercial break from every quarter.

The backdrop ... With youth football participation falling, several states debating whether a tackle version of the sport should even be allowed, and NFL stars retiring in their 20s due to health concerns, there is a growing sense that America's moment of "peak football" may be in the past.

The bottom line: The conflict between football's cultural grip on America and the clear risks involved in playing it represents one of the great dramas of our time. The story will continue on Sunday — with 100 million people watching.

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