Friday, 10 February 2017

All-American Entertainment Part 51

I’m ready for the Big Game: I’ve got heavily-salted snack treats, heavily-sugared snack treats and some “Boston Lager”.  Which is definitely not lager.
I’ve also got some Mexican Lager (take THAT, Mr President), which is lager.  (And is nicer than the Boston “lager” (take that, Boston.)
I’m wearing my Chicago Bears shirt.  The Bears are no closer to the Superbowl than I am. 
Yes, it’s that time of year again: The Biggest Show On Earth™, called so with US TV showing its usual concern for subtlety and humility.  This is a big annual event for the USA, and Superbowl LI (that’s 51, to you) takes place in a country not so much a country utterly changed, as a country utterly the same, but louder and even more bitterly divided than in recent times.  The game is watched by 148 trillion people.  I’m not sure how anyone could know that, although these days, you can just assert any fact (about, say, the size of a crowd at or watching an event), and if you’re brazen enough to tough it out, everyone will probably have forgotten by the time you say the next crazy thing.
I’m watching on the BBC, so there are no adverts.  Except the ones that can’t be excised from the programme, like the advert for the USA, before the game starts.  The technical term is “National Anthem”, and this one its sung by Luke Bryan – who is, apparently, a “country music star”.  I have no idea what that is, but the song is performed in customary subtle style, accompanied by fighter jets.
National Anthems are necessarily chauvinistic affairs; most are about how revolutionary nationalist heroes kicked out the foreign oppressors and made an independent nation.  The British National Anthem (which is really the English National Anthem) is a notable exception.  It is also by far the worst song ever written.  Utterly disgusting.  Still, nationalism and good ol’ fashioned ignorant chauvinism is all the rage these days, isn’t it?  Because a lot of people like (or don’t remember) all the bad things about it. 
US TV is better at this than everyone else, because they have no memeory and no sense of shame.  British people (especially sportspeople) might say they are proud patriots, but in Dick Cheney’s America their level of patriotism would have them castigated as commie pinko traitors.  To put it with typical Briddish mildness: Diffidence is not so popular in the USA as it is in the good ol’ UK, folks.
George H.W. and Barbara Bush are wheeled out!  Onto the pitch!  Everyone applauds them, for some reason, including all the players and coaches.  George looks bewildered.  A bit like when he was president, but with less violence.  He tosses the coin and I think about the time he vomited on the Japanese Prime Minister.  And then bombed Iraq.  (Bush, not the Japanese Prime Minister.) 
I can’t imagine John Major being shown such respect at the FA Cup Final.  Deference for/to the President is an absolute must in US (public – you know, TV) culture.  To put it with typical Briddish mildness: that feeling is not so widespread here.  Although, given the current political climate of the US, a lot of USians are currently struggling with it.  Or just saying “fuck that guy, I’m not deferring to him.”
The game begins, and the first two possessions pass without much incident, and both end in punts.  On New England’s second, Quarterback Tom Brady throws a classic play action fake, before being sacked twice.  (#notmyfirsttime)
So, I am watching this game without adverts, even though it was designed to be suitable for frequent advertising breaks.  I wonder what US audiences would make of it.  (A 30-second advert on US TV during half time of the Superbowl costs $5million.)  Channel 4 showed this the last time I watched it two years ago, but on the BBC, there are, of course, no ads at all.  Which saves me quite a lot of stress and despair.  In the regular breaks, we are treated to analysis from the fella who used to present football on the BBC and a couple of former players. 
Rio Ferdinand is among the special guests in the studio, reminding us that (despite the stereotypes), British sportspeople tend to be less articulate and educated than their US counterparts.  I never watch the “analysis” on football, even though I like football a lot, and watch it on TV.  In American football, I do listen to the chatterers, because they tell me things I don’t already know, rather than clichés, platitudes and witless banter.  (One of the “announcers” (that’s commentators, to you) is called Osi Umenyiora, who played for the Atlanta Falcons, and won the Superbowl with the New York Giants.  His personality and knowledge of his sport would automatically disqualify him from a media job in “Soccer” (that’s English football to you) for the BBC.  (One or the other might be acceptable; both at the same time would be a liability.)
It seems like the New England Patriots winning this game would be a portent too terrifying to contemplate.  The combination of Head Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback Tom Brady are appearing in their seventh Superbowl, and they’ve only lost one (to Umenyiora’s Giants in 2007).  They are the Real Madrid of American Football.  Everyone is waiting to see how they react when they finally lose again, and get their comeuppance...a bit like a famous person whose name escapes me. 
Also, the Falcons have the best offence in the NFL this year.  So, GOOOOO FALCONS!
The Falcons score the first points with a five-yard touchdown run from Running Back Freeman, following a 71-yard drive.  And the second, when Matt Ryan throws a touchdown pass on a 3rd and 9.   And the third, when Brady is picked off and turned over by Robert Alford, from bracket coverage.   New England kick a field goal late in the second quarter, so Atlanta lead 21-3 at the half.  #notmyfirsttime
The United States of America has brought the world some real horrors, but It is also the country that produced Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, Fanny Lou Hamer, Harriet Tubman, Fred Hampton, Marvin Gaye, Grandmaster Flash, Mos Def, Chuck D, Common, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Martin Scorsese, all the films you like, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Native Son, Hip Hop, the Blues, Jazz, comic books….

Anyway, all that can be cheerfully forgotten, as it’s time for the main event (for non-football fans): The Half Time Show.

Last year’s iteration of this USian festival of camp actually looked pretty good, until Coldplay turned up to ruin it for everybody (or, as TV executives call it, appealing to a more mainstream audience.  They mean a white, bewildered audience threatened by change, for whom Coldplay’s music is perfectly calibrated).  The thing was controversial because the star performer, Beyonce, reminded everyone that she is black, and visually referenced The Black Panthers, a political group started in the 60s and destroyed by FBI infiltration and assassinations.  Obviously, this was too much for some; the reference, not the murder of US citizens by their government and the surveillance of a small political group.  God, the last president was cool, wasn’t he?  (That’s except for viewers in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan.)
So, this year, to re-dress the balance (you know, make it all white again) – in keeping with the current regard for truth in US media – the star performer is Lady Gaga. 
“God Bless America”, she sings.  (The US will need that blessing more than ever in the next few years, I’ll venture.)
There is total darkness in the stadium (literal, not metaphorical).  Gaga is on the roof for this bit, then jumps off.  (She’s on wires, not committing a spectacular protest-suicide like the Buddhist monks in Vietnam who set themselves on fire in the 60s.  (That sort of thing doesn’t play well on Main Street.))
There’s a medley of hits, including Poker Face, which sounds like the Barbie song by Aqua.  Then there’s a song that sounds so much like one of Madonna’s, I assume it’s a cover, until I hear the chorus and realise it’s actually one of Gaga’s biggest hits.  It’s all as manic and crazy as these things always are, and at one point, Gaga plays keytar, for some reason. 
“Just dance, it’ll be ok….”
Would that it were so, Lady G.
“Texas, how you doin’ tonight?
“America – world, how you doin’ tonight?”  This reminds me of the Morrissey song America Is Not The World.  That was on an album which came out in 2004.  America/The world is largely the same as in 2004 but even worse.
If the half time show was a full musical, it would be called Flash Gordon and The Last Days of Rome.  It lasts about ten minutes, but feels like it could have been ten seconds or ten hours.  It takes longer to set it all up on the field than it lasts.  It leaves me breathless, yet simultaneously bored.
Then I think about In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.  Perhaps I should put it on, instead of listening to the commentary…

In the third quarter, Atlanta add another TD through Coleman.  Then NE finally get a TD, and eventually another.  In the 4th quarter, I’m starting to get very tired.  It is 2.30 am. 
Sack – fumble!  NE get the ball back with 8:24 on the clock, on the Atlanta 25 yard line….the Brady gets sacked on the first down.  It is most likely not the Pats day. 
Or IS IT?! Another Touchdown!  2-point conversion!  28-20, just under 6 mins on clock. Game.  ON.
Still 28-20 with 3:30 on the clock, NE starting at their own 9….
Edelman makes an amazing catch.  Maybe it is New England’s day…Oh, God, I hope this isn’t symbolic of what’s to come: Patriots who already dominate asserting their dominance, just when it looked like a team representing a majority black, southern city might win their first victory.
TD!  2-point conv….IN – just!
The momentum is now all with the Patriots, and they dominate their opponents as their opponents had them in the first half.
This is really really close.  Twenty minutes ago, it seemed impossible, but they might really win this thing.
With 52 secs left, the Falcons are at their own 10…
With 11 secs left, the Falcons are punting….and….and…
Over Time! The first ever at a Superbowl!  This is exciting.
Until New England win with a touchdown on their first drive.

So, to sum up; the Patriots win, and it changes nothing.  It was just a game of football.

It is 3.30

I’m going to bed, where I hope to dream of anything other than how the world actually looks/is at the moment.

And when we meet on a cloud,
I’ll be laughing out loud.
I’ll be laughing at everyone I see
Can’t believe
How strange it is to be
Anything at all.
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

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