• Berlin
  • Jacob Sweetman: I actually don’t hate Americans


Jacob Sweetman: I actually don’t hate Americans

Sweetman is not necessarily the communist we thought he was. The skeleton in his closet wears red, white and blue suspenders, and he got them out especially for Super Bowl Sunday.

I don’t hate Americans. There is a particularly virulent strain of whininess that grates like finger nails across a blackboard – illustrated best by Catcher in the Rye and that bloke who plays the same role in every film – but this is hardly a trait exclusive to American teenagers. We all have to get that shit out of our systems at some point.

As Marlon Brando replied to the question “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?”, the answer at the time could only be “What have you got?” Because a) he was cool as fuck, and b) on a greater scale, we can’t learn to act like normal people if we haven’t acted like self-important little idiots first.

My own answer to that question would have been less effective.

“Well, having a blind eye being turned to my dope smoking and the encouragement of listening to rock and roll is a bit annoying. Will that do?” doesn’t really cut it, so my teenage rebellion took on a different form. I revelled in Americana. Later I took a healthy interest in John Coltrane (which I kept), but first sported an enormous Dallas Cowboys shirt on my back (which I didn’t). It was probably just to piss my Dad off, but it didn’t work.

And as I grew up, despite learning more and more about the inevitable decay of a nation, completely askew to its lofty aims and drowning in its own acrid yellow “cheese” dips, this stayed. Indeed, the very fact I refer to myself as the Sportsdesk is stolen from Hunter S. Thompson, with its Yankee-doodle plural title, sports. Despite being English and having an obsession with Europe, its sport, music and history (yes, you can still accuse me of being a communist stooge, it’s okay), I defiantly don’t hate Americans – at all. Like a stopped clock telling the correct time twice a day, once a year the whole country even has a better grasp of Latin than I could dream of. Who here knew that XLVI is 46?

And it was with these thoughts in mind that I watched Sunday night’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants on the huge screen at the Cinestar on Potsdamer Platz, avoiding the planet-sized cups of Pepsi Max being quaffed by the other punters, sufficing with the sneaked in bottles of Pilsator that clanked unhelpfully in my bag as the incredibly friendly staff declined to search it – I was a member of the press, and therefore, to be trusted, so apologise unreservedly for very un-American lack of manners.

After the Berlin Rebels’ new squad’s introduction and their excruciatingly named cheerleading team “Top Gun” (not all Americanisms are a good thing, though I must point out that cheerleading is a far more dangerous sport than American football, and, indeed, most sports put together) the game itself was fantastic, tense and constantly changing.

Whilst most attention was on the performances of quarterbacks Tom Brady and Eli Manning, it was the mistake made by Wes Welker and the catch by Mario Manningham that caught the eye and turned the game. Not to mention the “did he, didn’t he mean it?” winning touchdown by Ahmad Bradshaw as he sat down on the edge of the end-zone with a happily confused look on his face. This was the denouement to a game that was spectacular for all the right reasons.

There were talking points – a coach as experienced as Bill Belichick having his team penalised for a 12th man on the field had people stunned. The shots of Giselle Bundchen had them vomiting into their bags as they remembered her saccharine email that had been leaked to the press a couple of days before. At half time Madonna reminded us all of the Bill Withers song, “Grandma’s Hands”.

Super Bowl Sunday does contain plenty of extraneous chaff that needs separating. It is, in parts, jaw-droppingly commercial garbage of the worst kind as the advertising runs during each and every little pause. A trick not missed by American broadcasters who have made the advert break a show in itself, but one heroically passed over by SAT1 as they showed the same six adverts again and again, over and over. They even missed a Patriots score during one.

Alongside all this was the sub-plot that for the first time, a German could win the Super Bowl. As it was, Düsseldorf’s Sebastian Vollmer ignored Beyonce’s sage-like advice, and didn’t get the gaudy ring on his finger, but it was interesting to see him being fawned over. As Dirk Nowitzki pointed out being interviewed before the game, it is a lot harder as a European to break into the NFL than it was for him to do so into the NBA.

So at somewhere around 4am, the theatre spat drunken Americans, Germans, and an Englishman back out into the hellish Berlin cold. Though the Giants had won, I didn’t really care about that.