The American Super Bowl Servette FC, Xamax and Sion


For an athlete, the importance of sports is evident. For the non-athlete, the importance of sports is debatable. For the sociologist, the importance of sports is undeniable.

Servette FC is part of Geneva's community. Although the number of people who attend games is relatively small, a large segment of Geneva residents follows the trials and tribulations of their home team, both on and off the field. Servette unifies all elements of Geneva's cosmopolitan population. As for Xamax and Sion, they are integral parts of a sense of belonging of entire regions; the Valais roots for Sion, the Jura is (was?) behind Xamax.

These observations about football in Switzerland are posted by a transplanted American who has just observed the great American community-builder, the Super Bowl. This is more than just an American football game; it is a national day of celebration. Over 100 million people watched the game. Madonna's halftime show will be talked about long after the event. All commercials for the game were sold out by Thanksgiving 2011 at an average price of $3.5 million per thirty-seconds; at least one thirty-second spot cost $4 million. Sponsors launch new products during the game and highlight the ads weeks before as teasers; some regions even saw anti-abortion ads.

Before we could watch the game in our homes, Geneva fans would assemble in the Hotel Intercontinental for the yearly ritual of watching and partying. There was an enormous sense of belonging. This was our night, perhaps as important as the July 4 celebration. We were all together, no matter which teams were playing.

People now watch the game in their homes, but that does not diminish the amount of attention to the game nor to its role in American society. Betting pools abound, including wagers on the duration of the singing of the national anthem before the game; activities are organized for wives not interested in following with their husbands; 2,000 accredited journalists (500 from abroad) flock to the game site analyzing any aspect of the players' lives to get an exclusive. More attention is paid to this game in the United States than the brutalities in Syria. This is front page headline material. And it's not just important in the United States. The game is broadcast in nearly 200 countries.

It would be too academic for me to compare American football with European football. It would be pedantic of me to compare the violence in American society with the violence on the football field. It would be beside the point for me to criticize Americans for their parochial interest in this very American sport. For the real story is that THE NEW YORK GIANTS WON THE SUPER BOWL on Sunday. My team won. That's all that really matters today.

February 6, 2012




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