Monday, February 6, 2012

Superbowling in England

One great American past time is watching the Superbowl, which proved to be challenging here in England. How would we watch the game?

Like America before, we have no cable television here in England. Part of the problem is that our TV is incompatible with the British signal (the whole NTSC vs. PAL problem). Of course we could get an adapter for our American television but it seems like too much hassle for the amount of TV that we actually watch (only two or three shows regularly) and the times that we watch (when the children let us). The only things we (and by "we" I mean "me") watch when they are broadcast (that is, "live" programs) are major sports events. Like the Superbowl.

The stations still broadcast over the airwaves but none of the neighbors get reception without running a line to an antenna on their roof. Our house doesn't have an antenna and we were not interested in installing a temporary one. Plus we don't have a signal conversion box like I said above.

Without a broadcast signal adapter, another option was to find a venue showing the game live. I never saw any pubs advertising "Watch the big game here!" or other public places for Superbowl parties. A quick glance at the BBC iPlayer web site showed that coverage of the Superbowl would start on BBC One at 2255 hours. Yes, five minutes before 11:00 p.m.! Kickoff was at 11:30. Also, the broadcast would be available as live streaming! The problem was solved.

I tuned in around 11:30 and saw some of the BBC commentary before the game started with the NBC broadcast and commentators. The funny thing with the BBC is the total lack of commercials. Part of the reason Americans tune in for the Superbowl is the commercials. I'll admit that sometimes that's what I tune in for, but I am a Giants fan so I definitely had a stake in the game itself.

Missing the commercials meant I missed the zombie connection for this year's Superbowl: Ricky Gervais running from all sorts of mayhem (zombies included) because he won't friend someone on Facebook. I found out about it in an article on the Daily Mail website. You can watch the video there, or just watch it here (though if you saw the game in America, you've probably already seen it).

What did the BBC do during the commercials? They didn't have British commercials or ads for their other programs. Instead, Mark Chapman (Radio 5 Live sports presenter, not the guy who offed Lenon) provided commentary on the action. He frequently deferred to his in-studio guests, Mike Carlson and Saint Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola. Such deferral happened almost immediately. During the Patriots' first possession, quarterback Tom Brady was penalized for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in two points for the Giants and a kick off to the Giants. I imagine even casual commercial-watching Americans were confused by that. The commentary and banter was entertaining though not satisfying if the viewer is used to the legendary commercials.

I went to bed after a half hour when the score favored the Giants 9-0. By "went to bed" I mean that Lucy was crying (she's had a cold for two weeks now) and needed some attention. Since it was already midnight here in the UK, I thought sleep would be more necessary than watching the rest of the game (which would last till 3 or 3:30 in the morning).

In the morning I did check the results almost first thing. It was gratifying to see my team win. Maybe I'll catch some highlights online, it sounds like the ending was exciting. And maybe some commercials too.

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