Play-by-Play: Super Bowl LIII on Wikipedia

February 11, 2019

Super Bowl LIIII garnered an estimated 112.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The two best NFL teams, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, came together to compete to be world champions. Play by play, quarter by quarter, stats during the game were accessible on the web. Wikipedia might not be the first place a reader goes to find facts, figures, and fun information, but long after the fanfare and parades, readers may see themselves visiting the Wikipedia article to win a wager or squash a spat over a statistic. Many of us think of Wikipedia as a historical reference, (mainly because Wikipedia does not consider itself a news source) but increasingly it has become a platform for quick information consolidation on current events. How quick? Super Bowl LIII ended at 10:04 p.m. EST; a Wikipedian updated the article with the record score the very same minute. So what was the timeline of the Wikipedia community collaboration to not only to update the article so quickly but also create such a highly detailed article?

 

The history of the Super Bowl LIII article began with its creation nearly 12 years ago on March 6, 2007. In its first iteration, the page was a mere placeholder, with a redirect to the primary Super Bowl article. Over five years later, on August 6, 2013, the article was finally updated with some content: a lone sentence, the Super Bowl navbox [navigation] template, and a placeholder infobox. The article remained stable in that form until February 3, 2014, when a series of edits removed the previously existing content and replaced it the article’s first sourced information, that Super Bowl LIII might be held at Mile High Stadium (a violation of a Wikipedia guideline known as WP:SPECULATION). All the rapid editing drew attention to the article, which resulted in its nomination for deletion the same day. It was subsequently deleted on February 11, 2014. On May 21, 2015, sufficient secondary resources salvaged the article. Thus it was restored. From that point onward, the article content expanded as SB LIIII gained more media coverage as the date of the event approached.

 

Over 500 editors contributed to the creation and iteration of the SB LIII Wikipedia article. The content has become more stable now that the event has passed. This gives rise to editors who fact check and copyedit the content. In terms of the size of the article, the chart shows the edit activity from the article’s inception in 2007 to the present day. The SB LIII Wikipedia article is available in 10 foreign languages. From the frenzy behind editing the Wikipedia article, the article increased in size sixfold from the end of 2018 to the first week of February. Over the same period, page views doubled, rising from 1,129,634 for the entirety of 2018 to 2,320,570 for the first 48 days of 2019.

 

 

The SB LIII Wikipedia article is an example of good faith collaboration that is fast, iterative, and continuous. Much like a team on the field, the Wikipedians who contribute to the SB LIII Wikipedia article are dedicated to a single goal - neutral point of view account of an event. What separates a traditional team from Wikipedians is Wikipedians collaborate with very little 1:1 interaction. That is precisely the magic of Wikipedia. If a statement is well-source but could be written better, another Wikipedian comes in and edits it. And just like that, a Wikipedia article comes to life and stands on its own accord. The New England Patriots 6th Super Bowl championship parade has passed, but the work on the Wikipedia article continues long after the confetti is swept off the street.

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