As they filed out of my living room, I reminded myself of why I had given this party. There were enough events to choose from, but I had resisted the urge to go out and “mingle” and chose instead to have a group of friends at my house for something I considered important to my life. Some of these friends actually understood what they had just seen. Most of the others figured out it was important, but they really didn’t know why.
Americans watch the Superbowl and the announcers on the telecast always brag about a billion people watching the game around the world. Even assuming every American watches the game, I always wondered how they came to such a high number. Now that I’ve lived overseas for a number of years this question intrigues me even more.The very thought of time-zones already leads me to believe this figure is greatly exaggerated. Here in Europe, we watch the game in the wee hours of the morning. The game doesn’t even finish until 4:30 a.m. in Central Europe and our troops in Iraq would have seen the 4th quarter with their morning coffee. In Japan, the work day began at kick-off and lunch was being served in Australia where the Monday walkabout was almost half over.
Nonetheless, if you check the listing of stations carrying the game in newspapers like the International Herald Tribune and USA Today, then it seems just about every country and territory had someone showing it. This means there must be some interest or local networks are just trying to appease the Americans living overseas after bashing them most of the rest of the year. Otherwise, only those with time on their hands or a genuine interest in the game would go to the trouble to see this telecast.
Ah, yes…the “Interest Factor”. One of the reasons I insisted on having a private party.
I had made the mistake of going to a local sports bar (in Belgium) for the Green Bay – Seattle match-up in the play-offs. It was football at its finest or absolute worst, depending on your perspective. The snow was so thick a friend of mine who was at the stadium told me you sometimes couldn’t see the other side. The best seats were in front of a television screen, but I’m pretty sure no one at the game minded the conditions as Bret Favre and company won a very exciting match-up.
The bar in Belgium was full, but nobody was really watching. History was playing out on the screen, but no one even cared. Occasionally, someone would look up and comment on how much it was snowing. The fact that a young running back had fumbled two early touches only to come back and rush for 200+ yards meant nothing. “What’s a yard?”
In all fairness, this is not the case everywhere. There are a number of bars where fans of American sports get together and these are the places to be. But even in a city like Brussels, there are only a handful of places worth traveling to.
While the NFL points to their great successes in London and Mexico City I wish to assure anyone who will listen that these work because they are single events. Like a Cher concert or a David Copperfield magic show, most of you will not go more than once even if they have multiple performances in your city (and many of you wouldn’t go to the events named above at all). The same can be said for American sports events held overseas. They’re great for the novelty, but don’t start thinking these cultures are ready to support your multi-million dollar payroll on a daily basis.
I’m not saying that pro-football doesn’t work at all outside of the United States. I’m merely pointing out that it is successful in smaller doses, not as a Sam’s Warehouse bulk sale. The NFL Europe should have taught us this. Even seemingly successful teams like the London Monarchs and Barcelona Dragons didn’t make it to the end and teams that did, such as the Amsterdam Admirals, were content with attendance between 10 and 12,000 a game.
On top of everything else, NFL executives are talking about letting a city like London bid for the rights to host the Superbowl. Besides denying an American city from the privilege, this would have many other drawbacks including an earlier start time and a logistics nightmare. Ask the Giants and Dolphins about having to change 5 hours in time for their game in Wembley (London) this year. If a west coast team gets to the big game, they would have an 8 hour time difference to adjust to. These kinds of things could influence the competitive balance of the game. Is this something we really want?
Back to the game…this year’s Superbowl was a visual sleeper for 3 quarters. Despite the close score, nothing spectacular was happening on the field. Tom “Superman” Brady had found his Kryptonite in the Giants defense and some mistakes by the Giants offense led one to believe they didn’t have the ability to finish the Patriots off. It was starting to look like the great season of the Patriots would be ended with an anti-climax and, like many of their recent games; they would do just enough to get the win. Who could’ve known?
History is an important part of American sports. While many records get reported at the time they are set and only mentioned again when that record is about to be broken again, many others are revered throughout history. The 1972 Dolphins’ undefeated season and Superbowl Championship is one of these. It is an accomplishment that many believed was untouchable in the modern era.
When New England dominated the entire season including many quality teams in their non-division schedule, they seemed to be destined for greatness and the Dolphin record looked to be in danger. In order to lay a hand on the title of “Greatest Ever”, they had one more game to win.
On the other side of the field was a team whose quarterback’s brother had been MVP of the previous Superbowl. Their daddy had been a pretty decent quarterback many years ago and here was the kid brother trying to cement his place in history and break out of the shadows of his other kin.
What transpired in the 4th quarter of this year’s game was so amazing it is difficult to apply an adjective that can give it justice. Everything that hadn’t happened in the first three quarters suddenly took place and on both sides of the ball. Eli Manning and the New York Giants took the lead only to relinquish it again to New England and then, in a drive that was both brilliant and a little lucky, took the lead back for good with only a half-minute left in the game.
After this season, the Patriots might still be considered as one of the greatest teams ever assembled despite this Superbowl loss. Nonetheless:
- A wildcard team won the Superbowl.
- The perfect season was gone.
- Two brothers have been MVP’s of the Superbowl in consecutive years.
- The New York – Boston sports rivalry got another notch.
- The NFC won for the first time since 2003 and for only the 3rd time in the last 11 years.
- The winning drive was highlighted by a receiver catching the ball holding it next to his helmet after Eli Manning escaped what should have been a sack. The play will be in highlight reels for as long as the Superbowl is played.
- In the U.S., it was the most watched game ever with 97.5 million viewers.
Yet, I assure you, only Americans really got it. That’s the way it always was. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it will always be. And you know…there is really nothing wrong with that.