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Watching Super Bowl XLIII — Random Thoughts of a Cultural Outsider

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageCC2K's Phoebe Raven chronicles her thoughts watching the biggest sports event in America as somewhat of an cultural outsider. Can she make sense of America's favorite pastime?

Ever since my exchange year in Wisconsin almost a decade ago, I have been interested in American Football. I am interested in sports in general, I want to know the rules to all the games and understand what makes them special and interesting.
American Football is a special case though. We don’t get to see any of the games here in Germany and they canceled the NFL Europe a few years back. The only thing we get is the Super Bowl, at least in parts.
The Super Bowl is on in the middle of the night here. I don’t get to watch/have to watch any of the commercials, the broadcasting station is commercial-free for 90% of any day.
This year I only remembered the game was happening Monday and had to look up online who was playing. I didn’t have any off the bat sympathy for any team. But eventually I had to choose.
Here are my random thoughts and experiences watching Super Bowl XLIII as somewhat of a cultural outsider wanting in:

23:45* I get my snacks ready. Nachos, cheese dip, two kinds of muffins I baked, some chocolate and… well, I am lacking soda and I don’t like beer, so water has to do.

00:05 I am annoyed by the German TV showing news instead of the pre-game show. But then again, news are more important.

00:10 Finally we go live to Florida. Some German ex-NFL player, who has a close relationship to the Cardinals (I’ll find out his name later) is asked for his opinion. So is a German handball player, who lives in the States apparently now that he retired from active sport last year. He likes the Steelers.

00:12 They show a profile about Kurt Warner**. Such a shame that a man as good-looking and talented as him is such a religious nut-brain. But at least he seems a decent human being.

00:23 They show more reports, one about doping in the NFL. Apparently, so experts say, there is a lot of it, but no one really cares, because there are no independent people to really check what the athletes do. Who still believes ANY professional sport can do without doping? That’s like still believing in Santa Claus.

00:28 Jennifer Hudson sings the National Anthem and it’s great, because she has been through so much these past months. Also, she can totally sing. Awesomeness.

00:30 Kick-off. Here we go.

00:35 Some time into the first plays I wonder: why are running backs/tight ends such divas and extroverts (with long hair and what have you) and quarterbacks almost always white?

00:37 Watching the Cardinals’ defensive players show off their muscles for stopping a touchdown at the 1-yard-line, I think: “Football is such a sport for machos and show-offs and men who are overcompensating.” That may be unfair, but there is something about the cocky strut that irks me.

00:39 Roethlisberger** attempts the touchdown himself. Kudos, my man. Though it is challenged and….

00:42 The touchdown is no good. I am excited, but only for the sake of me wanting an upset win by the Cardinals. (To explain, my high school team in my one year in Wisconsin were also the Cardinals, other than that I have no relationship to Arizona, but you have to pick a team or it’s no fun.)

00:48 Troy Polamalo** from Pittsburgh is the epitome of that diva type I mentioned, even though he is on the defensive line (at least I think so). Those long curls are…well, inconvenient when playing sports is the least offensive I can come up with. You can’t even read the name on the back of his jersey!!!

00:50 An Australian punter on the Cardinals’ team makes them even more likable. I like Aussies.

00:51 $260 million intake just from the commercials, so the German commentators say. Sheesh. Just sheesh.

00:53 Roethlisberger has the plays jotted down on his wristband. Isn’t that cheating???


Firtgerald gets tackled by Polamalo. Manes meet.

00:55 Larry Fitzgerald is more worried about his braids than the almost interception his teammate corner guard on the field just made.

00:58 Someone in an ESPN video I watched called it right: the most important match-up right now is the Cardinal Defense vs. Heath Miller. Damn, that guy catches everything thrown at him.

01:01 Looking at the score after the first quarter, I suddenly wonder how in high school we had games that ended 21-54. Maybe I just remember that wrong.

01:03 Also, I do think it’s a good idea to have the game in Florida. It’s not icy cold, it doesn’t rain. That makes for more fun for everyone. Compared to last year.

01:08 One big pile of men and it’s a touchdown. This game is so disorienting.

01:10 You can complain about the low scores in soccer all you want, you Americans, but at least you get 45 minutes of uninterrupted game play each half. All these breaks in football are ridiculous.

01:14 Damn, Matt Leinart is hot! Just standing at the sideline, listening to his iPod.

01:18 That Polamalo guy is on the defensive line of Pittsburgh, his hair is still ridiculous. Nice tumble he took there, flying ten yards into nothing.

01:20 What a pass by Warner! He had time, they guarded him well. And Boldin catches it and makes it to the 1-yard-line.

01:20 TOUCHDOWN!!! Wooot. The Cardinals worked their way down the field, playing a diversified game that was great to watch. The Steelers gave Warner too much time to check his options and pass. See, I know something about football.

01:31 Arizona’s Weston runs and runs and runs all the way back to the Pittsburgh 40. I knew Arizona had more to bring than some made it out. The Steelers were hyped, but the underdogs can draw from that. Remember the Giants last year?

01:33 What’s with the helmet with a black visor one of the players is wearing? Who does he think he is, Darth Vader?

01:35 The German commentators talk about the upcoming halftime show and Bruce Springsteen. Since I am neither a man, nor middle-aged, nor American, I can safely spend the halftime break in the bathroom and heating more cheese dip. Tom Petty was boring last year too. I think you have to be in the stadium to really enjoy these halftime things.

01:37 Michael Adams takes down a Steeler at their 10-yard-line after a punt and acts like he just performed a successful hemispherectomy, dancing and strutting and so on. It was just a tackle, Mickey!

01:41 Interception Cardinals. And the responsible linebacker is only a tad more modest than Michael Adams was before. Ah, supersized egos, gotta love ‘em!

01:43 One fan (named “Razor”, American much?) gives an interview for the German guy on the sidelines and says he spent $3000 on the trip, including tickets, hotel room and so on. That is just insane!!! The last game tickets were being sold for $3000 in the parking lot today. No game in the world is worth that kind of money! Especially not when you have such an amazing view from the TV screen.

01:47 I will refrain from commenting on Cheerleaders. They deserve a whole other category of mockery, not for lack of athletic ability (they have that), but for all the fake cheerfulness reminding me of an Energizer Bunny on X and Cocaine, combined with the added diminishing of the value of females by those uniforms. Oops, now I did comment.

01:49 18 seconds on the clock and 2 yards to another Cardinal touchdown! Never mind cheerleaders now.

01:50 Interception and a 98-yard run to a Pittsburgh touchdown??? But there’s a flag. The touchdown counts. What is going on? This is crazy. The longest interception return in a Super Bowl ever, marked at 100 yards.

01:55 More waiting for a decision. See why this is frustrating?

01:56 Well, time to pack out all those cheesy speeches for the locker room to motivate the Cardinals. I need to go get rid of the water in my bladder, but want to find out the name of that German ex-NFL guy giving his opinion.

01:57 It’s Tom Nütten. Look him up, I can’t be bothered. Is he qualified to say his piece? I’m off to the bathroom.

02:03 German TV shows more world news while the stage is being set up for Springsteen. Yes, in Germany we like to stay on top of things even in the middle of the night.

02:08 I eat a sweet pepper-feta muffin and check my email while Bruce sings a song I can’t identify. Sorry, I don’t like classic rock all that much.

02:16 A bit of catching up on celebrity sightings, the Heisman trophy and the exact location of Ossining, New York later I still can’t identify any song Springsteen sang. I bop my head along, but, eh, oh well. The fireworks are cool though. I am a bit of a pyromaniac.

02:19 Look how ordered and quickly the people leave the field after Bruce is done. They are organized over there, dayum.

02:25 You know what the problem with Tom Nütten offering his opinion is? He has been living in America for so long, he is beginning to forget his native language of German. His syntax is all off, he searches for words all the time and the result is only barely coherent or informative.

02:34 I am pondering the fitness/endurance of a football player vs. a soccer player, who has to constantly run up and down a 100-meter long field for forty-five minutes straight and then for another forty-five after a fifteen minute break. Who would have the longer breath?

02:41 They fax still pictures of plays from upstairs in the stadium down to the coaches so they can analyze what happens within minutes of the play? That is insane! How much money, manpower and coordination all that takes. It’s just sport after all.

Image02:46 What do three misshaped stars have to do with steel anyway?

02:48 The guy who caught the last pass, Ward, is already off the field again even though Pittsburgh is still on the offense. Does anyone keep track of this? Did it ever happen that there were too many players on the field when a play started? It’s such a chaos down there.

02:54 Field goal is taken back because of a foul. First down Steelers. The Cardinals are losing it for themselves. More than 80 yards penalty against them already. No wonder they are behind.

02:59 Why is it called a quarterback anyway? Why isn’t he an eighthback or a thirdback or simply a thrower or passer?

03:03 It’s getting late, my brain gets slow. I think less, I just watch the Cardinal misery slowing unfolding. These past four years I have bet on the wrong team. If there is a surefire way to make money, bet on the team I am not backing and you’ll have it in the bank.

03:12 What’s with the yellow towels? Been wondering this from the start. Yellow I get, a team color probably. But towels? Would a t-shirt do? Anything yellow?

03:16 William Gay is quite gay, i.e. happy celebrating his tackle. Do you think he would come and hunt me down if I actually called him gay? Football seems an ideal breeding ground for homophobia.

03:26 I was considering turning the lights off and just dozing for the rest of the game. The Cardinals touchdown forces me to stay awake. There’s still a chance and once you pick your loyalties, you gotta come through for your team, so I am staying up.

03:36 Finally Warner shows what he is made of. Precise passes that reach their target.

03:37 And yet again a penalty makes it all count for nothing.

03:44 Finally a penalty that works for the Cardinals. I have no idea what a “Safety” is, but it is worth two points.

03:35 The nice commentators explain to me what a “Safety” is. Boy, I have a long way to go until I finally understand this game fully. Although I really want to, I am a sports fanatic.

03:47 TOUCHDOWN!!! I scream “Run, run, run!” so loud I probably woke my mom and my neighbor, but I don’t care! I suffered for so long with all them penalties and finally the Cardinals come through. Tough birds.

03:52 There are so many positions on a football field, I can’t tell them all apart. Safety, halfback, fullback, linebacker, tight end, wide receiver, running back, punter, quarterback… You really gotta grow up with this game to grasp its scope. Much like soccer, I tell you.

03:57 I don’t think the Cardinals can hold the Steelers within the 10-yard zone yet again with 49 seconds to go. The Steelers are gonna score and win. Told you I can pick the losers.

04:02 Told ya. The touchdown stands. I prepare for bed, taking away the nachos, their smell bothered me a while ago already anyway.

04:06 Fifteen seconds on the clock. Hail Mary anyone?

04:17 Do I have to watch them get the trophy? Does anyone know how many Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks were from the Midwest? Seems to me many of them are “homegrown” on the fields of Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin and so on. Am I wrong?

04:23 It consoles me that at least the youngest coach ever wins the Super Bowl and he is black as well. And Obama likes the Steelers, so maybe this is good for the general mood of the American nation.

P.S.: The Super Bowl coverage was followed by footage of the prettiest railroad routes of Germany, which is filmed by a camera in the driver cabin and has no narration or anything. Can you get more anticlimactic?

*Times are GMT+1 and in the widely popular European 24-h format. (All times below 12 are a.m.).

**I apologize for any misspellings of names. I did my best to catch them, but couldn’t be bothered to look them all up. There are simply too many players on each team.