The Giant Octopus and Roger Goodell’s Manservant that is the NFL likes to claim the Super Bowl is the biggest game all year. This is true if you ignore the World Cup final every four years. It also ignores various one off potential annual events such as a royal wedding, the alien invasion ultimatum beamed from the surface of the Moon, non-existent presidential impeachment proceedings, a cat barking like a dog online, or competitive cheese grating competitions.
So you’d figure the only place the NFL wouldn’t want you to watch the game is on said surface of the Moon. Otherwise catching your eyeballs is meant to be easy, so that you watch, and they make more money, right? Nope. I remain constantly astounded at how traditional media makes it as difficult as possible to watch their product. If you want to understand why Netflix is eating the souls of traditional television, I give you this tale.
I am abroad for over one year. I want to watch the Super Bowl. After extensive research I determine only one local cable television provider is allowed to broadcast the game in this country. To demonstrate the absurdity of this, I offer you the comparison that say Verizon would be deemed the only cable company in the US allowed to show the game.
I do not possess said cable company. So my options are to troll a local bar at 4am, which is too much, even for me, or to watch the game online. Thankfully, NBC Sports is offering and widely promoting that this Super Bowl is special and is going to be streamed online. Great, done. I test the NBC link, it works, I go to bed early.
I awake early morning and am ready to watch. The link doesn’t work, NBC Sports shows a blank screen. After much frantic research I get to the fine print of the NBC Sports help page where the answer to: “Why doesn’t your fucking player work like you said it would?” Is answered by: “Oh, by the way, though we don’t say so clearly up front, if you’re not in the US, the player won’t work, thanks, and go fuck yourself. Signed, NBC.”
So I guess my recourse is to what? Go get wasted in a local bar and get into a cage fight with an intoxicated Eagles fan who’s throwing batteries at the likewise intoxicated Pats fan down the bar? Or, that I should purchase this other one singular cable company just to watch this one game?
Does anybody actually do that, switch cable providers just to watch one game? Is that what they’re angling for? Because if not, I don’t quite see the benefit to NBC, or the NFL, or to any Giant Octopus organization gained by denying my eyeballs the opportunity to easily watch the game and thus their advertisements. If this happened to me, it likely happened to millions of others when you consider the NFL wants north of 100 million worldwide to watch this game. That’s not a minor rounding error in eyeballs.
I thought, for a brief moment, to just go back to bed. I did not, because I’m a sucker, and because I really, really wanted to catch this game. It was important. For you see, even though folks were calling for a Pats blowout, I anticipated a good game. Also, while I’m abroad, some kind folks are watching my precious, precious doggies. They live in Jersey. They are Eagles fans.
I can’t stand the Eagles. I love my team. So do my dogs, they told me so before I left. But my team is out of it. So when my doggy host family says to me, gee, are you okay if we put Eagles bandanas on your dogs like we do with our dogs? I essentially have no choice. I have to go along with it. They’re awesome people, so sure, go ahead.
And so my precious, precious doggies have Eagles bandanas (oh god, please help me) on during the Eagles’ underdog win over the Falcons. And so my precious, precious doggies have Eagles bandanas (oh god, please help me) on during the Eagles’ underdog win over the Vikings. And after going 2-0 with a backup quarterback? Well, by that point they’ve got it in their heads that my dogs are the key.
As long as the bandanas are on my dogs, my precious, precious doggies (oh god, please help me) the Eagles’ have an underdog win over the Pats. So I have to catch the game. Because I think it’ll be good, and because I’m texting the host family and me Ma during the game. It’s expected, I have to be a part of the experience because my precious, precious doggies are apparently more important than Jason Peters’ ACL.
So what do I do? I get the game via radio. I hang out in my flat for three darkened early morning hours and listen to the game via internet radio like it’s 1937. During this time, I’m texting me Ma and the host family via WhatsApp. I get bombarded by incessant pictures of my precious, precious doggies wearing Eagles bandanas. My oldest is smiling widely in most of these pictures, my youngest is apathetic and asleep. It’s all good, I miss them.
And I follow along via the radio while they have the live broadcast back home. They see it, I hear it, and we’re texting within seconds of one another with our wows and surprise at what ends up being one of the great Super Bowls of all time.
I get Kevin Harlan to call the game, and he’s quite good. Then I get Boomer Esiason as the color and he’s constantly reminding the audience why HE would have called the play differently, thus reminding said audience why Boomer is relegated to a radio vice television existence. They also have Mike Holmgren to do analysis, which was news to me as I thought Holmgren was either (a) dead or (b) in the toll booth business.
It was my worst Super Bowl ever, loser that I am. I’m in some dank, lifeless, stale flat alone with cheap beer in the early hours of the morning listening to a game on the radio and texting home and my precious, precious doggies have Eagles bandanas on. It was one of those: “You’ve wasted your fucking life” moments.
Except that it wasn’t. Halfway across the world I could connect with family, my host family, and my dogs. I followed the game with the same level of emotion as if I’d seen it on a screen. When poor, poor Tommy got strip sacked I screamed out loud with giddy joy. I was there, and in it. I’m not an Eagles fan, I hate them, but man did I ever want to see the Pats go down.
And I wonder, years down the road, if the bizarre nature of my viewing experience, and all those wonderful texts, and what a great game it was, will in the end be the greatest Super Bowl I’ll ever live through.
Oh man, was this ever sweet. Must have been the bandanas.