by Sam Winston
The sandwich board outside the redlight district bar read "Africa Cup/Super Bowl Party" in scribbled chalk and I expected to see Americans coming out of the woodworks for this mecca of American sporting events. Kickoff time came just after midnight here in Hamburg.
However, the anticipated expat crowd was reduced to myself, another American friend who had served in the Marine Corps, a Swede who was watching his first ever complete football game, an Aussie Air Emirates flight crew member who most certainly had no concept of time and consequently found himself in a pub, a couple sitting in the corner that was paying no attention to the game, and some South Africans that had stayed to have a drink after the soccer was finished. Them and a giant bucket of KFC chicken wings we picked up for the game (trying to translate "blue-cheese dressing" in German is pure comedy).
For the game broadcast, you always hear the broadcasters say this game is being broadcast in 220 countries and 2,000 languages or something like that but it was strange nonetheless. Sky Sports, the British sports network, carried it in the pub with what had to be the worst professional broadcast/analyst crew on the planet. They had their lead anchor who was late on just about all of his cues and was clearly a failure in the American sports broadcasting world. Then there was the obscure wide receiver allegedly from the Patriots first Superbowl team in 2001, a South African/Aussie sounding guy who I'd never heard of and seriously question if he was actually on the team. An the topper, the SMU special teams coach with a bad frosty dye-job who tried to work the telestrator. The SMU special teams coach? Really? Luckily, the regular FOX commentators actually called the game.
Then there were also the commercials. Actually there wasn't. The lionshare of the break time was "analysis" from the goon squad and occasionally the regular 3 a.m. advertising aimed at Brits who are trying to catch soccer highlights. My friend from the Marines was supremely disappointed because he had watched the game the last 4 years on the American Armed Forces Network, which also doesn't show the commercials. He said instead its a bunch of really low budget, poorly made Army ads of Generals telling the troops not to drink and drive or to follow some other obvious rules they have.
The game itself, it goes without saying, was unbelievable. The Mannings a.k.a. the Kennedys of New Orleans must be overwhelmed. The Patriots, not sure where they go from here.
As for me, the silence on the streets afterwards, and the overall absence of the event in general, much like Thanksgiving was another sure marker of American identity. No hollowed out avocado dip and chip crumbs. No guest that drank too much, or the jerk that won a lot money and is all too happy to let everyone know about it. No post-game post-game analysis from the non-football fan that thinks number such and such is so "courageous". No sweat champagne soaked athletes with big grins and not a whole lot to say. No somber interviews from just outside the locker room of the losing team. Just a sleepy taxi driver cruising down Gaertnerstrasse and a stomach ache from too many chicken wings.