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This close to the Super Bowl, football passions are running high.

But for one group of Penn students, the excitement surrounding Sunday’s game is somewhat puzzling.

Enter Mike Reno, the assistant director of structured sports for Penn Athletics’ Recreation Department.

In spite of recent disappointment with his favorite team’s performance (his Oakland Raiders finished 5-11), Reno still wanted to communicate his love for the game to a group of international students who had never seen football.

“I think for the most part, they want to understand, ‘what’s the big fascination about football?’” he said.

With this in mind, nine students came to the International House last Friday for an hour of Brett Favre jokes and discussion about what makes the sport tick.

The event was organized by Penn Abroad as a way of introducing new international students to what Reno called “one of the greatest sporting events that we have today in the world.”

Reno provided comprehensive handouts describing the game’s rules and listing curious Super Bowl trivia — the Minnesota Vikings, for example, have lost all four Super Bowl that they’ve competed in.

The students were also able to get a flavor of the experience by watching clips of Penn’s matches last fall, accompanied by traditional football snacks of chips and soda.

Apparently, Super Bowl Sunday beats Christmas to earn the title of second largest day of food consumption in America after Thanksgiving.

The same certainly can’t be said about soccer’s FA Cup.

Among those in attendance was WingOn Sun, an exchange student from the University of New South Wales, Australia.

As a soccer fan, Sun found Reno’s description of the player positions particularly helpful.

“Before, if you saw it on TV you wouldn’t know what each player does — it looks like a mess,” he said.

Sun had seen snippets of NFL games with his friends in Australia, a reminder that fans overseas comprise a sizable portion of the Super Bowl’s audience.

Like in the States, the Super Bowl ads seem to attract as much attention worldwide as the game itself — as do the often infamous halftime performances (here’s to you, Janet Jackson).

“On the news back in Australia, they talk about the ads a lot,” Sun explained. “There’s a lot of hype around it.”

The odd-one-out in the group was the lone American student, College junior Alex Levy. As an exchange student leader, Levy was keen to chip in and introduce others to his beloved sport.

Furthering his enthusiasm with cultural exchange, Levy is also dipping into football’s ancestral sport, rugby.

He was persuaded after meeting Penn’s rugby club at the activities fair recently.

“I think it’s a good way to get in shape and try something new,” he said.

Rugby fans — and anyone else up for a sports marathon this Sunday — should head to a local pub to check out the Royal Bank of Scotland Six Nations tournament before tuning into the Super Bowl. Scotland takes on France at 10 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Sun and many other international students will be watching their first Super Bowl on Sunday free of the team loyalties that will provoke adrenaline rushes across America.

But if Reno’s opinion — he is pulling for New Orleans — is any indication, the international students may witness (and now, understand) football history, as the Saints have a possibility to win their first ever Super Bowl.

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