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Super Bowl LVI – a view from Planet Earth

The most disgustingly American event of the year was as ostentatious as ever, but there was still a touch of familiarity to us humans.

By Daniel Petersen

Credit: kalhh via Pixabay

It was that time of year again: the time when those of us with nothing better to do on a February night (weirdly, this year’s edition was the latest Super Bowl by date ever) tune in to watch the world’s biggest circus, frantically googling words like “touchdown” and “quarterback” like we’re heading into an exam that we’ve not studied for.

For those of us who are not familiar with the NFL, it should be said that the coverage by NBC (via BBC and Sky Sports in the UK) was not particularly newbie-friendly. If you’re the kind of sports fan that dislikes the use of statistics, you’ll have had a nosebleed about five minutes in. Perhaps this was a factor of Sky’s coverage, which is relatively stat-heavy on shows such as Monday Night Football, but the NFL, and American sports at large, does seem to have a tendency to bombard viewers at home with all manner of stats, and it feels as though every second there’s some new record being broken, or bit of history being made. While that is exciting to some degree or another, it’s still a little much, even for a shameless stats nerd such as this writer.

Sidenote: Sky/NBC, if you’re going to go to the trouble of having a sign-language interpreter for the festivities, kindly make sure we can actually see them on the screen.

Of course, the game is largely an irrelevance, a mere sideshow on the way to half-time and, to give it its full name, the Super Bowl Pepsi Half-Time Show. To give credit where it’s due, this was where America’s love of spectacle was channeled really well. Aside from the fact that the stage looked like the set of some nightmarish modernist production of Death of a Salesman, this was a star-studded and vibrant morale-booster. With 50 Cent auditioning to be the next Batman, Kendrick Lamar walking around as though he’d been caught short, and Eminem showing everyone how to rebel by asking for permission to protest, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre put on a fantastic exhibition for the 1990s.

It wasn’t all surpassingly weird, though, and Mary J. Blige’s performance of No More Drama carried a message that we can all get behind, and provided us with another great meme template in the process.

The game itself was almost more interesting for its off-field context than what happened on it, although controversy did peek over the horizon as some of the referees’ calls became a little erratic toward the end. It was difficult to suppress the fear that yet another big sporting event might be decided by bitty technicalities, especially in the wake of the continuing kerfuffle surrounding Max Verstappen’s Formula One world championship victory in Abu Dhabi, and Chelsea securing their first Club World Cup title against Flamengo via an extremely harsh penalty for handball.

Luckily, the final result was less controversial, and the LA Rams deservedly took home the trophy, with a 20-23 scoreline confirmed when Mathew Stafford threw for MVP Cooper Kupp. Kupp also claimed something called the ‘Receiving Triple Crown,’ which must have been difficult to fit beneath his helmet.

One should spare a thought for Arsenal fans, though. Seeing Rams and Gunners owner Stan Kroenke lift the Super Bowl, having invested heavily in win-now strategy of recruiting proven, ready-made players like Stafford, must have been a strange, even painful sight when compared to the rhetoric of ‘trust the process’ bandied about to cover up embarrassing setbacks to Mikel Arteta’s team. There are some relatively kind comparisons, such as the fact that Rams head coach Sean McVay is the youngest to ever win the Super Bowl, indicating that Kroenke’s faith in younger coaches is a consistent strategy, and the fact that general manager Les Snead has been allowed to build this team despite some bumps in the road should be reasonably encouraging, not least to Arsenal technical director Edu.

Perhaps no fact better encapsulates the difference between association football and American football quite like the fact that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, last season’s Super Bowl champions, are owned by the Glazers, who also own Manchester United. Arsenal and United currently occupy 6th and 4th in the Premier League respectively; United’s last league win came in 2013, while Arsenal have not won the title since 2004.


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