So then, Superbowl XLIV? Did you watch it? If so, did you know exactly what was going on, or did you just look in to see what the fuss was about? I was a mixture of both; I had a fair grasp of the rules of American Football, courtesy of owning NFL Madden 2000 on the Playstation, but my main concern was the sleepless night ahead of me.
The Superbowl is like the finale of a television show which you have never seen before. You know that it is big in the US, and that from all reports is kind of a big deal. You watch it so that you have a vague idea of what happens, thus ensuring that you aren’t floundering in ignorance in conversations with your friends the next day — in this regard it’s a bit like Glee. However, as with a TV show, it takes a while to warm to the main characters. For instance, it is hard to feel any strong emotions towards Patton Manning, until you realise he is the latest in a family famous for quarterbacks and is in search of his fourth Superbowl winner’s ring.
The Superbowl is brash, loud, super-sized and commercialised (a thirty second advert during the game is estimated to cost $2.6 million). The half-time show alone is worth staying awake for. This year, The Who played during the interval. Imagine if the Champions League final had a brief interlude with a set from The Rolling Stones? The mind wanders to the Twenty20 cup final which had a half-time show performed by the Sugababes. It was just a bit bizarre when you realise they are a mere warm-up act for the Surrey Brown Caps chasing 130 on a flat track.
To joke about the blatant advertising in the Superbowl (which is brought to you by Bridgestone, by the way) seems to be a touch hypocritical when British sports appear to be just as bad; e.g the Heineken Cup or the Coca Cola Championship. It is interesting that the kits worn by both teams and all National Football League (NFL) franchises have no sponsorships, unlike football shirts which are now effectively mobile billboards.
Of course, the sport does itself no favours having franchises as opposed to teams. Those who simply do not like NFL can criticise the fact that teams can simply uproot to different cities. Apparently, this means a franchise is devoid of history; of links to a city the way a football club has. But really, who needs history? If the Premiership could be as flexible as the NFL it would be. The desire for a 39th round of matches abroad was inspired by the NFL’s annual international game in London, but was shot down by Fifa.
American Football, of course, is not restricted to America: as well as NFL Europe — a league which was graced by the presence of the Scottish Claymores until a few years ago — the international game at Wembley is a huge event. For the 2009 game between the Saints and the Chargers the first 45,000 tickets sold out in an amazing ninety minutes.
The game itself was actually very interesting, despite my increasing tiredness creeping in. It is a game of strategy, tactics and planning, just like football, or rugby, or cricket. I did not know the technical terms (I will probably never know what “unnecessary roughness” is) but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment.
So, at the end of a long night, it was the New Orleans Saints who triumphed, 31-17. What the night proved for me though is that this game is far more entertaining than I thought it would be. It made me wonder, should we in Britain be taking this game more seriously?