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September 22, 2016

Cheers to the Super Bowl from Ireland

For three and a half hours Sunday night, everybody was an (American) football fan. Even if they had no idea what was going on.

At Captain America’s, a crowded comic book hero-themed restaurant in downtown Cork, Ireland, though, knowledge of the game made little difference.

That night, Munster rugby jackets were replaced with NFL jerseys as football changed definitions. Sure, most people cared about the just-finished Arsenal-Chelsea game in the long run. But when the New Orleans Saints emerged from the tunnel to take the field for Super Bowl XLIV, the eruption from the crowd showed that the patrons there were anything but apathetic.

Whether it was the karaoke stage crammed full with bodies in front of a giant projection screen or several tables of Irish singing both “America the Beautiful” and “The Star Spangled Banner” in inebriated dissonance, the Irish showed up most sports crowds you’d see back in the States.

That, and drinking songs beat “Yankees suck” chants any day. And I hate the Yankees.

The feeling inside of Captain America’s was a constant fluctuation of familiar and foreign. It’s one of the strangest feelings when abroad. You feel the comfort of one place, yet you’re constantly reminded of the fact that you’re not home. Making fun of Peyton Manning is great, but I still couldn’t text my buddy the J-Mann about his stupid commercials.

Even the broadcast itself had more differences than expected. While Americans were being bombarded with commercials (the one time a year when this is a good thing), the European carrier of the game, Sky Sports, cut to the studio.

At this point, I was subjected to the expert analysis of a low-level college wide receivers coach and a former tight end for the London Monarchs (a former team in the now-deceased NFL Europe).

These little differences made little difference to most of the crowd. They were just pumped for game.

“People have asked me why I have this jersey. And I just say ‘who cares? It’s the NFL,’” said an alcoholically stoked fan donning the jersey of Frank Gore, running back for the San Francisco 49ers.

Throughout the venue one could see that a sprinkling of NFL jerseys showcased a hodgepodge of teams, with the New England Patriots and New York Giants being the most common.

Conversations with other fans were short and to the point, though.

Most exchanges with European fans during the Super Bowl consisted of yelling out the name of the player or team whose apparel they were wearing and then yelling. Crude, but effective.

During halftime, Sky Network showed a feature on the hectic affair that is Media Day at the Super Bowl, which occurs the Wednesday before the Big Game. Sure, the only players that the European networks could get were a backup offensive lineman, a kick returner and a backup cornerback, but no one cared. It was (American) football.

While I was fortunate to be sitting with a large group of American students at the event, I was the only one with extensive football knowledge (What do you mean you didn’t know Marques Colston went to Hofsta University?), and the only guy at the table.

As my friend Jared pointed out early in the night before retiring early because of a fever, a good deal of the patrons were “girls in shiny dresses who are just there to take pictures of themselves.”

But between each photo session, they could sure cheer, producing classics like, “Why is he so good? He’s a motherf***er,” and, “No cheers. F*** that, they suck.”

Even I was drawn away from the game when our group was sidetracked and distracted by a more pressing contest: When (and with whom) would the promiscuous girl of the group nearby make out with one of the three Irish lads hitting on her? The eventual winner drew cheers and multiple high fives.

Although most people were simply celebrating the event, globalization reared its American-corporate head once again.

Even in a city that is obsessed with rugby, hurling and football (both the Gaelic and European varieties), the NFL still has fans.

Funny story: The first guy I talked to in an Irish pub was, of all things, a huge Patriots fan with whom I had a long conversation about Tom Brady and Wes Welker. Oddly enough, the second guy I talked to in an Irish pub told me that “Tom Brady is rubbish.”

Irish smack talk: It’s a deep burn.

Seeing people embrace a foreign game as their own is an amazing thing.

Imagine what these people do when they watch a sport they actually like.

Nick O’Malley is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at nomalley@student.umass.edu.

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