In Sunday's Super Bowl LI game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta won the coin toss, which landed on tails and was thrown by former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.
The Super Bowl coin toss holds particular significance for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it allows players to make the first official decision of the game. The winning team can choose from one of two privileges to begin the game: either choosing to receive or kick, or choosing which goal they will defend. The winning team can also choose to defer this decision to the other team, which then allows them to make these same choices for the second half of the game instead. For their part, the Falcons chose to defer to the Patriots after they won the coin toss.
The coin toss is also noteworthy for reasons beyond the actual gameplay itself. Betting on whether or not the coin will land on heads or tails and on which team will accurately call the toss is a popular Super Bowl activity. There has been particular frenzy around coin toss betting odds this year, given the Patriots' known tendency for calling "heads" during the toss, which they again did (though the coin ultimately landed on tails).
Throwing out the coin for the Super Bowl coin toss is considered a special honor. Texan and former President George H.W. Bush is said to have been "fired up," about doing so prior to the game. Sunday's coin toss by the Bush's was also particularly special because both the former President and former First Lady had very recently been hospitalized and in ill health. Thus, seeing them in good spirits and out on the field certainly seemed to serve as an inspiration to the crowd, judging by the standing ovation the couple received.
Overall, the coin toss is certainly always a special commencement moment at the Super Bowl and receives a great deal of attention as a result. While there is no known link between a team accurately calling a coin toss and going on to win the Super Bowl (as one would expect, on average the winner of the coin toss goes on to win the Super Bowl game slightly less than half the time), it is nonetheless fun to bet on the odds of who will win those toss and what decision they will make about gameplay. Finally, it is always special to honor the beginning of such a high stakes game with a time-honored tradition.