Sunday, 3 February 2013

In order to decide the best one at something inexplicable to me

There have been 32 Super Bowls during my lifetime and I have watched none of them. The first one was on January 25th 1981 and was called Super Bowl XV. This made me feel old until I remembered that America is particularly historically deprived. It turns out that the first Super Bowl did not happen until 1967, which is almost 1968. Super Bowl XV was held five days after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as the 40th President of the United States, an event so unlikely I still can't believe it happened. Five days, too, after the release of the American hostages in Iran. The patriotic fervour obviously had a positive effect on the Oakland Raiders, who beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10. Both teams celebrated by not getting to another Super Bowl until the mid-2000s. Neither have won it since. Losers.

This is an American Football. It is the wrong shape,
but not for playing American Football with

Today's Super Bowl is called Super Bowl XLVII, which is Super Bowl 47 in normal. It is between the Baltimore Ravens, who are from Baltimore and the San Francisco 49ers who are from San Francisco and are also a sexual position. Five days ago North Korea launched a rocket for no particularly good reason and Ronald Reagan continued to be deceased, as he has been every day consecutively since June 5th 2004.

The American hostages returning from Iran: that's doing it a bit brown

But the most seismic event about Super Bowl XLVII is that I am going to watch it and finally find out what all the fuss is about. I hope that Beyoncé doesn't mime the half-time show. Or else they'll set OJ Simpson on her. And so tonight on my blog you will be able to join me as I try and understand what the hell is going on. Will one of the teams do it? Or will there be a penalty shoot-out? This will also be my first ever game of American Football, so everything is up for grabs. Will American Football turn out to be better or worse than Rugby League? This is a rhetorical question. No sport is worse than Rugby League.

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23.17 I have just emerged from what can only be described as a tactical disco nap and now I am READY TO GO.

23.19 What the hell is going on?

23.20 Apropos of nothing, this is day three of my 28-day vegetarian food-only diet. The food is nice but I am farting like a horse. Like a HORSE.

23.23 Perhaps this is why soccer has taken such a long time to get a foothold in the United States: the FA Cup final doesn't feature enough emotionally exploitative jingoistic singalongs.

23.24 Presumably some sort of sporting event is going to break out at any moment.

23.26 There is a spirited discussion of the talents of Baltimore's Ray Lewis which represents perhaps the most glowing assessment of any sportsman's ability I have heard in cases where they could easily be replaced by a side of beef, or an oak dresser.

23.30 OK, consider this the one-off, catch-all post regarding the way American sport serves television, whereas European sport is served by television. There. I said it.

23.32 Heavens, someone just kicked a ball. Now they're going to start beating up on each other.

23.33 They're going to have to replay the first down because of an illegal formation. Apparently. This is going to be a long night.

23.35 San Francisco are the red ones, right? This is an important tactical choice.

23.38 DRAMA. The Baltimore quarterback (Bauterback) just chucked the ball miles up the field. This could prove significant.

23.40 Offside. Will we sports fans ever be free?

23.41 TOUCHDOWN! Oh my word. It's my first ever touchdown. What an event. As the US networks celebrate with a hearty 20-minute commercial break, I get to reflect on Baltimore's quarterback and dashing number 5 shirt Joe Flacco who is chucking the ball about with some gusto. This time a man who is the biggest man I have ever seen caught it on some grass which is for some reason blue. Then the kicking man converted it, just like in a good old-fashioned rugger. It is Baltimore 7-0 San Francisco.

23.44 I could really go for some football now. That touchdown has got the blood running to my shoulder. How ironic that it should also have triggered a full-on infomercial marathon. The trouble with watching the Super Bowl on the BBC is that you can't possibly expect to have the same experience as viewers in the US. Advertisers invest so heavily in their Super Bowl commercials that they are almost a part of the game.

23.47 Football has started again. San Francisco provide an immediate piece of excitement with one of their players getting hold of the ball and legging it a full nineteen yards before he is flattened by a defender the size of a tree.

23.49 This game is beginning to remind me a lot of proper football, in that there is clearly a level of tactical nous and refinement at work here, but it is taking place at a level that goes right over my head. What I'm seeing on the field is total chaos. It's almost reassuring.

23.51 One innovation I would like to see in European sport is the way there are two completely different teams for if you're attacking or if you're defending. But on the flip-side, it would be deeply amusing to me to see all of the reedy sophisticated Pythagorian ball-players to also have to do all the defending, or the colossal lunatic fatties have to try and extrapolate a 45-yard pass to a moving target.

23.54 Field goal! San Francisco bum up a chance for a touchdown when their big fat player drops it in the end zone, but make up for it thanks to the piston-like boot of Jimmy Kickpuncher. Now in commercials. I am rapidly discovering that for the true gridiron purist, the worst thing that could possibly happen is that either side score. Because it means no more football for 5-10 minutes. Ho-hum. Baltimore 7-3 San Francisco.

00.01 The most significant thing in the build up to this match is that the teams are coached by two brothers. If only their parents had taught them the importance of sharing, none of this would be happening.

00.04 The Baltimore number 82 has preposterous hair. He reminds me a little of The Predator, who would almost certainly be a good American Football player.

00.06 I keep thinking about Charlie Brown.

00.07 According to the BBC studio analyst, football often looks like a game of chess. Which poses a series of questions.

00.08 If he'd said Twister, I'd be more inclined to believe him.

00.09 We're back under way! The startling innovation here is that they take shorter commercial breaks for the end of a quarter than they do for either team scoring. The equivalent in football would be to take a 20 minute break every time a player scored a goal. Which is how Aston Villa defend. #satire

00.11 I've not heard anyone say "23! 48! 72! Hike! Hike! Hut Hut Hut!" yet. I feel television has misled me.

00.12 These gentlemen are enormous. San Francisco's number 23 just tried to skilfully feint to turn his man and get away up the wing. His reward was to be clattered by a defender the size of a bison and drop the ball. So possession reverts to the other team. I think Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have enjoyed American Football.

00.15 A series of slow-motion replays are celebrating this tackle with glowing praise. In any other sport he would be subject to the most harsh criticism. But which is the right reaction? I think all sports should adopt one player who is allowed to defend in the fashion of Baltimore's monolithic number 91 shirt. But having loads of them on either team does seem a bit like overkill.

00.18 It's still Baltimore 7-3 San Francisco, which is making advertisers nervous.

00.19 Quarterbacks must have arms like pistons. I've been trying to figure out how far I reckon I could throw an American Football. It is not far. And that's without 2500lbs of gristle running at me at 10 mph.

00.21 TOUCHDOWN! The line of scrimmage was only two yards from the end zone, but the Ravens quarterback didn't let this fact dissuade him from making some plays and flinging the pigskin right into this shit. It was converted, too. Baltimore 14-3 San Francisco.

00.24 I wish I could see the commercials. I reckon I would enjoy the commercials more than a British Olympic rower explaining the completely inexplicable, i.e. why he supports the San Francisco 49ers. We're back under way, making everyone question why some gridiron players have a towel hanging out the back of their trousers like a tail. In a sport where the likelihood of a helmeted assailant grabbing hold of you is reasonably high.

00.30 This is where my total lack of understanding of the sport is a major handicap. A fight broke out, necessitating official intervention. But it looked so much like the regular gameplay I'm not sure how they called it.

00.33 Idea: combination All-American Aport. The meat of the game is like gridiron, but on either goalpost there is a basketball hoop for opportunistic 2- and 3-point shots. And one player at a time is allowed to wield a baseball bat.

00.35 Baltimoreterback Joe Flacco is so good at chucking the ball miles that he's gone all the way over the end zone several times. This time, The Predator was under it, legs going away like pistons, but to no avail. It's all Baltimore at the moment, as long as I have correctly assumed that they're the ones in white shirts.

00.37 Watching some replays of an interception. The slow-motion replay is very important here, as it shows off details that you might miss in real time. Notably, that once one player has grabbed hold of another to tackle them, everyone else just dives on, regardless of what team they play for. Or if they're even playing at all. There's an Irish grandmother, half-cut on Guinness, still perched atop the scrimmage hitting someone with her umbrella.

00.42 San Francisco have a Defensive Safety called Darcel McBath. And we can only thank god for that.

00.45 Two minutes to half time. Which means it will be half time in about 15 minutes.

00.48 Mother futchdown! Joe Flacco passes the ball about as far as you can get it without employing FedEx and an optimistic receiver called Jacoby Jones who is standing in Ecuador suddenly finds himself with a ball dropping out of the sky into his lap. He recovers from this shock, picks himself up off the floor and hares it over the line. It was very exciting stuff. Let's all chug a beer! Half time in an hour! Baltimore 21-3 San Francisco. It's difficult to see San Francisco coming back here, because they are dreadful.

00.55 Predictably, San Francisco have now moved into their most meaningful spell of attacking dominance of the match so far. I love quarterbacks. In fact, David Beckham used to play for England like a quarterback, delivering finely weighted long-distance passes whilst the rest of his gristle-headed teammates ran around aimlessly.

00.58 San Francisco kick their second field goal to go into half time trailing 6 to 21. It's go time for Beyoncé. What controversy will the half time show bring this year? Men everywhere hope it's in the Janet Jackson way.

01.01 Of course, the awesome organisation, integration and choreography of American sports makes things like the Super Bowl half time show possible. It's hard to imagine the kind of abject chaos that would reign if someone decided to try a similar thing during the FA Cup final. Electrocutions. Nail gun accidents. Trades Union outrages.

01.13 Woman wearing a bin bag dances to Beyoncé records. Wait a minute! It IS Beyoncé.

01.20 Do you reckon Jay-Z is a considerate lover?

01.22 Stars In Their Eyes having finished, we're just minutes away from some more I Can't Believe It's Not Rugger.

01.32 LUDICROUS TOUCHDOWN Well I never. San Francisco kick off the second half, it's caught by Baltimore's Jacoby Jones and he just runs the entire length of the field for a touchdown. This, it seems, is a fairly rare occurence. As one might imagine it to be, considering the amount of steaming huge psychos wearing armour between the two end zones. It's Baltimore 28-6 San Francisco, whose no doubt in-depth half time team talk obviously did the trick. Maybe their players were all busy dancing back-up for Beyoncé?

01.38 Half of the lights have just gone out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. I'm not entirely sure whether or not this is supposed to have happened.

01.39 When they're not playing this Super Bowl, they are showing clips of old Super Bowls. It's like a Super Bowl assault on the senses. Meanwhile, it turns out that half the lights were not meant to go out. Candles are coming out.

01.42 I'm giving them until 2 to sort the lights out or else I'm going to bed. I was bewildered enough when everything was running smoothly.

01.44 What sports are there to play professionally for short-arsed scrawny Americans?

01.58 I'm tired.

02.01 The galling thing I have just realised is that there's not really much of a difference between a twenty-minute power outage and what happens when someone scores a touchdown, in terms of being a television viewer.

02.06 None of this would happen if they played this game outside and at a reasonable hour.

02.08 I am really questioning whether or not my going to bed now would represent a failure on my part or a failure on somebody else's. And, as it's past 2 a.m., whether or not I really care either way any more.

02.10 I think that, in situations like this, they should just resort to a 10 minute paintball contest.

02.12 This is still better than Rugby League.

02.15 Wacko Flacco *weeps*

02.21 Power failure.

08.01 Ah, that's better. Rumours of Far-Eastern betting syndicates be damned, as the power outage proved to be no help to the forlorn San Francisco 49ers were beaten 34-31 by the invincible (admittedly I have a very limited data set) Baltimore Ravens.

So, what do I think? Well, for a start, the need to sort their floodlights out. But beyond that, I find the stop-start nature took a little bit of getting used to. I would just start to get into the whole thing, feel a surge of excitement as one of the teams scored and think that this might well prove to be the sport for me. But then would come a break for commercials so drawn-out that by the time play restarted I would have forgotten the rules.

I didn't find the whole experience displeasing at all. In fact, I think that I could get into the whole idea. I reckon American Football viewed as a highlights package would prove to be a ceaseless thrill ride. Perhaps that's the best way for me to engage with it, though. I am a little old man and like to be in bed early, so the insurmountable obstacle in my watching future Super Bowls live will always be the time difference. Come the day I am in America on the big day, or they play the match in Swansea, I'll be straight there with a ten-quart skein of pilsner and a hat with clapping foam hands on.

1 comment:

Chopper said...

Firstly I'm a bit upset that you were only just born when I saw my first ever Super Bowl in 1982. I realise that's not your fault but way to make me feel old!

Secondly, back in the good old days (as us Ole Timers say) Channel 4 used to have a weekly highlights show and it WAS thrilling. Action packed all the way without any of the tedious breaks.

That said, last night was just as thrilling. I've not watched much gridiron over the last 10 years but last night has reignited the bug.

Possibly not entirely unrelated I am now also completely knackered.

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