Canterbury Tales: Super Bowl XL

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This past Saturday my mates (English vernacular!) and I departed our flats (again!) for downtown Canterbury to watch the Super Bowl at a pub with members of the local semi-pro American Football team, the Kent Falcons. We were sure this experience would lend much insight as to just how “American” we were as well as to the English perception of Americans.

We were not let down.

To save the suspense, I’ll say right now that apparently the British (at least one) think Americans, “Sit on the couch and eat hot dogs.” That is a direct quote from a rather large English (don’t even think about calling them British) man that clearly hadn’t shaved in several weeks (I’ll call him Billy). He was also wearing a cowboy hat (which I found ironic). According to my friend Dave, the 6’5″ 160 pound starting wide receiver of the esteemed Falcons, the aforementioned large man was on the team but for an inexplicable reason didn’t have a position.

Because of the time difference, the game was slated to start at 11 o’clock Canterbury time, but we were told to head down at 9 in order to get a spot and pay a cover to get in because the pub was staying open late (illegally). The cover was largely in part to defray the cost of the inevitable arrival of police and the ensuing citation and fine

We were lied to. There was absolutely no need to get there as early as Dave had thought.

In addition to the 5 of us, there was the majority of the prestigious Kent Falcons (on the whole a great bunch of guys, but God-Awful football players). According to Josiah, an American who practiced briefly with the Falcons, this “semi-pro” team is only slightly more organized than the game my friends and I have been playing the day before Thanksgiving since 5th grade, the exception being pads and nifty uniforms.

Since we had arrived two hours prior to the game, we staked out some good seats near a TV and watched an obscure Spanish-League soccer game. It was still a good time, we had some drinks and talked with some of the football players, including very briefly with Billy, who in his second round with us did not manage uplift us with words of affection for Americans. Only because I saw that the back of his jersey said “Care Bear” does he get an A+ in my book.

The game was finally about to start and much to our dismay we would not be seeing American commercials, but, to our pleasant surprise the American announcers would be broadcasted. Around this time, the bartender decides to begin drinking as well. Apparently he thought to himself, “Self, since I’m keeping this place open illegally, and I’m already surrounding by a large group of drunk twenty-somethings, and there’s no need to have any sort of sober authority figure, why can’t I have a drink or two?” This decision will prove to have interesting repercussions as the night progresses.

As the game goes on, the bartender (still relatively sober) adds a stipulation – because of the noise outside – he is locking the door and the only way to get out is to get the key from him, and once out, you won’t be let back in. After this, every time the noise in the pub got to what many would deem “normal pub levels” the bartender would proceed to yell and threaten to kick everyone out if they didn’t quiet down. So now we have a drunk AND paranoid bartender.

My friend Amy, a lovely girl who hails from Pittsburgh, one of the two cities represented in this year’s Super Bowl, is watching the game with a vigor and intensity I’ve never before seen in a female. She came down prepared, with a Steelers shirt as well as a “Terrible Towel” (which I attempted to use as a handkerchief, something she did not appreciate as humor).

By halftime, it was about 1:30 in the morning, we had consumed a sufficient number of pints, and with tensions rising it seemed like a good time to head back to our flats.

I heard from a couple of friends who stayed for the entire game that by the time the game was over, at around 4 in the morning, there were less than 10 people in the pub, the bartender had almost gotten into several fights and by then had sobered up to the point where he could lay his arms and head on the bar and wonder aloud what had happened, as well as pray for the swift conclusion of the game.

Despite only staying for half of the game, my hopes of a unique experience that would offer many interesting insights about English and American culture were not unfulfilled.

First of all, any thoughts of the Super Bowl mattering in the least to even a small percentage of the international population are false.

Secondly, the reason that the English love to mock the Super Bowl is because they see that it isn’t actually about the game itself, it’s about the hype surrounding the game, the idea of the Super Bowl. From the time we are young, American society is groomed to treat the Super Bowl as something holy, no matter who was playing. For example, this year’s Super Bowl had the highest rating of any Super Bowl since 1996. And from talking to friends and reading articles from the States, the general consensus was that no one actually cared about who won or lost the game. People watched not because they cared about the outcome but because they expected it is a social construction.

Third, English soccer is drastically different in just about every way. The part of England where I live, Manchester United is generally the team of choice. Any hopes of finding a seat in a pub if you arrive less than 30 minutes early for a Man-U game are in vain. There is noise and side banter during the game of course, but at least 90% of the chairs are pointed directly at the TV and the people sitting in those chairs are silent. They actually care about who wins, the commercials are the same ones shown during sitcoms or news programs. They are watching the game to find out who wins, and to be entertained by the athleticism and skill of those playing.

And finally, there are people that exist in the world that enjoy going to the Super Bowl drunk, with a cowboy hat on, wearing a football jersey that says “Care Bear” on the back.