Charles Arrowsmith

Charles Arrowsmith

Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Consul-General

Part of UK in USA [New York]

8th February 2013 New York, USA

Super-Duper Bowl

My first Super Bowl experience was transcribing the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s half-time show in 2009 for Sky Sports’ subtitled output back in the UK. This, fortunately, required zero knowledge of how (American) football works – and played to my eternal love of The Boss. Since I moved to the US in 2011, though, it’s been harder to excuse my ignorance, and I was determined for Super Bowl XLVII to enjoy the actual game.

Raised on a diet at school of football (soccer) half the year and tennis and cricket the other, I found American football rather overwhelming at first. Besides having to get to grips with its rules and its (to the British ear) arcane vocabulary (fumblerooski, anyone? muffed punt?), one has to deal with the massive over-stimulation of actually watching it. It’s easy to panic when faced with the graphic complexity of a televised NFL game: the profusion of stats and analytics, the gridded and numbered pitch, the annotated onscreen play-by-play breakdown… And that’s before I can even try to start following what’s going on, which is in turn rendered more difficult by the endless instant replays, the slo-mo jelly-wobble thighs, the bullish ballet of helmet clashes, that interrupts the flow of the game.

Still, it’s a classical ball game insofar as the main aim is to get that leathery prolate spheroid from one end to the other and score points, so arguably there’s less to understand than may initially appear and I should just give it a whirl.

The pageantry at the Super Bowl is like nothing in British sport. And this year’s felt particularly au courant, featuring a moving performance of “America the Beautiful” by the Sandy Hook Elementary School chorus and Jennifer Hudson, chiming with the ongoing debate over gun control in the US, and a live video link to Camp Courage in Kabul, Afghanistan, where troops had tuned in to hear Alicia Keys’ transcendental rendition of the national anthem. Add to that the half-time spectacular spectacular by Beyoncé, fresh from her performance at President Obama’s inauguration and just ahead of her “Mrs. Carter” world tour, and already you’ve got a pretty special line-up.

The game itself, even for a novitiate like me, was pretty exciting too! I had decided to support the San Francisco 49ers – they are, after all, due to play a regular-season game at Wembley later this year, so have an at least tenuous British connection. The half-time score, then, 21-6 to the Baltimore Ravens, was a bit of a blow. Then came Raven Jacoby Jones’s astonishing 109-yard return in the first 11 seconds of the third quarter, a run impressive not least because running that far in that time isn’t ever easy, let alone when having to duck and weave like Sonic the Hedgehog to avoid the charge of the 49ers. It seemed like the game was over.

But then, out of the clear black sky of New Orleans came an unexpected 34-minute power outage. Conspiracy theories abound as to whether this was a consequence of Beyoncé’s gigawatt performance at half-time or the sporting gods leaning in to give the 49ers a bit more traction. Whatever the cause, the game when it returned was a real cuticle-shredder. As one of my friends observed, “This is like a tale of two Super Bowls!” Gone were the dominance of the Ravens and the 49ers’ somewhat somnambulant approach; here was a race to the finish, a game in which, with a minute left, there was still everything to play for.

So ultimately, with no prior allegiance, maybe I should have chosen the Ravens as my team for the night. But for me it wasn’t about the winning. It was about connecting at long last with a sport I had always seen as alien, too complicated, and revelling in an evening of chicken wings, mordacious comments and triumphant shrieks as much as the next American. Roll on Super Bowl XLVIII – which, to my delight, I discover is coming to the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, well within our consular region. Perhaps you’ll see me there.

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About Charles Arrowsmith

Charles Arrowsmith is the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the Consul-General, where he manages scheduling, travel and budgeting for the CG. He is also often involved in…

Charles Arrowsmith is the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the Consul-General, where he manages scheduling, travel and budgeting for the CG. He is also often involved in events and high-profile visits.