Superbored: why it wasn’t worth staying up for the Superbowl
The ‘biggest sporting event of the year’ was less than eventful
“It’s like chess,” Adam, the presenter of Brayford Radio’s NFL show, told me. “It’s all about one team using tactics to beat the other.”
Perhaps this would be true, if a chess grand master was playing against a five-year-old.
We were sitting in Walkabout, an allegedly Australian bar that seems to change its nationality at the tip of a hat (when we arrived, some of the flags for the Six Nations were still hanging behind the bar), planning to stay up until 3am to watch Superbowl XLVIII, one of the biggest sporting contests worldwide.
There are three reasons, according to popular culture, to stay up for the Superbowl: the sport (American football, if you’ve been living under a rock), the half-time show, and the atmosphere. Let’s deal with them one at a time.
When I set foot in Walkabout, I had never seen American football before. Adam was there to explain how things worked to me, but while that helped with my knowledge, it certainly didn’t improve my understanding.
Sure, it’s normal for each side to have different teams for different purposes. It’s the rules that when an opponent catches a ball he stands around with it looking confused and the game stops. It’s expected that a team takes five minutes to move twenty yards.
But why would you want to watch a sport like that? Surely, if you were talented, you’d be able to attack and defend, like most sportsmen do. If you intercept a pass, you ought to do something interesting with it, not move into another set piece. If snail racing is a quicker form of entertainment, then you’re probably doing something wrong.
Punditry was also very confusing for those of us who weren’t familiar with the sport. Pre-game build up seemed to consist of one man with a giant, wall-mounted iPad, dressed as if he was about to present Wheel of Fortune. There were also various stoppages in-game, in which a panel of four Sky pundits drew their interpretations of the Very Hungry Caterpillar on a video still of the pitch.
The constant gaps and breaks, for comment, advertising, or otherwise, began to annoy me pretty quickly. I don’t have a short attention span, and it infuriates me when shows repeat themselves as if I’ve forgotten what happened just fifteen minutes ago.
I’m okay with advertising funding sport, but at 2am, when you just want to watch a game, being told every ten minutes to buy a Jeep or get a NatWest current account gets tiring. You start wishing that the whole thing will end so you can just go home and sleep.
The folks at the NFL probably figured that would happen, and so they do a half-time show to wake us up. I’d heard the hype; I was expecting something incredible, like the Olympic opening ceremony. It didn’t happen.
Bruno Mars kicked off by playing the drums and singing a bit, accompanied by a gold-jacketed band. Halfway through his third song, the Red Hot Chili Peppers decided it wasn’t metal enough and seemingly gatecrashed the show, although they were kind enough to let Bruno finish off with Just The Way You Are. It all finished off with the stereotypical fireworks-around-the-stadium gimmick.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problems with Bruno Mars or the Peppers, and everything was musically and technically well performed. But it wasn’t a spectacular. I was expecting a herd of buffalo and Dick Cheney to fly down on a mechanical bald eagle. Instead, we got a disappointing stadium concert, not unlike anything we could get here in the UK.
At these sorts of public shows, it’s usually the crowd and the atmosphere they give off that gets you through. Things were looking promising for Walkabout, practically all the tables were reserved for one group or another, and they’d even invested in red, white, and blue balloons. Both the university’s American football team, the Colonials, and Lincolnshire’s team, the Bombers, were in there. The place was full when they kicked off. Strongbow was £2 a pint. It should have been a good crowd.
It wasn’t. Most people seemed disinterested in the game after a few minutes, and by the end of the half-time show, half the crowd had already gone home. There were also some Denver Broncos fans, who spent much of the second half crying in the toilets.
The bottom line is: it really wasn’t worth staying up for the Superbowl. Even if you negate the sport, it wasn’t a great night out, and didn’t compare to the amazing Six Nations rugby fixtures that were played earlier in the weekend.
Still, at least I didn’t put a bet on anything.