To better comprehend how Europeans don’t fully understand

Americans, watch how they view the Super Bowl. Europeans will eat at McDonalds, drive Fords, listen to American rap and watch bad artin Lawrence movies, but they’ll keep their own sports, thank you very much.

Last weekend, I was visiting a friend in Lyon, France on Super Bowl Sunday, which for many American males is the second holiest Sunday of the year, after Easter. As the clock struck midnight – kickoff time in California – we found ourselves at an Irish pub amid the narrow, winding cobblestone streets of Old Lyon. Johnny Walsh’s was the only establishment that we knew was showing the game. Inside, amid the Guinness posters and thick cigarette smoke, we discovered a few French and a large assortment of Anglophiles, mainly from the British Isles, Australia and New Zealand. I was surprised that so many people would come out on a Sunday night to see the game. I quickly learned that they weren’t there to watch the game.

At the kickoff, I was talking to a New Zealander I had met earlier in the week. She couldn’t understand why all the players needed to wear so many pads. In rugby, the boys don’t wear all that armor, she said. Supposedly, they can run faster that way. Then I learned that rugby’s scoring system resembled football’s. Each “try” in rugby, when a player runs the ball into what we consider the “end zone” is worth five points, and resembles a touchdown. A rugby goal kicked through the uprights is worth less, like a field goal or an extra point in football. We had more trouble trying to relate the timing of both games. The clock says there are 10 minutes left, she would say – so why does this game take hours? I tried to explain how certain plays stop the clock, but she cut me off and remarked, “At least this game isn’t as boring as baseball.”

Midway through the first quarter, the cigarette smoke was growing denser, and I was taking to Ian, a burly Scotsman. This guy could have served as an extra on the set of Braveheart. At 6-foot-3, 220 lbs, with long hair and a goatee, he was only missing the blue face paint. He liked to talk about his favorite pastime: drinking. I pointed him in the direction of the other Americans in the bar, students from North Carolina who I could tell had similar interests.

With six minutes left in the first quarter, I was talking to ax, another Scotsman. Max is an interesting character. With unkempt black hair and deep blue eyes, he reminded me of Elijah Wood’s character Frodo in the Lord of the Rings movies. Max is studying law in Lyon. He has only lived there three months, but he has already established a large circle of friends. After living in New York, Los Angeles and throughout Europe, Max grew adept at meeting people quickly. It doesn’t hurt that his job as a local bartender has made him especially popular. He stressed to me the importance of meeting people outside the usual American study abroad circle.

However, meeting new people did not extend to the random French man who wandered into our group. I like the French, but the late hour was impeding his coherence and diminishing my tolerance for his babble. I also knew he was there to meet American girls, not to watch the game.

The third member of the Scottish trio endeared himself to me as the most memorable. His physical appearance was not remarkable: thin, moderate height, scruffy reddish brown hair. But his “name” was “Warmachine”? Yes, that’s right, Warmachine. His thick brogue filtered out every other word he said, so I could only understand half of what he was telling me about growing up in Scotland, but I did remember that he was called Warmachine and he thought American football was too commercialized. Just give a few guys a ball and you’ve got a real game, he said. You don’t need Celine Dion or No Doubt or a fireworks show. It’s better that way, he said.

So while all the famous singers, fireworks, orchestrated stage shows and cheerleaders were supposed to attract viewers to the big game, they really were turning these people away. The Europeans are devoted to their sports; I’d argue their “football” fans are even more loyal (read: rowdier) than American ones, but in Europe one doesn’t have to cut through various layers to find the game at the core (read: a few guys and a ball).

But in the end; all these layers allowed some great conversations to develop.

So maybe our kind of football is good for something after all.

Bryan Stockton is a junior in the School of Foreign Service and is a former Viewpoint Editor of The Hoya. He is studying currently at the Institut des Etudes Politiques in Strasbourg, France.

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