It ain’t called the Super Bowl ‘cos the portions are small
There’s a big event on today awash with celebs, skimpily-dressed WAGs and meatheads who get sweaty for a living.
I speak not of the Allan Border Medal, that self-congratulatory wankfest, aka the poor man’s Brownlow, where Shane Watson will again be recognised as the only bloke in Australia who can play cricket.
I’m talking about the Super Bowl, which starts at 10am today eastern time and goes for, oh, I don’t know, about a day or so.
Some call the Super Bowl the most spectacularly irrelevant and grotesque event in the universe, especially to Australian eyes. To those people I say “yes”.
That said, there is something incredibly compelling about it. After all, 100 million Americans can’t be wrong.
Actually, scratch that. Hundreds of millions of Americans are habitually wrong about just about everything. As Exhibit B, I present George W… yeah, well anyway.
The point is, even if you hate American football, or more likely know nothing about it, the Super Bowl is a must-see event.
In fact, so many Americans tune in for this Spandex spectacular that major urban sewage systems regularly flood in the ad breaks, when everyone in America flushes their toilets in unison.
Actually, that’s a Super Bowl myth, but it’s so good, I choose to believe it. Click here for more Super Bowl myths.
Like almost everyone in the world, I, too, know diddly about American football. This, perhaps, is why News Magazines, in its eternal wisdom, chose to send me to the 2009 Super Bowl.
It turned out to be a good year to go, as it was the year former Geelong AFL skipper Ben Graham became the first Aussie to play. Graham, as you may know, is a punter, that singularly unimportant member of the team whose total contribution to any given game consist of about five kicks, or about 10 seconds of actual play.
So anonymous are punters that the vast majority of Arizona Cardinals fans I interviewed had never heard of Graham. I shit you not.
The Super Bowl this year is in Arlington, Texas (part of greater the Dallas/Forth Worth area), where daytime temperature dipped as low as minus six this week.
The area is still white with snow, though that won’t matter inside the awesome new stadium, which has the world’s largest “jumbotron”. That’s American for a suspended TV so damned big, you could stash JR’s oil wealth inside it in small unmarked bills.
In 2009, the Super Bowl was in Tampa, Florida. I got there a few days early, and discovered that Florida beaches are rubbish compared to Australia’s, Florida’s horse racing is rubbish compared to Australia’s (the Tampa Bay Downs racecourse was across the road from my hotel), and buffalo wings are not, in fact, made out of flying buffalos. Though they are, in all probability, made from the horses at Tampa Bay Downs.
In downtown Tampa, celebrities were everywhere. I interviewed the reigning Miss America, a size-zero wisp of a thing in a purple frock whose (fake) eyelashes were bigger than her waistline, not to mention her intellect.
But by far the most annoying celebrity was Bruce Springsteen, who sang at halftime in the big game. What a douche bag. At the pre-game press conference, he couldn’t stop referring to himself in the third person.
It was “The Boss this” and “The Boss that” and “The Boss blah blah blah…” Here’s your headline: The boss is a toss.
To the NFL’s credit, they did a great job making the players and coaches available to the media during the week – even to southern hemisphere no-name blow-ins like me. As an American told me “it takes a lot of hot air to keep a balloon this big aloft”.
The players themselves were great. Not once did I hear the words “doin’ it for the boys” or “the best team on the day” or “a game of two halves”. Possibly that’s because the Super Bowl is in fact a game of four quarters, but you get the drift. The players actually had…you won’t believe this… they actually had personalities!
OK, so half of them were likely either religious nutters or psychotic dog-fighting fans, but at least weren’t deliberately trying to out-bland each other like the majority of our sportsmen and women.
Getting inside the stadium on game day was like going through US customs and immigration ten times over. When I finally got in, I had an appetite which, happily, was matched by the portions of stadium food on sale.
I bought a swimming pool of Coke and a cheesesteak sandwich which was more or less the size of Rhode Island. Wait. I’ve actually been to Rhode Island. This sandwich was way bigger.
Anyway, so I get to my seat and wouldn’t you know, the media zone is catered! We’ve got hot dog ladies, Coke dudes, you name it. But best of all, we have little TV monitors on our seats.
This meant we were able to watch both the ads and the game. And as any American will tell you, the ads, which usually sell at about $3 million for 30 seconds, are the best part of the Super Bowl. Click here for last year’s crop. The Doritos one is hilarious.
The game itself was a cracker. I don’t care what sport you follow, or whether you understand the rules or not. An exciting game is an exciting game and this was one such contest. Arizona pulled off what would have been the greatest ever Super Bowl comeback, only to lose in the last few seconds.
Afterwards, I defied Homeland Security’s finest and made it onto the field. I can’t tell you how weird that was. I wasn’t supposed to be out there but there I was, at the Ground Zero of American glitz, American excess and American bravado. But not for long. I had interviews to do, and mine, regrettably, were in the losers’ room.
I was one of just two Aussie journos who managed to sneak into the Arizona Cardinals dressing room. The silence in there was profound and complete, broken only by the sniffling of 160 kilo nude black men.
I could go on. Especially about the sniffling nude black behemoths. But if you’ve read this far, and it’s still early enough, you’re possibly interested in watching the game instead, which by the way is being telecast live in Australia on both 10 and ESPN.
Oh, and in case you care, this year’s big game is between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won in 2009. Not that the teams, or the rules, or any subtle nuances really matter when you watch the Super Bowl. This is spectacle more than sport.
But what’s this weird, alien helmeted game actually all about? I’ll give you a one word answer to that, and it’s the same word NFL legend Ron Jaworski used when I asked him the same question in 2009. Clue: it’s the same thing so much American culture is about.
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