If you're like me, you probably ‘watched’ Super Bowl 2021 – or part of it – because your kids were watching it or could find nothing better on TV. You understood a little bit of the game and what was happening on the field.
Am I right? I probably am. And that fact, that we do not understand American football, has nothing to do with how many years we have been in America or how good our English is.
For us, this is a ‘foreign’ game, and despite the epic battle of its players – they seem more like machines – its countless fans, the amazing stadiums in which it is played and the massive media coverage, many of us immigrants do not really understand it.
That is to say, we do not understand it in depth, we do not understand its strategy, the rules that govern it, the subtle aspects of the game that make the difference between winning and losing.
And we either do not have the time or don’t want to spend the time watching it for hours on the TV.
One year, I managed to find tickets to the big game – in the pre-coronavirus era it was very difficult – and my son and I went to the Super Bowl in Miami. I felt bad about my lack of knowledge. Instead of my son enjoying the game, he had to explain to me what was going on.
Meanwhile, it was raining profusely for hours. Throughout the game. The water had leaked through the raincoats we were wearing. We were soaking wet.
"Aren't we going to leave?" I said to my son.
He looked at me in amazement: "Do you see anyone leaving," he asked me. And really, no one – seriously, not one person – had left. Everyone was sitting there soaking wet, enjoying the game and the amazing half-time program.
Such is the devotion of the fans to this sport.
Watching – part of it – the day before yesterday, I saw the TV camera lens settle on the famous football star, Tom Brady, the captain of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – the man who has won 7 championships, along with this year’s. The player who, although 43 years old, plays as if he were 10 years younger.
I admired the humility and kindness with which he received congratulations from his teammates – and from the rival players.
So, it is not the fault of the game, the players, the stadiums, or the fans who do not ‘speak’ to my soul.
There is nothing wrong with any of that. It's me, the immigrant, who no matter how deeply I become entrenched in American society, no matter how much I want to understand certain things, I cannot do the same with football. I'm not interested. It seems foreign to me.
I see the players diving selflessly to catch the strangely shaped ball, to cover the yards needed to score ‘touchdowns,’ to fall on each other with such force that I wonder how they are not killed, even as protected as they seem with padding under their uniforms and helmets etc.
I much prefer the ‘football’ that we, the immigrants, know. ‘Soccer’ they call it here. This is what I have been playing since I was a small child. This is what I understand. I do not need explanations. I grasp the details. I have opinions. And I still have some passion left.
I was very surprised, when I first came here, that they did not play what the rest of the World calls football. But I'm very happy that soccer is now entering American sports in a more meaningful way. The children are exposed to it at a young age. And so they learn it well. They understand it. It becomes part of their lives.
It does not seem foreign to them.
At any rate, for us immigrants, all sports are a luxury. Who had the time to play … sports?
I remember that in the early years, however, just after we arrived from Greece, we went to the Con Edison Stadium on Sundays at the edge of the Ditmars area in Astoria where expatriate football teams were playing. The trains were full with thousands of people.
It was more of a celebration of Hellenism, an opportunity to see friends and acquaintances, in conjunction with watching soccer.
Then they stopped playing. I do not remember why. I eventually didn't even have time to go, though I read about the games in the National Herald a few days after they were played…
But our children watch everything. And they enjoy it.
Like so many other things.
Did we not emigrate in pursuit of a better life for us, and especially for a good life for our children?
We will rendezvous again next year for the Super Bowl! What we understand of it…