There isn’t much that embraces American life quite like Super Bowl Sunday. It’s both sport and spectacle. It’s a chance to gawk at the incredible expense and commercialization of sports. I am the ultimate sports bystander; I’ll watch just about anything on television, whether it’s tennis, golf, American football or European football. I’ve even been known to spend entire evenings watching snooker, darts and bowling. I may not be enthusiastic, but I’ll watch it. The only sport I actively participate in is shopping – and I’m pretty good at it. I can spot designer gear amongst aisles of crappy second-hand clothes in the local Goodwill, and I can size up the quality of the stock in the time it takes Usain Bolt to run the 200m.
While New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was stretching his throwing arm and saying a few prayers, I spent the run-up to the Super Bowl flexing my shopping muscles at my favorite department store, Target. For those not familiar with Target, it’s a massive, very reasonably priced shop that has everything you could ever want and more. If you can think of it, they probably have it.
February 5 had been seared into my mind, not because of the football game, but because designer Jason Wu was releasing his highly anticipated clothes line for Target. I fell for two pieces: a soft, dusky-rose tee with a black bow around the collar and a colorful, beach-inspired dress that had some understated sex appeal. I could have bought more, but restrained myself. Luckily, the accessories sold out in half an hour or I probably would have been tempted by those too.
Armed with my new purchases, I felt like I was now suitably prepared for the Big Game – the New England Patriots versus the New York Giants. These teams mean nothing to me, so I usually end up rooting for the best-looking quarterback. It’s hands down Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has the all-American good looks and Gisele Bundchen. What more could he want? He wanted another tacky Super Bowl ring, clearly.
Show me the money!
The first half passes in a blur of average football and commercial breaks. For my British friends, who are not aware of the Big Game’s traditions, securing a commercial ad break during the Super Bowl is not for the fainthearted or light of wallet. Ads for this year’s Super Bowl sold out by Thanksgiving, with each 30-second spot selling for $3.5 million. That’s why the ads are usually as anticipated as the game. Companies pay big money to air brilliant commercials that are never seen again. Often, the same company will have a series of ads that form a story arc over the four-hour game. This year I saw a lot of dogs, cars and dancing chocolates. I liked a Volkswagen ad with a dog who loses weight to chase a Beetle car down the street and then segues into a Star Wars reference. It was clever and funny.
Madonna came out for the halftime show, dragged onto the field by beefy Roman soldiers. She opened the show with Vogue and showed off her shapely legs in a tasteful black dress with fabulous accessories and high-heeled boots. She looked great, but I thought she seemed very tentative. Despite doing some cartwheels, I really just wanted her to kick off those treacherous, spindly boots and put on some sensible shoes she could actually dance in. She appeared terrified of slipping on the many steps – and nearly did. In honor of the occasion, she brought out some gold pom-poms and sang a catchy new song called Give Me All Your Lovin’ with guest singer M.I.A., who flipped off the audience to the horror of the broadcaster. I wasn’t sure about the pom-poms. If anything is going to age you, it’s standing next to a girl more than half your age and trying to look like a cheerleader who buys her uniform from Prada or Miu Miu.
The nail-biting final quarter ended with a win for Eli Manning and the New York Giants (21 to 17). It got a bit exciting towards the end, but I was feeling a bit flat on the way home. I was missing my husband and missing my friends. Sometimes the party atmosphere merely highlights my sense of loneliness. I was surrounded by extended family, but I didn’t feel like I was truly part of the group. I’m trying my best to find my way in the United States, but it’s a struggle. Sometimes I want to be here, particularly when it’s a balmy 75 degrees during the winter, but sometimes I want to go running back to London.
Thank goodness I have my new Jason Wu dress and top to cheer me up. Shopping is more than a sport, you see, it’s a form of counseling. Now I just need to find somewhere to wear my clothes, preferably where they won’t be pawed by grubby, sticky hands.