There’s a flag on the play

To be sure, American Football is a very grown up activity…

As I see it, it is all about fouling the guy with the T-Shirt in the wrong colour by any means necessary. Creativity may or may not be involved, but it is hard to say from our view point way up. The field is about a mile away. (I have still no notion of how long a mile actually is…)

I feel, it would have been a good idea to bring opera glasses to the game. Looking around, I realize I am not the only one with this idea. It’s like bird watching for culture and nature buffs. It’s a bit weird. It’s also fun.

In what way differs American Football from our stiff-assed European kinda ballgames?
Please bear in mind, that I am no expert. I can define an offside, but I can’t spot it.  I could tell you some football rules, having asked around prior to the game, but again, it is hard to keep track in the blazing sun. It doesn’t help, that an American Football game is an interupted matter. It doesn’t help that extracurricular activites (brass bands, cheerleaders, private donors and fans as well as other sports persons) are regularly allowed to enter the game. It might be sports, it definitely is high-class entertainment. Anyways, that’s what I noticed:

  • The ball isn’t round.
    (I withhold judgement on that one. Might be a good idea, might not be a good idea. Taking into account how Berkeley Bears’s Quarterback Zack throws this unround ball around , I kinda lean to the direction of NOT a good idea. The other people watching, the ones that actually know the rules, seem to agree with me.)
  • In American Football they STOP THE GAME every couple of minutes, because the TV broadcast needs time for creating advertising revenue. (Football smart Peter Clar, who is our wonderfull host this wonderful week, promised that we would hardly notice, and he is right.)
  •  America might not be hot on irony, but it does digg sarcasm: „Well played, Zack!“ does very obviously not mean that Zack has played well. Even I can see that.

  • The US has perfected a unique blend of sports, entertainment and advertising. The host of the game is not only telling us about game strategy, player moves, team history, he also tells us about private donors, sponsors and much more. He also uses the official slogans, without irony or flinching.
    I couldn’t count the times he repeated: „Loyalty can’t be explained, but it explains a lot. Show your loyalty at“. Not once did he sound annoyed or angry or tired.

Cheerleading on!

Cheerleading culture is something I had only witnessed on TV, in highschool movies and some series. I am deeply distrustful of how the girls are only on the sidelines doing call and response activities. They are incredible athletes, doing pyramides and jumping around ALL THE TIME. The guys – remember? – are regularly taking a break and there is an offense team and a defense team, so it is all about a fast jump an run when the camera is looking.

The girls jump and run even if the camera isn’t looking. And they have to: They get hardly any exposure on the big screens, they are doing their thing all the time but they are being ignored. I am still deeply distrustful of cheerleading. It is a semierotic dancing around to get the crowd to cheer on the male athletes to do better. (In Zack’s case, it didn’t help.) The movements are normed, there is little individuality to it. I am not a fan. But than again, I am not a fan of football either.

The actual game takes 4 x 15 minutes and many, many breaks. The 8 last minutes the audience starts leaving the ranks. It is obvious that quarterback Zack won’t be able to turn around the game, it is obvious that Berkeley has lost. Still, I think leaving is impolite, but considering all advertising breaks and the long break at halftime filled up with cheering and brass bands and getting to the restroom and eating a hotdog, the game has taken up a relevant amount of time. The crowd seems to think it’s time to go partying or do some work or just wash their cars. 1 1/2 minutes before the game officially ends, the teams JUST STOP PLAYING, which I think is impolite and unprofessional. I am alone with this opinion. 0.30 minutes prior to end, they start congratulating each other.  That is boring and bad sportsmanship – imho. Only the host pretends that the game actually stops at the official end and only then shouts: „It’s the end of the game.“


Thanks for the update, we’d almost missed it.

We have no trouble leaving the stadium since more than half of the audience is gone already.

What I actually like about American Football?

What I really think does make sense is the fact, that the team of referees actually looks at the filmed footage when in doubt. The host shouts: „There’s a flag on the play!“
Obviously one of the referees doubts that the employed means necessary conform to the rules of the games. Since it is difficult to decide, considering this „Wimmelbild“ happening on the field they have a look at the footage, presumably in slow motion. Just another occasion for the host to drop some sponsornames!

What I like about Berkeley?
Well, a lot, but I will tell about it later. For one thing, it feels like home. Might be, that it is rather European in many ways. Might be, we drink the same drink…

Ah, before I forget: Markus Köhle has written about this very experience in his own unique style!

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