Monday, 4 February 2008

Super Duper

I find it somewhat ironic that I had to move to England to see the most thrilling Super Bowl in recent memory. Of course, I could have stayed in the U.S. and seen it too, and without having to stay up till 3 a.m.

But then I would have missed seeing how the Brits cover an American sport. Actually, there wasn't much difference. The play by play was by Dick Stockton and color was by former wide receiver Sterling Sharpe. They may have held back on some of the minutiae--they were providing what the NFL called the "international feed"--but they assumed more than basic knowledge on the part of the viewers.

In the booth were "U.S. Sports Journalist" Mike Carlson and former Raider and Raven Rod Woodson, along with a BBC guy with a haircut. They did explain things occasionally, especially what must be the hardest thing for newcomers to grasp: the down system. The trio had a lot of air to fill, since there aren't any commercials on the BBC. We missed the ads (please tell me: Which were the best?).

The on-screen graphics during play were a little spotty. They had the first-down line marked in yellow but didn't always mark the line of scrimmage. And they kept a big arrow-shaped graphic that read "1st and 10" or "2nd and 7" up throughout each play, not just until the ball was snapped. Distracting. (To see how the NFL is hoping to colonize Britain, go to

But, all in all, an enjoyable, if exhausting, experience. I don't recommend eating nachos as 2 a.m.

My daughter noticed that there were no shots of cheerleaders, though. You would have thought University of Phoenix Stadium was a no-cheerleader zone. I wondered if the NFL was cooling the rah-rah for the international feed, not wanting to offend international tastes. "Yeah," she said, "that might not go over well on Al Jazeera."

I thought Tom Petty was great, by the way. America leads the world in Tom Petty Production and that's something to be proud of.

Brooker No Dissent
Charlie Brooker has a great column in the Guardian every Monday, a hilarious collection of spleen and bile. Today's is about his idea for a celebrity death service. Not entirely original, as some of his commenters point out, but Brooker describes his idea so beautifully that you may want to sign up. (His column a few weeks ago about tangling with the norovirus nearly made me spew milk out my nose. And I wasn't even drinking milk.)

On a more thoughtful note, one of the Guardian's U.S. correspondents, Gary Younge, has an interesting column about the political aristocracy that seems to have America in a stranglehold. And in a sneak peak from his new book, Nick Davies explores "Flat Earth News": stories in the media that either aren't true or are based on PR material. A study he commissioned from Cardiff University found that 80 percent of the UK stories they studied were "wholly, mainly or partially constructed from second-hand material, provided by news agencies and by the public relations industry." He calls this "churnalism."

I've noticed this in the British press. It seems much more willing to do stories--often short ones of no consequence, seemingly just to fill space--on dubious studies commissioned by some corporation or public interest group. They're often quite silly: Things like "survey respondents would most like to go on holiday with Tony Blair," said a study sponsored by agent.


KTinDC said...

"I've noticed this in the British press. It seems much more willing to do stories--often short ones of no consequence, seemingly just to fill space ..."

We comment on this all the time! Journalists will take an offhanded comment from a B-list official at such-and-such non-event and get 10 inches out of it. It's crazy! Then again, they do have an insanely huge news hole to fill.

mark from alexandria said...

I know there were several very good commercials in the Super Bowl coverage, but I have to say that my favorite was the dalmatian training the clydesdale to the theme from "Rocky," it just struck my funny bone.

As for the flatworld coverage issue, there continues to be a variation on it, here in the coverage of the political campaigns.

DLD from Charleston SC said...

John - The ads for the Super Bowl have been placed on a MySpace page, something like: Can't check it from work, no access to MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

If that doesn't work, just Google "Super Bowl ads".

The Budweiser ad featuring the Clydesdale and Dalmatian was the best.

Candadai Tirumalai said...

I think it will be years, if it ever happens, before a world-class cricket Test makes it to one of the main American television channels. That said, there are pockets of American enthusiasts for cricket, some of whom actually play the game. Philadelphia and its suburbs used to have them.

Anonymous said...

If you had watched the game in America, you also could have watched it on a gargantuan screen in the sanctuary of your church. (A new thing this year.) And you could have joined the church in civil disobedience as we learned after we advertised the event that showing the game on such a large screen was technically illegal. Fun all around!

Anonymous said...

If you go to Fox news ..... I think they have the superbowl commericals. I think they have the best 10 and 10 worst.


Richard said...

Showing a cricket test match in the US. Hmmm. John, do you think there's an appetite for a game that lasts five days, and that often ends in a draw? A game in which you can get out when you're in, and are in when you're out? When many of the fielding team don't do anything at all except stand and wait? Where everyone wears the same colour, white? In which there are no ad breaks? In which a nightwatchman can face a chinaman, or even a googly? Where someone is silly mid off? And so on...

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I loved the Guardian column about the norovirus - "lick a toilet and have done with it," indeed!

And did you check out those comments? One person corrected the writer on his use (or lack thereof, really) of the subjunctif; several of the later commenters were good-naturedly joshing the earlier commenters; and they were all talking about disgusting bodily fluids in a very refined (i.e., British) manner. I don't know which I enjoyed more - the column or the comments.

John Kelly said...

Aren't the comments ALWAYS the best part of any blog? So, that's two votes for the Budweiser dalmation ad. I'll check it out. I did see the Will Ferrell one. Very funny. has a nice roundup of the ads. (Sadly, my British Telecom broadband is slow as molasses these days. It takes forever to watch a video online. Maddening as hell.)

I'm looking forward to cricket this summer. MAybe I can go out for the team. I think I'm capable of standing with my hands on my knees for hours on end.

Dad said...

Johnny -

A great game. hollywood could not have scripted it better. The conspiracy theory folks probably thought it was scripted, but there is a Writers strike so it couldn't happen.

Your stepmother locked herself in the bedroom watching Jane Eyre on BBC.
Go figure ---


mark, not from alexandria said...

wasn't sure where to post this, but wondered, John, if you heard that Wilbon had a heart attack?

John Kelly said...

Yeah, I heard about Wilbon. Poor fellow. I'll have to send him a note to hang in there. There's nothing like a brush with mortality to mess with your head. I'm glad he seems to be doing okay.