Last night I watched 7 hours of NFL (National Football League) on British TV. Two games were aired, the first between the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers, the second between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens. The two games determined who would face each other in Super Bowl XLVII on the 3rd of February. The 49ers and the Ravens were victorious.
My interest in the NFL started at an early age. My father used to be a Miami Dolphins fan and I remember flicking through a book he had with colorful pictures of the games and the cheerleaders with their 80’s fashions.
Being a fan of the NFL and living in the UK is difficult as the games are always played late at night due to the difference in time zones. I did not watch a full game until I was in my early twenties during my time at university in Manchester. In Manchester I had a friend who shared my interest – we spent many hours playing NFL Madden on the PlayStation 2. We used to also go to a sports bar and watch the Super Bowl live on TV until the early hours of the morning. There was always a big party at the sports bar with a football shaped mechanical bucking bronco, cheerleaders and an appearance by the local American football team, the Manchester Titans.
Yesterday’s games were the first NFL games I’d seen since Super Bowl XLII in 2008 whilst living in Prague, Czech Republic. Back then I was just beginning my English teaching adventure and was hanging out with two good friends from America, one from Texas and the other from Arkansas, who suggested watching the game. The New York Giants beat the New England Patriots that year but I don’t remember much of the game – Czech beer is very good and affordable.
Most people outside the US consider American football as wholly an American sport but it isn’t. As mentioned earlier, the UK has a league but so does the Czech Republic and Argentina (I managed to watch a few games in Buenos Aires and Prague). In fact, the European Federation of American Football has 24 full member nations, including Germany, Russia and Turkey.
Many people in the UK compare American football to rugby and ridicule the sport for the use of protective gear. Rugby fans consider NFL players as “big girls” for wearing helmets and shoulder pads but I don’t think that many rugby players have watched an NFL game. If they had they’d see the protective gear is completely necessary. In the New England Patriots – Baltimore Ravens game yesterday New England’s Stevan Ridley was almost knocked out when he crashed head first into Baltimore’s Bernard Pollard. Without his helmet, Ridley may have suffered a serious head injury. The pace of the game is also unpopular here in the UK with the countless stops and starts.
I enjoy American football as I think it’s a glimpse into American culture. Americans are generally considered competitive and this is never better demonstrated as it is in sport. The players and coaches are so on edge during an NFL game and it is clear that winning is everything. When a player commits an error his sense of disappointment with himself is completely overboard. Patriotism is also widely used to describe the typical American and again the NFL is an opportunity to display love for your country. During the national anthem before one of the games yesterday several players cried in front of the cameras, something I can never imagine an English footballer doing.
Finally, the NFL highlights the intensity found in the US. After the Raven’s victory over the Patriots the AFC Championship trophy was awarded to them in their locker room. During the ceremony several players and the coach were interviewed. One player in particular shined – linebacker Ray Lewis. He claimed “God is absolutely amazing” and the crème de la crème – “no weapon against this team will prosper” – poetry! Be sure to catch the Super Bowl on the 3rd of February, maybe Beyoncé’s half-time show will entice y’all.
Manchester Titans – http://www.manchestertitans.co.uk/
Football Americano Argentina – http://www.faarg.com.ar/
Super Bowl 47 – http://www.nfl.com/superbowl/47