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The Super Bowl could well be the greatest show on earth

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The hulking silver panels that clad the outside of the University of Phoenix stadium bulge outwards and into the never-ending Arizonan sky. 

Outside, an 18.9 million pound tray carrying 100 yards of pristine turf is being painted, readied and rolled ahead of being winched indoors and locked into place. A fresh lick of paint is being applied to a nearby signpost and branding is being hung as far as the eye can see. The greatest show on earth is rumbling into town on Sunday, and they look as though they're ready.

Only in America

The Superbowl, an event synonymous with largess as it is sporting endeavour and one that exists largely in its own pompous bubble is here again. This year, the 49th edition, will be contested between two teams with enough ego be Kings of such a gaudy domain; the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.

This year flames will lick the sky to announce the arrival of both teams onto the field when the time finally comes on Sunday. Cheerleaders will line the route and pom-poms will shuffle and the band will come marching in. Moody slo-mo videos will roll while the fog clears, evoking memories of former glories.

Glitter will spew in the air as Katy Perry executes a precisely planned half-time production. When they say the greatest show on earth, they mean it. At least in size anyway, even if the Champions League final and World Cup final dwarf its audience. Even the build up, sorry "Pre-kick show", has its own sponsor.

Last year's Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seahawks and the Denver Broncos drew an average of 111.5 million viewers in North America. Interest in this year's edition could be even higher given the controversy, no matter how tedious, beforehand surrounding the Deflate-gate scandal in which the Patriots have been accused of illegally under-inflating balls in their AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Living the dream

A rich seam of capitalistic excess shoots straight through the Super Bowl. Tickets swap hands for $4,500 or more. 30-second half-time ad spots worth north of $4.5 million have become the subject of a morbid fascination; a show within a show where the scourge of a society are elevated to a position of a spectacle within itself. The trophy is in your face; bold and brassy and in no way ornate.

Only in America. Amidst the lurid neon lights and gaudy celebrations there is a heart to this spectacle though. It's easy to write the Superbowl off as trivial, as something to be viewed in Isolation from across the pond; a cultural quirk that has no meaning outside of its own bubble. The Americans may be a strange old breed but when it comes to a spectacle they go big and go hard, and that's not something we can say about this particular, insular, isle. 

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There's a sense of fascination at watching what they do best, to see the American dream unfolding before your eyes as though viewing an exotic animal behind the bars of a zoo. It's bigger, it's bolder and in many ways it's so much better.

After all, when was the last time the FA Cup final began with a monologue from Kurt Russell before a Bronco - with a woman dressed head-to-toe in tassels astride - charged out on pitch with players waving flags behind? That's what Denver got last year and there's no two-ways about it; it was unashamedly brilliant. Deny it all you want, but those syrup-drenched intros and chest-thumping VTs do certainly stir something within. 

It's uninhibited, unaware of itself, and actually really rather good fun for those willing to check their preconceptions at the door.

In four hours of razzmatazz and hard selling a game threatens to break out - and that's as much a part of the show as Pepsi and Dodge. Thanks to the introduction of something as vainglorious as a half-time show and the two minute warning - which is designed almost exclusively to shoe-horn in yet more advert breaks - it's difficult to know where one ends and the other begins.

Bigger, better, bolder

Everything is bigger than British sport, from the hits to the helmets. The touchdown celebrations are something to behold as well, but they don't compare to those unheralded souls in the defensive line who celebrate each minor victory as though the battle for earth itself has been won. Do yourself a favour and Google Stephen Tulloch. 

It seems as though the British are warming to the idea of the whole show; 3.6 million tuned in to watch last year's event across both Sky and Channel 4. Sky's average viewership for a Premier League game is around 1.2 million.

Dedication pays off

So those dedicated enough to stay up to the wee hours of Sunday evening and Monday morning then, will be rewarded with something particularly un-British - a spectacle so American it should come with it's own cowboy boots and star-spangled banner. 

But don't let that put you off, or the fact that most of the rules are largely unfathomable. Maybe it's time to let your hair down a bit and let sport entertain you the way it should. It's all meant to be just a bit of fun, right?

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Topics:
Superbowl
NFL

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