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The Super Bowl: An Indian American’s Journey to Loving the American Football

The Super Bowl: An Indian American’s Journey to Loving the American Football

  • How an Indian coming to the U.S. goes from ridiculing the game to being a die-hard fan.

The Super Bowl in the U.S. is not just a game; it is not only an event. It is a tradition, a celebration, a festival. After the drab and dull month of January, millions of Americans wait with anticipation for February to arrive. It is not for Valentine’s Day but the Super Bowl, the first Sunday of February. For the football connoisseurs out there, it might be the game of Football. For countless others, though, it is getting together with friends, eating good food, drinking gallons of beer, watching much-anticipated new commercials, and of course, the half-time show.

My journey towards loving the game started soon after I arrived in the U.S. It was the early 1990s, and the 49ers were dominating American football then. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, one couldn’t stay away from the topic of Football. Whether it was water cooler conversation at work or dinner parties with friends, the conversation was mostly about Football. When I first saw the game, my initial reaction was: why is it called football when players barely kick the ball? For somebody new to the game, it looked more like rugby. Whenever the conversation would turn to football, which was almost always the case, I would feel left out. I would itch to turn the topic to something like cricket, which I loved and considered myself an expert. But obviously, who cared about cricket in the U.S. then.

The author with his son Stavan, at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., in December 2019.

One of my friends who came to this country around the same time I did, was the first to convert to being an American football fan. He invited us to his place to watch a 49ers game. It was my early initiation into the game. I realized that the game was more than just head butting. There was a lot of planning and strategy involved. I found out that every team had separate teams for offense and defense and that the quarterback was continually communicating with his coach using audio equipment built into the helmet. I always felt that cricket could also adopt some of these technologies, making it more interesting.  

From then on, I would make it a point to watch football on Sunday afternoons from September till January. Without fail, I would read the sports section of Mercury News on Mondays to ensure I was up-to-date with the games’ latest results and experts’ analysis. I then considered myself ready for Monday morning quarterbacking, whether at the office cooler or the coffee room. We used to have lively and informative conversions of the game, which would continue during lunch hours. In the process, I made many friends who remain one to date; we still share notes on essential games.

When I first saw the game, my initial reaction was: why is it called football when players barely kick the ball? For somebody new to the game, it looked more like rugby.

Once my son grew older, I initiated him into the sport too. We watched a few of the games together in the old Candlestick park and the new Levi’s stadium. Pretty soon, he overtook me in understanding the game’s nuances and analysis of the game. He would give me an overview of the day’s proceedings if I could not get to watch the game. He tried to teach me different formations, both in offense and defense, which I still don’t understand. Before he started college, I took him to one of the 49er’s game two years back. He bought a 49er sweatshirt for me out of his own pocket money. I considered it very thoughtful of him and still wear it for every 49er game. I suspect, though, that he bought the sweatshirt not to be embarrassed in front of other 49er gear touting fans in the stadium, while his dad would be wearing his usual old-fashioned jacket, which he also wears at work.

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This year, because of Covid, the excitement and anticipation were tepid. Health Experts had warned of another super spreader event if people gathered together and watched in restaurants. People mostly complied, but there was no stopping them from meeting with their friends and family amongst their bubble and watching the game. The 49ers couldn’t make it to the playoffs this year, so it was a challenge to decide which team to support. On paper, it was simple: Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback, is a Bay Area native. He is also a living legend in Football, the best Quarterback ever. To add to it, the other team: Kansas City Chiefs were the ones responsible for denying the 49ers their much deserved Super Bowl victory last year. 

So, why would a 49er fan not support a Tom Brady led Tampa Bay Buccaneers? There was one big reason, and possibly a strong one, that went against Brady. He is considered a friend of Donald Trump. In a liberal Bay Area, this was blasphemy. I am not sure how many changed their support as the game went on and Tom Brady’s team demolished the opposition. In the end, it was a one-sided game. It gave people time to focus on the food, drinks, the commercials, and off-course the halftime show.

Nimish Singh lives in Fremont, California, and has made Silicon Valley his home for the last 26 years. He has led engineering in startups before and currently heads one of the engineering groups in a leading Cybersecurity company. An avid reader, Nimish is actively involved in local theater as a playwright and songwriter.

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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