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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Brits first ever Super Bowl musings

In England there’s a programme on BBC radio four called ‘I’ve never seen Star Wars’. It’s a comedy show where celebrity guests are invited to partake in some cultural experience that so far in their lives they’ve avoided, like karaoke, watching a premier league football match, or going to see Harry Potter.
We’ve had to move out of our apartment on Gringo Hill, as Sue has other guests booked. Picaroon is still not quite ready to go back in the water, so we’re staying in the hotel that Rudolf is staying in, for a few days. (Remember Rudolf; cruiser with broken leg, can’t get on or off his boat.) It’s Sunday, and we’ve arranged another Jam session round at his hotel balcony. It’s at this gathering that we discover that today is a big important day in the American sporting calendar, today is the day of the Super bowl final, and Wendy’s bar will be airing it on their big screen. Well actually it’s a white bed sheet strung up at the end of the room, but for Luperon it’s THE place to be tonight. So this afternoon session wraps up at six so our American friends can all get down to watch the match.  Apparently it’s a football game, Rudolf tells me, but it’s not the game that they’re all keen to see, no, the highlight of this big occasion is the commercials that punctuate the proceedings. I assume this is American ironic humour, coming from Rudolf, but the others confirm that the ads, which seemingly will have cost millions to make, are not too be missed, and I have to remind myself that irony is not a natural American trait.
So with nothing better to do this evening we decide that we need to see what all the hullabaloo is about, and trip off down to Wendy’s, for our very own “ I’ve never seen Star wars” moment.
Wendy’s is already full, an hour before kick-off, well, all five tables are occupied by ex-pat Americans engaged in loud animated conversation, and there’s a sense of celebration in the air. We take the last two unoccupied seats by the glassless window, perched on high chairs with a perfect voyeur’s view of the bar, and the screen, showing the pundits pre-game analysis. The volume is loud, and ESPN is in Spanish, which no-ones paying any attention to; the room awash with conflicting electronic and human babble. A couple of our American cruiser friends try to explain the rules of how this football game works so we’ll be able to understand what’s going on when the game starts.
One team, Alisha tells us, will have the ball and they’ll get four goes at taking the ball ten yards forward, if they get ten yards then they get another four goes. The other team, of course will try to stop them, using fair means or foul, to do so. The quarterback is the massive guy at the back who controls where the ball goes, by throwing it to somebody (or was it, catching it). “Hang on, if this is foot-ball, why are they using their hands”, I ask, only to be met with a bemused stare. So now we know the rules.
The match build up continues, the screen now showing about a thousand marching band players doing a choreographed parade, spelling out NFL, in the giant stadium, and footage of the teams trouping out into this massive area, along with cheer leaders and cameo celebrity shots, then the screen goes dead.
We’ve had a power cut, just ten minutes before the start. A temporary supply is rigged up and the screen flashes back to life showing a close up of some woman starting to sing. At this point something very curious happens as the bar falls to a hush and the majority of these wayward independent cruisers stand to attention facing the screen. The singer is belting out the American national anthem and over half the crew in Wendy’s are mouthing the words and welling up.
They’re a curious bunch, Americans, the patriotic streak runs very deep, much deeper than us Brits sat on the sidelines. They are often astounded that we don’t know the ins-and-outs of our Royal Family, that we don’t even know the name of the princesses’ new baby.
The big screen is showing commercials for Coca Cola, MacDonalds, Ford, Doritos, there’s even an elaborate ad for Always, the preferred American sanitary towel, and then the game begins, and everybody goes back to heated conversations.
American “football” players are big lads, huge, and they are all clad in plastic armour and helmets with visor protectors making them appear twice the size they actually are and look more like robots. They line up facing each other in a half crouched position in the middle of the field, and a whistle blows. At this point they appear to run off in all and every direction at high speed with no sign of a ball anywhere until the camera is focusing on some poor soul being buried beneath a mountain of players in the opposing teams’ colours. The blue team, are the Seattle Seahawks, last years’ champions, and in white, the New England Patriots, who are the favourites, so we’re told. Although I try to follow what is going on in the match, I’m at a loss. No sooner have they started with all this running about and bumping into each other, they stop, regroup in the crouched line up and start again. The ball seems to be illusive, I don’t know if they’re allowed to stuff it up their tunic tops, but I hardly ever catch sight of it. Not so the audience in Wendy’s who hoot and howl and holler now as the Patriots gets close to a big blue part of the field, at the far end of the pitch. Here it’s a bit like English rugby, this is the touch down area but, whereas in rugby you have to touch the ball to the ground, in this game it seems that if you’re standing in that area and catch it, that constitutes a score of six points. Then like rugby they get a go at kicking the ball over the goal posts for an extra one point, so it’s now 7-0 to the Patriots.
And now it’s swiftly back to the commercials, in fact, so far we’ve had about ten minutes of play and about twenty minutes of adverts. This one is showing us how the breadwinner of the family is struck down with a dreaded disease, or killed in a tragic accident leaving the family impoverished forever, unless your covered by, and another here with a host of little kids with no legs running about on those prosthetic legs that, what’s-his-face, the South African athlete made famous. I think it was supposed to be about never giving up whatever your handicap, or maybe it was an advert for soup. Another is about a mechanical device that you strap on if you’ve got bad knees, all very inspiring stuff, I’m sure you agree. Despite what Rudolf said about people watching it for the commercials, although I am, the rest of the room is just becoming a cacophony of noise competing with the commercials, and then suddenly the game is back on.
As I said it’s no easy task following what’s going on, for instance, why do they keep showing pictures of blokes on the sidelines with headphones and mics on. They’re not commentators, they look like coaches or managers, shouting into their mics, but to who, or should that be whom. Maybe the quarterback, who seemingly is numero uno hombre, and has a similar hidden headset, or maybe he’s just calling his wife to say that he may be a little late for supper. It’s most confusing. The rising tide of noise explodes as some robot in blue catches the ball in the whites blue area before being crashed to the ground by the incredible hulk.  Patriots 14-Seahawks 14, and thank God it’s half time, I for one am exhausted, and not just a little deaf, with my tinnitus having been kick-started into action. I retire across the street to sit with an old Dominican couple sitting on the pavement outside their house opposite Wendy’s for cinco minutos of tranquillo.
When I get back to the game, half time has turned into the closing ceremony at the Olympic Games. Some girl singer is riding the back of an enormous tiger robot, singing eye of the tiger, I think. Another singer, again a girl is suspended high above the stadium on a flying wire; tough cookies these American female vocalists. I notice that the mic has a safety strap clipped to her wrist although there’s no sign of a safety strap on the flying vocalist. A massive firework display brings the half time show to a finale, coupled with another ad for Coke and MacDonalds, and the second half begins.
All now is unadulterated noise and general pandemonium as the big screen audio competes with the small stadium which Wendy’s Bar has become. High fives are being exchanged as the Sea Hawks surge ahead 27-21, and still I haven’t been able to spot the ball except when someone gets up from underneath a small hillock of robots, and then it’s gone again, among much random running about.
By three quarters time I’ve run out of steam, we’ve failed to win in the sweepstake and my ears can’t tolerate much more of the din. Also I don’t have any idea what’s going on, and truthfully don’t care, I sort of enjoyed the commercials. They weren’t that special and, to my mind, there were too many of them and they got in the way of the game. Had there been fewer ads I may have got the hang of the rules, but just when you thought you were getting close, the commercials would break in and when we got back to the game I had to start over again, trying to figure what the fuss was all about.
We said our farewells, before it finished, came back to our hotel, poured a couple of glasses of rum and switched on the TV to catch the end of the game without the backdrop of Wendy’s Bar. I promptly fell asleep, so I missed the end of the match, I’ve no idea how it concluded, but it was an experience; big screen Super bowl in Luperon. So now we’ve done Super bowl maybe we need to subject ourselves to some other meaningless entertainment, I’ve never been to a karaoke night in my life, the idea sounds positively alien to my musician ethos but, Friday night is karaoke night at Wendy’s Bar and everyone says how it’s a cracking night and we must come down.

As for doing another Super bowl, I think just the one time will be enough, thank you.