This past Sunday, when millions of the Americans were glued to the TV screens either at home or at a sport’s bar, watching the nation’s NFL's Super Bowl XLVII, I was actually sitting at the Barnes & Noble book store reading the books on Graphic Design and wondering, why is that the majority of the visitors at the store were either women or people with the accents?
And then I realized why the majority people out and about in the city were predominantly women – it’s because the Super Bowl was on!
As I made my way home, I found my boyfriend, who is Argentinian, watching the Super Bowl, which, but its nature, seemed to be a rather weird thing to do, because just a few days before the game, we talked about how the Super Bowl is such an “American” thing to be a part of and that the likes of us – the people who have lived in the country for long enough to know the ins and outs of the culture, but who still haven’t been born in this country to really fall in love with all of the American traditions – we talked about how we will NOT watch the game, because we do not understand it and, most importantly, do not really understand how such a “slow, boring” game can fascinate so many Americans. I started thinking, why – why the foreigners with the US passports, like us - the US citizens and residents - still watch it and if any other countries watch it as well, for the same reasons as we did.
When I asked my boyfriend, why he's watching the Super Bowl game and not his usual programming - the CNN, he siad the most obvious thing that I could have expected:
“Why? I’m just watching for the scores.” “But, why do you need to know the scores,” – I asked in return. “Well, just because…” – he responded.
And that was good enough for me.
In just five minutes, not more than ten minutes to the total score announcement and end of the game, we were already watching another channel. Did we care enough to wait for just another 10 minutes to the end? I guess, not...
Was he watching just because everyone else was and that those ‘everyone else’ would talk about it the next day at work? Or was he watching, because the more time he’s been spending in USA, the more he feels like he needs to be more ‘part of it’? And how many people in other countries have been watching it? All the questions have its value and I had all the intentions to find it out.
So, guess what? They do watch it too, and by ‘they” – I mean the residents of the other countries, who neither have anything to do with the American culture of football or with the football game at all. Not to say that, while the rest of the world calls soccer – football, here in America we call it the American football – football and the football – we call it soccer. That alone brings a strong point – and many confusions with it - that the Americans are not like the rest of the world.
We dictate our own terms. We name things as we want to name them. We use inches and pounds as British do, but while the rest of the world - except, again, us and UK - uses the International Standardized metric system – centimeters, kilometers and kilograms and so on, we decided to stick to the British measurement system, which, sometimes makes it very inconvenient to shop in Europe and other countries, as we are trying to convert a size of a t-shirt to the American small, medium and large sizes, where, say, in Europe it’s measured in 36, 38 and 40. Is there a logic?
Personally, every time I go to Europe or any other country, like Argentina last month, I try to convert all my measurements in advance so that I know that I need to ask for the shoe size 40 and the dress size of 36. This why the British shopping sites like Asos.com and TopShop.com offer a conversion tables for every sizes. But then again, another dilemma comes up – do you know that the European sizes that supposedly correspond with the American sizes are, actually, much smaller? That’s because the Europe is much more ‘smaller’ in so many ways than USA. The distance between the tables at the restaurants are shorter, the seat size on subways is much more narrow and the street parking is a complete nonsense for the visiting Texans, for example, because it’s very tight – not like the sizes on the parking lots at the Best Buy in Houston. Even a smart car won’t solve the parking problems. And I’m saying it from my personal travel and living abroad experiences.
For instance, my parents now live in Germany and I visit them at least a few times a year, while trying to combine my visits with the sightseeing of the close-by-to-Germany countries. Yes, I always enjoy hearing my dad swear as he tries to park his car in one of the street parking slots in Gottingen, Germany – it becomes almost like a virtue to try to park – I don’t even mention the craft of the parallel parking in Europe. Have you ever driven in Rome and/or Seville? While, the Oregonians and Texans, for example, have no problem doing parallel parking - because they have quite some space in between the other two cars to park – but try to do the parallel parking in New York, or, even better, on the steep hills of the streets in San Francisco, and you’d see the difference I’m talking about.
This reminds me of one good Russian proverb: One man's meat is another man's poison, or, if translated literally: “What is good to a Russian, is death for a German.” This is something that only a Russian would understand very well. But, to make it short, I’d say: Whatever an American might like, the Russian wouldn’t really understand.” This is how I see the foreigners perceive such very American culture like the American football.
Another good point that my foreign friends and my Argentinian boyfriend brought up was the fact that the American football – or the Super Bowl – has nothing to do with the individual exercise and sports of any kind involvement. Most of the Americans, who actually do watch the Super Bowl, are not even physically active, neither they’ve ever even played the American football, but growing up in this culture, where each of the high school football games end up with a school dance and some booze-full individual parties – it’s as a given to watch the game.
Personally, I could never understand the damn game – I can only imagine the comments I’d get after posting this article – but, hey, listen, it’s not like everyone is watching the ice-skating, right? And I do. You know why? Because like many of your having grown up in a household that watched the Super Bowl religiously and/or played the football in school, or – have the best friends who care a lot about the football and you are just there for the good time, I grew up with the ice-skating and gymnastics. That’s why I watch the Olympics, but I do not impose my personal interests on anyone. It’s mine – it’s my interest and as much as I’d like to share the experience of it with either my friends or my boyfriend – I can always watch it by myself, sans the beer and chips.
My high school friends tried to explain it to me quite a few times and the first few times I went to the school’s football games I was pretty perplexed by the game that almost has no action and a lot of ‘walking around, talking, fighting with the opposite side’. I remember I was standing at the school stadium, watching my school team – The Spartans at Corvallis High School - play against the Crescent Valley High School’s Raiders and wondering, why the cheerleaders were considered the ‘coolest girls to hook up with’ and the football players were the jocks of the school, who were a dream date for many girls in the school? Of course, I was immersing into my new culture – the American culture, but I found for myself that I had much more fun hanging out with the artsy, hippy and heavy metal crowd and the exchange students at my school, because I found them fascinating, different and unique in their own ways. I remember how we used to go to a small coffee shop with one of my classmates – his name was Antoine – who had dreadlocks and spoke three languages fluently and who was half American and half French. I remember how we talked philosophy, history, literature, and it was very mentally stimulating. This was my crowd – not the football jocks and cheerleaders. I truly believe this is one of the reasons why I so well understand the American teenage classic movies like “The Breakfast Club”, “Pretty in Pink”, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, “Dirty Dancing” and “Say Anything”, because like any other American teenager, I ‘grew’ up with these movies and like the girls – my classmates at the Corvallis High School - I also cried watching the end of “Pretty in Pink” movie. Yes, I do get it. I do get the American football. However, I was never able to ‘convert’ into the true appreciator of the sports – not during my high school years, not during my college years - and the name Beavers of the college football team didn't help it at all - and not even, while working in San Francisco for one of the biggest football teams – the San Francisco's 49ers. It’s probably has something to do with the fact that I just never have been visually attracted to this sports.
That’s said. I salute the American culture of football, because the American people were able to create, promote and ‘pin’ it in the minds and interests of its citizens so much, that it's become almost an offense for an American not to like it, or, at least – pretend to like it. As for me, I think I watched the Super Bowl only twice in the 20 years of living in USA – and, please, don’t send me the hate mail. One time was for my Advertising course in college, where we had to watch the Super Bowl to see the commercials, which are the most expensive commercials in the world and once during an advertising course at School of Visual Arts, which was part of my Graphic Design program back in 2005. Millions of dollars have been spent by the companies for a commercial spot on the Super Bowl!
Back in 2010, Google spent about $5 million dollars on its ‘Parisian Love’ commercial. Was it worth it? Have they achieved the results? Maybe…at least they know for sure that the commercials have been seen by the millions.
Let’s see what other countries watch the Super Bowl or at least cover the event in the local media.
The NFL's Super Bowl XLVII broadcasted in 30 different languages in more than 185 countries. According to some of the media, even if the international news outlets were broadcasting it, in many of those 185 countries, citizens wouldn’t have noticed it or have cared for the same reasons the Americans wouldn’t really care about the Japanese sumo national tournaments.
Regardless of whether the International publics watch or not watch the Super Bowl, the local news would always come up with the customized reporting – anything from commenting on the players’ personal lives to the quality of the celebrity performers, with the most discussed Beyonce’s performance, since so many were disappointed with her lip-syncing performance at the presidential inauguration.
So, where else the American Football is watched, or, even – as much as appreciated?
Japan, and this is due to the fact that Japanese are pretty much fascinated with everything American – as much as we are fascinated with everything Japanese. Not only they are the most eager buyers and fans of the Apple, they also love Justin Bieber and dreadlocks, but they also have their own professional football and baseball leagues.
There have been some American football activities in Russia, Germany and Austria, but in much of the world, American football remains a niche interest - something like individual private clubs. Besides, if translated in real time – it’s way too late for most of the Europeans to watch.
Again, as it was for me, when I had to watch the Super Bowl game for the sake of seeing the commercials – which have been believed to be not only the most expensive, but the best of the best – so do most of the international audiences. They watch it for the commercials. The international press is more eager to discuss the commercials, rather than talk about the actual game.
So, no Super Bowl in Amsterdam then?
It might take a long time for the other countries to ever express as much interest in the American football as it is in the USA, but do the Americans care? I say, as long as we find the great pleasure in the long-standing tradition of the Super Bowl game watching, it might as well just stay ‘ours’ – for us to see, for us to judge. Let’s leave it to us to decided, who’s singing badly at the event and what beer we are advertised to during the commercial breaks. It’s ours. Hence, let’s leave it up to Ichiro Suzuki, David Bekham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Valentino Rossi, Mani Paquiado, Roger Federer and Dirk Nowitzki to entertain the international sports' audiences.