Back in 2002, New England Patriots fans were thinking, "Hey, we can get used to this Super Bowl thing." And after the team's fourth Super Bowl appearance in seven years, they certainly have. What the fans are not used to is defeat, and Sunday night's 17-14 Super Bowl XLII loss to the New York Giants surprised both the fans and the world.
The reaction truly extended overseas, for just as Red Sox Nation extends to the far corners of the earth, so do the New England Patriots' provinces. Last Sunday night, football fans the world over, including Emerson students at the Kasteel Well program in the Netherlands huddled around their televisions sets to watch the Super Bowl. Students gathered late in the evening to watch the game, with the help of a little caffeine.
Kickoff didn't come until many in the country had long gone to bed: 12:19 a.m on Monday. Most castle students, after a weekend of traveling, went to sleep. Only 12 fanatical souls were awake and watching at 4:20 a.m. when confetti rained down and Eli Manning hoisted the Vince Lombardi trophy for the victorious New York team.
Giants fan and native New Jerseyian Brian Doyle was watching, but he had a hard time staying awake despite his favorite team's historic upset.
"I was falling asleep," the sophomore marketing communication major said. "After a big play, instead of yelling, I just froze, and quiet hours forced us to keep it down."
Last year, Doyle watched the Super Bowl at a neighbor's house in New Jersey with the comforts of home: American commercials, English-speaking commentators and, not least of all, buffalo wings. This year, after a quick halftime power nap, Doyle had enough energy to celebrate after watching his team win.
Talk of Tom Brady's ankle boot was juxtaposed with Holland's traditional wooden clogs (which some of the Patriots seemed to have been wearing during the game), a dumpy student lounge with a 19-inch television, Dutch commentary and the absence of American commercials.
For students in Boston, the Super Bowl Sunday protocol was firmly established. There was no wavering over how many bags of chips to get or what bowl to put the queso in. The only thing Emerson students had to worry about was President Jacqueline Liebergott's strict warning against post-game celebrations on the local TV news.
Castle dwellers, however, had a difficult time even finding the network that was carrying the game. Students missed kickoff and had to switch TVs after unsuccessfully trying to find the game on the campus' larger television.
Jeff Duray, a sophomore radio broadcast major, only reluctantly watched last year's Super Bowl XLI after his Patriots were knocked out by the eventual-champion Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game. This year, Duray watched with fervor, but in the end, his team fared no better.
"The Patriots were very lackadaisical, offensively and defensively," Duray said. "The line wasn't protecting Brady, and Belichick didn't make any adjustments at all to counteract the Giants."
But Duray is glad he's abroad while Patriots fans mourn.
"I'm glad that I'm here after they lost," he said. "Now I don't have to see the constant reminders that the Giants won."
Americans, never ones to diminish scale or spectacle, like to boast that the Super Bowl is a worldwide ratings giant. These claims are greatly exaggerated. According to Initiative, a New York-based media research firm, only 2 million out of a total worldwide audience of 93 million watched 2006's Super Bowl XLI between the Colts and the NFC champion Chicago Bears from outside the US and Canada.
Think of it this way: the English Premiere League Championship, one of the most popular soccer matches in the world, may be broadcast on a channel like ESPN2 in America. However, that doesn't mean any Americans will be watching. So as Emerson students watched on Sunday, they could have been the only television in the village of Well tuned to the great American football tradition.
Despite being a relatively solitary Patriots fan in a foreign nation, Duray held steadfast to his team throughout the game, even in the most desperate moments for New England.
"I never lost faith they would adjust," he said.
When the game finally ended in the early morning hours, fans of both teams went to sleep exhausted from a long day of travel and football.
There will be more Super Bowls, however. And when he watches next year, Duray won't have to listen to announcers speaking in Dutch.