Sunday night - 50% of the total US viewing population sat down to enjoy the climax to the American Football season. Across the pond in dear old Blighty, a much lower percentage of the British viewing public braved the six hour time difference in an attempt to make sense of the enigma which is America’s Game, and the 47th Super Bowl in New Orleans.
As is typical of our proud culture, we stuck with it for around, what, three minutes before reverting to type and diving for the ever reliable comfort cushion of choice - sarcasm. Or to be more precise, we got bored waiting for Beyonce and started to take the piss.
”Why do they have a Superbowl in a sport where you don’t even bowl?”,
“Aw ref, he was miles offside!!”, (and my own personal favourite ;)
“5th and down with the shotgun up the tight end. Wide zone shaft punt, 3 pints and…..back o’ the net!” were just a small sample of the imagery committed to text in our part of the twitterverse during the match, erm, I mean game.
The general conclusion drawn from such banter is quite simply - we don’t get it. The recurring gripes appear to be:
It stops and starts. Oh! My. Sweet. Lord, does it stop and start.
It’s supposed to last an hour but this manages, with a little extra help on Sunday from New Orleans Electricity Board, to be strung out to almost five.
The apparent aim is for each team to attempt to kill each other, in full view of the general public, but then one of the smaller guys gets singled out and penalised for ‘holding’( on for dear life).
Approximately 6.2 trillion TV commercials are transmitted during the game. Us Brits break the National Grid with simultaneous kettle boiling at such intervals. The Americans are as excited about these ads as they are for the sport itself.
The US commentators impart far too much pointless information on players. Do we need to know which college they went to or that they majored in earthquake preparedness? Let’s be honest, it’s not football. It’s hi-tech rugby – for maniacs.
So why does this game we don’t understand captivate our imagination and ensure a fair chunk of us wouldn’t miss it for the world?
2013 saw the 30th anniversary of the Super Bowl being shown live in the UK. Way back in 1983 it was a baby Channel 4 (with the best ‘ident’ in the stations history), and the mercurial Nicky Horne as presenter. Sunday night saw both BBC and Sky Sports vying for the live UK audience.
‘Super Sunday’ strikes at the heart of the cultural differences between Britain and America. The Super Bowl is not just a game. It’s arguably the biggest event in America’s social calendar. You’re more likely to meet an American who’s never heard of french fries than one who didn’t know what was going down in The Big Easy this Sunday last.
Here’s some more reasons why you should stick with it and spread the Gridiron gospel –
It’s actually a very simple game. Really. Here’s all you need to know in two paragraphs. An American Football team is split into three units. Offence, defense and a special unit for kicking plays. When in possession the offence has four attempts to move the ball ten yards towards the opponents’ goal line.
Once achieved they get another four attempts and so on until they either score a touchdown or kick a field goal. If they don’t achieve the ten yards and are not in a position to score by the fourth attempt (Down) they kick the ball to their opponent who then have their chance to do the same. Each team is allowed 11 players on the field at any one time.
A touchdown is six points with either a one point kick or two points pass conversion opportunity. A field goal is three points. The defensive team can also achieve a two point score – a safety - if it tackles an opponent with the ball over their own goal line. Simple.
A record US national TV audience of 115 million tuned in to watch the excitement this year. 200+ countries added to an estimated worldwide audience of 1 billion at its peak. Whilst this can pale into significance next to the Olympics or FIFA World Cup, as a one off national occasion the Super Bowl can truly lay claim to be the greatest event on the planet.
Only Manchester United versus Liverpool comes close to such numbers on a worldwide audience scale within the Premier League.
With such a large viewing audience comes the prospect of significant advertising revenues. 30 second peak time TV commercials were priced at $4 million with no shortage of Fortune 500 companies queuing up to book their slots. A total of 47 minutes out of the entire broadcast at last year’s Super Bowl were taken up by ads. Over the last ten years, $1.85 billion has been spent on Super Bowl advertising. This game is a monster.
Finally, let’s not forget what America does best – entertainment. On Sunday night not only did we have the majestic Ms Knowles strutting her stuff for the world, she was also joined by Destiny’s Child buddies Kelly and Michelle (albeit for about 30 seconds – remember it’s the Beyonce show, bitches).
We also had Jennifer Hudson joining the Sandy Hook choir for ‘America The Beautiful’ and Alicia Key’s belting out the national anthem. Proper. Stars.
What the Football League wouldn’t give to have Beyonce and a few tons of ticker tape liven things up at the League Cup final this month for Bradford Vs Swansea.
It’s loud, it’s brash, it’s fun, it’s extravagant, it’s in your face, it’s Beyonce telling us we should’ve put a ring on it, it’s the big show, it’s everything America does well and we don’t.
It’s the Super Bowl. Love it or hate it. Just enjoy it.