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My Depressing London Super Bowl Odyssey

Traipsing around in the slush looking for 'The Greatest Show on Earth'.

Last night the New York Giants and the New England Patriots did battle in the 46th Super Bowl at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. I wasn't there, I was in London trying to hunt down some drunken American ex-pats to explain the 'Greatest Show on Earth' to me. As it happened, it's about zero fucking degrees at the moment and the Super Bowl is held on a Sunday, which means that I was trudging around central London with insomniac pigeons and wet feet for company until 4AM this morning. It's OK, don't thank me. I did it for you, but, please, don't thank me.


Here's a blow-by-blow account of the Super Bowl and London's reaction to it (all times GMT):

11.20PM: I'm still at home, piling on the layers of clothing as Kelly Clarkson bleats her way through "Star-Spangled Banner" on the TV in the corner of my living room. Her voice is a little shaky, but the cheerleaders' outfits are pleasingly nubile, or at least they are until I realise that I'm a fully-grown adult male growing visibly aroused at this Lolita-ish spectacle even through the second pair of jeans I'm trying to force on. I cringe.

I haven't left yet, but am confident I will be able to catch at least 90 percent of the game as it's a dystopian pantomime that takes roughly 20 fucking hours to complete.

11.25PM: The coin is tossed and the Patriots win, which is apparently significant. Time to make tracks.

11.30PM – KICK OFF!: I have scouted out a place called the Blueberry Bar in East London. An ex-pat group of Americans living in the city have registered their plans to gather there on If the number of positive RSVPs at the site are anything to go by, I will soon be surrounded by 700 exuberant Yanks screaming their guts out at some fat men cradling an oddly-shaped ball 4000 miles away.

11.43PM – SAFETY! Giants 2, Patriots 0: Still in transit. I've been checking Twitter regularly for updates on the game. I don't really understand a lot of the language being used, but there may have been a foiled terror plot at some point in the first quarter.


11.52PM: Time is becoming fluid as I finally arrive at my destination. I am feeling disorientated and detached from reality, so the next few hours of bleary-eyed, ex-pat tribalism should fit my mood like a glove.

11.53PM – TOUCHDOWN! Giants 9, Patriots 0: Despite the touchdown, barely a soul makes a noise at my new venue. The whole scene is dismal: no more than a dozen silent men occasionally glancing up at the wall-mounted flatscreen before returning to the hypnotic despair of their own pint glass. There are no fancy-dressed cheerleaders pouring Bud Light over their breasts, no face-painted men shouting in my face, there aren't even any badly worn goatees or ill-judged novelty hats. The American ex-pat community of London may yet be the party-loving diaspora I imagine it to be, but, if it is, Blueberry Bar in Shoreditch is not where it hangs out.

0.03AM – 2ND QUARTER STARTS: I leave the bar as the second quarter starts and take a moment to evaluate my choices. The Super Bash at the O2 is too far away and expensive, and anyway it sold out weeks ago. So, I opt for the decrepit Sports Cafe that has been sat stinking of cheese on Haymarket, near Piccadilly, for years now.

0.07AM – FIELD GOAL! Giants 9, Patriots 3: I've taken a wrong turn at some point, and double back to where I need to be. Stepping off a curb to cross City Road, I step into a puddle of melted snow. There's a hole in my shoe. People on Twitter are getting excited about a Doritos advert.


0.49AM – TOUCHDOWN! Giants 9, Patriots 10: The bus seems to be taking longer to come than it should. It's late on a Sunday evening and there are a high number of German students waiting for the bus with me. I have no idea why they're here, or why they're eyeing me quizzically. Then I remember that I am wearing two pairs of jeans, a step too far even for the sartorial daredevils of Europe's secondary schools.

0.51AM – HALF-TIME Giants 9, Patriots 10: I get on the bus and am joined by a group of around five young Americans. This makes literally no sense to me. I assumed that all Americans watch the Super Bowl. I check my phone and realise it is half-time and I am probably going to miss Madonna sing in clothing that she shouldn't really be wearing at her stage in life. My American co-travellers talk loudly about Covent Garden's “street beggars” who “perform tricks for people, it's like their job”. I attempt to bore holes in the back of their heads with my gaze, but fail. I'm feeling pretty Taxi Driver right about now.

1.02AM – MADONNA WINS THE SUPERBOWL: I am still on the bus with the Americans and have my head leant forlornly against the window with my fingers massaging my temples. “When we go to Paris, can we make sure we get some of that cake they have there, you know, like the cheesecake?” I hear from somewhere in front of me. I get off two stops early.

1.13AM – MADONNA IS OLD: As I walk up to the Sports Cafe on Haymarket, I am stunned by the lack of drunk Americans and the overheard sentence: “She might be a bag of bones and that, but I'd still give her a kick round the park.” This collection of words comes from an English man in a New York Giants jersey who is stood outside smoking a cigarette. I smile and reach for my dictaphone and camera, relieved that my own night is about to start in earnest.


1.16AM – M.I.A. FLIPS THE BIRD: I approach the man in the New York Giants jersey, but security accost me, saying I have to pay £27.50 to even get into the smoking section. By the time I'm done arguing with them, the four people who were smoking outside have gone back in because half-time has nearly finished. I think one of them was laughing at me.

1.23AM – 3RD QUARTER STARTS: It's still very cold. My feet are wet through and I'm starting to need a piss as the icy winds penetrate the very layers that prevent me from pissing. I start to meditate on the meaning of irony before realising that tonight is America's night.

1.29AM – TOUCHDOWN! Giants 9, Patriots 17: I arrive outside Planet Hollywood who, according to their poster, have “cheerleaders” and “18 screens”. Everyone inside looks very civilised, I can't tell if they're American. No one is smoking. Why is no one smoking? The door staff turn me away as they're fully booked. As I walk off a Londoner in a Raiders jersey laughs at a man who has dropped some description of fast food on the floor. I begin to approach, but the one with the food picks it up and hurls it at the guy in the Raiders shirt and so I leave.

1.40AM – FIELD GOAL! Giants 12, Patriots 17: I'm walking through the back streets of Soho. No one else is around. My phone tells me there's a bar close to here playing the game. I'm beginning to doubt my phone's intelligence and loyalty.


1.57AM – FIELD GOAL! Giants 15, Patriots 17: I've arrived at Bodean's BBQ in Soho. The scene is a smallish diner filled with NY Giants and NE Patriots shirts and middle-aged creative industry types happily tucking into ribs. No one is drunk, no one is brawling. No one is even cheering. I especially do not feel like cheering. I've missed over half the game. I've missed Madonna humiliate her children in front of billions.

I search on my phone for one last-ditch attempt to bully some inebriated Yanks into making fools of themselves. As I narrowly avoid being dragged beneath the wheels of a dustbin truck that has ridden up onto the pavement, I discover that RICH HALL is doing live comedy at the Sports Bar and Grill by Marylebone Station. Rich Hall! The grumpy, cynical American; the British American – he'll be able to wryly dissect the meaning of the Super Bowl for me, perhaps via the medium of bluegrass. I set off for Marylebone.

2.02AM – 4TH QUARTER STARTS: This is it: ride or die time. I decide to pray, but I'm not sure who to aim it at, so look up Rich Hall on Wikipedia instead.

2.29AM – NO CHANGE IN SCORE, Giants 15, Patriots 17: I arrive at the Sports Bar and Grill in Marylebone. I manage to blag my way in despite the £35 entrance fee, citing a “post-game interview” I had booked with “Mr. Hall”. I get as far as the stairs before someone who is not an idiot realises I am lying and sees me out.


2.39AM – NO ONE HAS SCORED FOR FUCKING AGES, Giants 15, Patriots 17: I sit on the curb outside for a while, pondering my next move. The remnants of half-cleared slush are starting to seep through my inner layer of jean. A man in an orange shirt approaches. “Hi, my name is Wayde. I'm the promoter for the night. Did you say you were here to see Rich?”

2.43AM – THE FINAL MOMENTS OF THE GAME: I come clean to Wayde. I tell him everything. I even tell him that the main point of the article was to take the piss out of Americans. “Hey, don't worry," he says. "Look, Rich has gone now anyway. But, if you want, do you fancy coming and sharing a joint with us around the corner?”

2.45AM – TOUCHDOWN! Giants 21, Patriots 17: The game ends whilst we are outside smoking drugs. Wayde was with another British comic, and an Australian man who was dressed in a very fine suit. None of them knew much about American football, so I was in good company.

2.54AM – FULL-TIME! Giants 21, Patriots 17 – PATRIOTS LOSE: Just before I leave, the conversation drifts and Wayde mentions that he has twice been divorced in January, giving February a transitional feel to it each year. He then mentions that Super Bowl Sunday is the “number one day in the in the year for spousal abuse”, which is a fitting end to a horrible evening.


Learn more about this strange American game:

There's a Muslim High School American Football Team

Explaining American Football to the British