Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Any Given Super Bowl

Because this journalist, with an equal love for New York City and a true passion for football, retells it better than I can ...

One for the ages!
Matthew Schneeberger, back in the U.S. after a year in India,
relives the culture-spanning excitement of the Super Bowl

A consortium of shouts, whistles and cheers pours into my friend's apartment window on Manhattan's Upper Eastside: "Yea, baby!" "Go Giants!" "Boston sucks!"

Peering out said window, I see drunken revellers swarm past in droves. They high-five one another, swill from open containers of booze and proudly point to their team's logo on blue hats, shirts and jackets, which everyone seems to be wearing. A man does an Irish jig on Lexington Avenue, while a companion plays accompanying bagpipes. Horns honk, girls scream and a few testosterone-riddled alpha-males heckle a lone man in Patriots clothing, who scuttles down into the subway, covering his head and moving quickly to avoid confrontation.

Heavy bass lines rattle the apartment building, as a next-door neighbor plays rapper Camron's version of Welcome to New York City!

My friends, New Yorkers through and through, run around the room like excited school children, slapping hands and howling in ecstasy. Chris, who stand 6' 5" and weighs 240 pounds, crawls out of the window (with difficulty) and onto the fire escape, proceeding to shout, "Plaxico Burress is god!" A volley of similar-minded shrieks comes in response from the street below.

"Dude, if you could bottle this feeling and sell it, drug dealers would disappear," he says upon re-entering the room.

My friend Greg exclaims: "What are we waiting for? Let's get down there and celebrate!"

On the street, we greet strangers like brothers, hugging and raising our beer bottles skywards. A group of twenty - comprising African Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics and Asians - walks arm in arm, chanting, "Here we go, Giants! Here we go!"

A quartet of homeless men play the saxophone, horn, trumpet drums, decked out in Giants' garb; passer-bys liberally toss money into an upturned hat at their feet. A crowd eventually gathers around them, and what a sight it is to see: Wealthy Upper Eastside residents completely at ease with a group of vagrants, interacting freely, sharing laughter and tears as if they were long lost friends.

A stocky, middle-aged man walks past me, jabber away excitedly on his cell phone: "Dude, can you f*****g believe it? The New York f*****g Giants won the Super Bowl! I never thought I'd live to see it again!"

It's not how the story was supposed to end ...

Read Matthew Schneeberger's entire article here

... For me, watching the game took on special significance. Back in the States after 12 months in India, I was able to watch my first football game in real-time in over a year; and what a game it was! ESPN.com is already polling its users, asking "Is this the greatest Super Bowl of all time? Is this the most shocking result you can remember?"

Furthermore, seeing the mighty Patriots get their comeuppance, after years of borderline dirty play and ethically questionable tactics, made the viewing experience doubly special. In fact, a smile is still plastered on my face; and I keep watching, rewinding and rewatching the game's highlights, some three hours after its conclusion.

The Super Bowl is annually the most viewed programme across America, and has been since the early 1970's. It's watched by approximately 40% of households in the United States, and has become a major cultural event and national holiday of sorts. It features the most expensive marketing space in the world, set at RS 80,000,000 for a thirty second advertisement.

And this year's big spenders got every bit their money's worth, as the game was truly one for the ages.

So while some members of my craft may be bemoaning the result, trashing pre-written headlines that read "Patriots make history, finish undefeated", and staying up late to hastily rework copy, this journalist is ecstatic.

The game reminded me why I love American Football. It was intense, frenetic and action-packed. The hits, blocks and tackles were bone-jarring, and actually resulted in several small injuries for both squads.

Manning's Houdini move to avoid a sure sack and 32 yard pass to David Tyree with 59 seconds left will be shown on NFL highlight videos for the next thirty years. Had the improbable play gone the other way, the Patriots would have clinched victory. For a team that seemingly had the stars aligned in their favour throughout the year, it was surreal to see all the bounces go against them.

But that's why I love this game; because, as the slogan goes: "Any team can win on any given Sunday."

- Matthew Schneeberger
India in New York, A Guide to Events and Entertainment from India Abroad
Vol. XI No. 32

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