Monday, 3 February 2014

Super Bowl as Experienced in the Netherlands

Let me preface this post by saying I'm not a huge fan of American Football. For one thing, it takes far too long to watch. What are meant to be 15 minute quarters end up taking at least an hour each! I have neither the patience nor the free time. In fact, the only time we watched it was when the Super Bowl came around, and some friends invited my family and I to come watch. It was our state's team, so we felt compelled to have a look. That was 15 years ago, when the Denver Broncos won two years in a row. The days of John Elway.

Football, perhaps a symbol of America and the American spirit as much as Baseball, is something that baffles me. Not only does it take forever, but they hardly use their feet (so, why "football"). There is a whole language of "1st and tens", "yardlines", or "second downs". 300 pound American men throwing themselves to the ground and pushing each other over, while suited up to an immense level of padding. What is also startling is how over the top it can get. Cheerleaders and mascots running about madly, rabid fans painted to the gills, food that exists only to assure the longevity of cardiologists' careers...not to mention fireworks, marching bands and goodness knows what else.

And it is for this reason I rather like it. It is so...American. Being over here in the Netherlands I didn't expect to watch the Super Bowl. With the knowledge that my old state's team had played an incredible season of football and was headed to the Super Bowl, I felt once again compelled to catch some of it. Luckily for me, sports bars abound here in the city of Groningen, and one was having a right old shindig for the Super Bowl. Perfect!

It surprised me, in fact. I thought that here (where it is legal and fairly common), "Super Bowl" might bring to mind a rather excellent selection altering substances. Surprisingly, I found out the Dutch are fairly knowledgeable about American sports. (They probably know more than I do, let's be honest). They even have an American Football Team, the Groningen Giants, who were out in force with their cheerleaders. It was really most bizarre. 

Decked out in my best orange and blue (GO BRONCOS!) I sat myself down next to some chaps who were also rooting for Denver. Many people were wearing jerseys or team ball caps; others decked out in red, white and blue. American flags were hung all over the bar. I was terrified someone was going to ask me to explain the rules, but as I've previously stated, the Dutch know their way around a football field. Most of the bar was supporting the Broncos, which was great.  We could all shout at the television together. (And, unfortunately a lot of shouting was needed as they didn't play their best...). By Halftime, most of the bar had switched sides to support the Seattle Seahawks. Granted, it is much more fun to support a winning team...

I felt oddly nostalgic as I watched, sat in a comfortable corner of a bar in the north of the Netherlands. What a strange place to find myself! I felt an uncanny surge of patriotism and smiled fondly at the jets flying over, the marching band, the coin toss; what a spectacle! So over the top, loud, brash and so wonderfully, beautifully American. Such a performance would not work anywhere else in the world. It made me miss Colorado for a moment; I thought of all the people I know who would be out supporting the team. I slowly remembered the rules as the game got under way, thinking back to the cold evenings spent on bleachers with friends at the High School Homecoming game. The whole community came together. The smell of chili dogs and nachos, the sound of feet stamping in time to "Let's go Pirates, let's go" and people with painted faces waving signs and flags.

The Broncos may not have won, but it was still an enjoyable night for me. I liked seeing another culture get wholeheartedly behind a different country's sporting event. But now, I will turn my focus back on to 6 Nations Rugby, in which the men do not wear padding and do not stand about making 90 minutes stretch for hours.