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 www.nfluk.com.)
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 a...travel agent.