Saturday, February 05, 2011

First Person / The Sleepy Bowl

The following is a column I wrote that appears in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. If you want to read it on the P-G site, as well as read all of the essential Super Bowl news, click here. For those of you too lazy to click on a link, I've copied and pasted it below.
First Person / The Sleepy Bowl
Pity us expats who must watch the Steelers in the wee hours
Saturday, February 05, 2011

LONDON -- When I tell my friends here that I'll be cheering for Big Ben on Sunday, they think I'm talking about England's most famous timepiece. Such is the problem for diehard Steelers fans living in a foreign country.

As the Steelers once again march their way into the Super Bowl, spare a thought for those of us who must go to extraordinary lengths to support our favorite team.

It is not for us to have a comfortable Sunday afternoon of getting the snacks and sofas ready for the big game. No, our Super Bowl Sunday involves careful preparation.

We have to beg off on Sunday invitations, as the day must be spent conserving energy and taking naps. As we are five hours ahead of Pittsburgh, the game is scheduled to kick off at 11:30 p.m. London time, and it won't end until the early hours of the morning.

It is not for us to enjoy the game with a big platter of wings, a big bowl of cheese dip and a large vat of chili. In the United States, food consumption on Super Bowl Sunday may be second only to Thanksgiving, but our most trusted culinary companions during the game will be big mugs of strong coffee.

That said, it certainly is possible that if at 2 a.m. the Steelers are winning and I'm feeling a bit peckish, I might wander into the kitchen to rustle up a Primanti Brothers-like sandwich with cole slaw and fries. It won't be as good, but Primanti's doesn't deliver to our ZIP code.

Discussing the game with friends and neighbors can be challenging. If I were to say, "The Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl," the entire sentence would need to be translated to my British friends.

In the face of quizzical expressions, I would find myself expressing the importance of the game this way, "The American football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, from my husband's hometown and the city where we got married, are playing another American football team, the Green Bay Packers, who are supported by fans called 'cheeseheads' in an end-of-season matchup called the Super Bowl, which is like the Champions League Final."

I could translate the latter part of that sentence for you, but this could go on all day.

In a land devoid of news about The Big Game, this morning the beating of my heart quickened when BBC's Radio 4-- like National Public Radio, but with a British accent-- said they had a report from Pittsburgh. But rather than a story on something important -- such as Mike Tomlin's game strategy or Troy Polamalu's hair or Brett Keisel's beard -- it was about East Liberty's Conflict Kitchen. Interesting, but not what I wanted to hear.

Following the report on Conflict Kitchen came the sports report. I thought a few sentences about the Super Bowl surely would be the perfect transition between a story about Pittsburgh and sports. Alas, no.

No mention of The Big Game, and worse, the first sports report was about England's one-day international cricket match against the Australians in which the British scored 333 for 6.

I could translate that last sentence for you, but again, this could go on all day.

Another big thing you miss as a Steelers fan abroad is the communal joy (or despair, but let's stay positive here) following a Steelers game.

If we were living in Pittsburgh, we could talk about the game with anyone, including strangers on the street. I can't do that here, as people would think I had lost the plot. I might even be called barmy. At least the Steelers fans we know and love are only a phone call or e-mail away.

So when you're gathered around the television set on Sunday to watch the Steelers beat the Packers, spare a thought for those of us on the other side of the world, awake in the middle of the night and cheering as quietly as possible so we don't wake the rest of the house.

As the Steelers lift their seventh Lombardi Trophy early Monday morning in London or mid-afternoon in Asia, one thing will unite Steelers fans around the world: A feeling of absolute joy.

Maureen Stapleton, a writer, moved from the United States to London 12 years ago and has watched a lot of Steelers games in the middle of the night.

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