Monday, February 2, 2009

The Super Bowl, Samoan Style

I just watched the Super Bowl for the first time since arriving here. It was...ah...different.

But first, the runup to the Big Game. American Samoans LOVE American football, so it's a big deal here. Due to their size and athletic ability, there are quite a few Samoans in the NFL. And of course, the locals favor any team with a Samoan player. A lot of Samoans claimed to be "HUGE Steelers fans," but have never even heard of the world-famous Terrible Towel. The real truth is that they're fans of California-born safety Troy Polamalu, a Samoan.

I was also interested to learn that one of the players for the Carolina Panthers is a Tongan. Which really gave everyone here a reaction of "Oh." Turns out the Samoans and Tongans don't get along very well. Possibly due to centuries of war between them.

I ended up watching it in Taps Sports Bar, because our radio station had a live braodcast there, and I figured I might as well watch it with the people I know best (and where they have $2 Heinekens). The live broadcast ended about 10 minutes before the game started, and half of the people with the station left at that. But the rest of them stayed, and I was pretty nicely settled in (had just started a beer) so I stayed. I had a couple of nachos and some "Chile fries," according to the menu. I had no idea that Taps had such international cuisine.

It's incredibly weird to see a Super Bowl in the middle of the day. For almost the entire first half, it felt like just an ordinary football game on a Sunday afternoon. Plus, all the excellent Super Bowl commercials are gone.

See, since my station is set to become the NBC affiliate and already kinda/sorta is, we had the rights to the game. But Joey wanted our small sales staff to focus on getting long-term sponsors for the station, rather than just a few short-term sponsors for the game. Plus, it would be a lot of work to get ready for, and we're still only available on cable in a place where only about 5,000 homes have it. And it would suck to have to cram your giant Samoan agia (extended family) into the house of the one guy you know that has cable (as rival station/fake Fox affiliate Malama forced them to do last year). So we gave the game to government-owned station KVZK.

All live sports get here via the Armed Forces Network satellite feed. But for whatever reason, the AFN doesn't want the Samoan populace watching their commercials (I guess the website for info on how to get the most out of your GI Bill money is a closely guarded military secret), so they have to be covered up with something. Presumably because we gave them the game, we didn't let them air any commercials. So KVZK instead used footage of some kind of candlelight vigil for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And something else that appeared to be a funeral for a Samoan soldier killed in action. They also cut out almost all of the speakers and hymns from both of these things, so the first five commercial breaks were literally just people walking up and putting candles on an altar.


It's like they decided to air the most depressing thing that I couldn't possibly make fun of.

Anyhow, watching the game went really well. Except that the captions on the TV were set with all of our Spanish-speaking Samoan friends in mind.

I tried to help them fix this during the "commercial" break, but the controls for that were only on the remote, which had been lost. Turns out it's one of those TVs where they used up all the buttons on the set for things that 99% of people are afraid to touch, lest they find themselves watching everything in black and white with a permanently squished horizontal picture and all of the captions in Tongan.
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