The Super Bowl: Watching from Abroad

If you haven’t heard it already, it will be said over and over again in the lead up to the evening of February 2nd: the Super Bowl is one of the most-watched annual sporting events in the world. Exactly to what degree the “world”, as in every country not named the United States of America, actually watches the event is a matter of some debate. Some news outlets claim that the event is watched by more than one billion people. Others calculate it closer to 100 million. Since I’ve never been that good at math, I say “tomato-tomatoe.” But even if only a fraction of the potential worldwide audience does tune in, that still leaves plenty of people out there willing to stare insomnia in the face. So here’s to all sports-crazed American expats and non-American devotees of the NFL. You’ll need some extra coffee and some tape for your eyelids to make it through February 3rd unscathed. For all those who don’t understand why the Super Bowl is such a big deal, here’s a short primer about the event and what it all means for expats living abroad.

What’s in a name?

The name “Super Bowl” actually started as a nickname to refer to the AFL-NFL World Championship game. It’s no secret that American sports teams like to claim global domination for winning a league championship. A league winner will often be called “world champion”, like the Miami Heat for the past two years. Even teams from the same city can battle for a world championship, like when the New York Yankees played the New York Mets for the World Series championship in baseball. It only seems natural that the winner of the Super Bowl, America’s most important annual sporting event, would also win the world in some form. And why call it a “bowl”? That tradition dates back to the early 1900s when circular, bowl-like stadiums began to be built for knockout-style football games, the most famous being the Rose Bowl in Pasadena (1923).

Any relevance for Germany?

This year’s version of the Super Bowl doesn’t really have a direct connection to Germany. Had the New England Patriots beaten the Denver Broncos last weekend (and had he not broken his leg on October 27th), there would have been one German, Sebastian Vollmer, playing in the game. The only other connection to Germany lies in Peyton Manning’s surgically-repaired neck.

Where and how can I watch outside the U.S.?

To watch the Super Bowl from abroad you have several options. If you don’t mind the commentary in a foreign language, most of the countries in Europe will show the game on free tv. In Germany, the game will be on Sat.1 and streamed on its online counterpart here http://www.ran.de/us-sport/nfl/live. If you want the game in English, you can always find a website that will stream the games for free. The website digitaltrends has a few recommendations. You just have to deal with annoying pop up ads, the potential for hacker invasions, and the somewhat less annoying human condition of a conscience. You can also access the game via NFL.com for a fee. In the past, the NFL made the choice whether to hop on your personal pirate ship pretty easy, making the price of the game exorbitantly high. I think last year the price was 30 Euros. This year they have wised up and have priced the game at 7.99 Euros. https://gamepass.nfl.com/nflgp/secure/packages?ttv=1

Lastly, in a fit of Irony, many Irish Pubs the world over will show the game. If you live near one and don't mind hanging out in a bar until 4:30 in Europe or mid-morning in Asia, chances are there will be a crowd of expats to welcome you.

What about the commercials?

Perhaps it’s the US’s love of consumption, perhaps its our short attention span or perhaps it’s because they are so damn funny. Whatever the reason, there is no denying that we, Americans (ahem US-Americans), love Superbowl commercials. Super Bowl commercials have become the second sport of the evening, as multi-national food and beverage companies compete with internet startups for recognition and fame (to the tune of 4 million dollars per 30 second spot).  As Americans, we are in love with consumption, there is no doubt about it. I find myself absent-mindedly buying a coke or a snickers bar when I am back in the US for no reason. I’m not even thirsty! Consumerism is so pervasive; you would think something is in the water.

But it’s not only that. Football is a game of waiting. In fact, if you took out all of the time between plays, you would be left with about a half hour of actual game being played. Only by watching the game without the commercials can you really see how much standing around football involves. Americans need to be constantly entertained, and for one night, both the live action and the commercial breaks serve it in heaps of 30-second chunks. Between one-handed catches and bone-crunching hits, we get laughs about Terry Tate, the Office Linebacker, and kids who suck themselves into a Pepsi bottle . With that much money just to buy the time, advertisers are throwing mucho dinero behind the production of their ads. So as the quality of the ads go up, so too does the potential for laughs.

It doesn’t stop at the Super Bowl. Some commercials and their actors will catapult themselves into the realm of pop culture infamy. Who can forget the three cute Budweiser frogs, each croaking a different part to Bud. Weis. Er. Or the even more inane and infinitely more annoying “Waz up” Guys who call each other on the phone and yell Waaazzz Uuppppp”. I heard so many people yell Waaaazzzz uuupppp in college that I wanted to personally find out who was responsible for this commercial and make them pay. In any case, the Superbowl just isn’t the Super Bowl without commercials.

The "expat-expert" pick

Brady says: I have every personal reason to pick the Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning led my fantasy football team to a second place finish. I seriously enjoy watching him direct the offense down the field yelling "Omaha" (almost my hometown) 30-40 times per game. The Broncos have the best offense in the league. They also have a coach who went down with a heart condition in the middle of the season (everyone loves a comeback story). I have been to Denver but not to Seattle. One of my best friends has season tickets to the Broncos. But the logical part of my brain says that the Seahawks, with their league-leading defense and power running game, are best-suited to win in the cold and rain/snow of New Jersey in February. Oh yeah, and the Broncos elected to wear all orange for the game, even though they are 0-3 in Super Bowls while wearing that color. Seriously? Why would you want to tempt fate like that? For the same reason that the Brazilians will never wear white uniforms at another World Cup, so too should the Broncos have went with blue. Also, did you know that teams with orange on their primary jerseys are 2-6 in Super Bowls while teams wearing green--ahem Seahawks--are 5-3 (thanks Tuesday Morning Quarterback!)? My favorite movie of all-time, Ace Ventura Pet Detective, centered around the idea that superstition wins Super Bowl games. Basic plot: the team's mascot goes missing, and the owner believes that without the dolphin, the players won't have their heads in the right place, so he hires a wacky pet detective (Jim Carey) to find the dolphin, which he does and the Dolphins wins the Super Bowl. Based on superstition alone, I predict the Seahawks will win 24-20.

Drew says:
While my esteemed expat colleague has made a hail marry prediction based on superstition, I myself am a bit more logical. I will base my decision on a video game. EA Sports, the maker of the popular video game series Madden NFL, are regular soothsayers when it comes to predicting Super Bowl winners. They started simulating winners in 2004 using the Madden NFL video game and since then they have predicted the winner correctly for 8 out of 10 Super Bowls. The only two outcomes that they got incorrect involved Wild Card teams. And since the Broncos won the AFC West and the Seahawks the NFC West, I think I've got this wrapped up tighter than a European bathing suit.  Broncos 31 - Seahawks 28.

by Brady Spangenberg and Andrew Delmenhorst

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