Monday, 2 February 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth.

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers who broke NFL history by winning the Superbowl last night for the sixth time (said through slightly gritted teeth - I'm a NY Giants fan and was hoping we could do back-to-backs). For the first time in quite a few years I didn't stay up to watch the extravaganza - the combination of working on a Monday morning and, more crucially, having a pregnant wife who needed to work on a Monday morning meant that I only watched the pre-match and first drive, with the rest taped.

I love American Football. I know lots of people in the UK don't, finding it too slow, or too incomprehensible, or too glitzy. I suppose really it's the fact that some folk find it just too darn American. However, that is partly what I love about it so much. And the Superbowl represents the pinnacle of this, a party which is open to the world but which fundamentally celebrates America and its way of life.

I know it's only a game, but the Superbowl does provide an insight into the heart of US life and its differences to other parts of the world. Stereotypes are caricatures, but are often rooted in certain truths or realities. The Superbowl shows that the stereotype of Americans as loving a show, highly emotional and patriotic can be seen to be a very real occasion. Quite simply, the Superbowl could not happen in the UK, where our national stereotype of repressing our emotions would hamper such celebration.

The Superbowl encompassed tributes to the crew of flight 1549 who heroically saved the lives of their passengers when it was forced to crash into the Hudson; the singing of the National Anthem by Jennifer Hudson in her first public appearance since the horrific murder of several members of her family; the award of the Walter Payton man of the year to the NFL player who had done the most charity work ove the year (won by Kurt Warner the Cardinals' starting QB); and a concert by Bruce Springsteen over the half time - it was an extravaganza of celebration rather than a mere sporting event.

The patriotism in the US is an incredible phenomenom, unmatched in the UK by a long distance. I think we Brits can find it a bit overpowering at times and can be struck by the use of US flags everywhere - sadly we have allowed the far right to steal the use of our flag to a large extent in the UK. Americans genuinely have a pride in their country which in many ways we could learn from. The Federal system means that Americans can be very proud of their State and their country - it is not too often that demands for secession are made nowadays in the US as citizens are able to cope with multi-faceted identities, rooted in the immigrant history which the majority of Americans possess. Whilst here in Scotland we are told by the Nationalist movement that it is incompatible to be both proudly Scottish and proudly British, Americans quite happily manage to be proud of their state and proud of their wider country. I realise that the Nationalist response to this would be that Scotland is no mere state and I am not seeking to diminish the debate; however, the issue of multi-faceted identities is an important one which is ignored in the arguments which rage in Scotland.

Anyways, I seem to be attempting to turn my love of the Superbowl into some sort of half-baked debate on self-definition - and this is without being sleep deprived due to staying up for it! Superbowl XLIII was a good un - here's hoping that the Giants are back in the Big Show next year!

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