I wrote some time ago that while I was in the U.S., I didn’t know really what the American culture was. After being away for a year, I have a better idea now. Here’s an example: football. Whether you like football or not, it is definitely part of U.S. culture. Turn on any TV on any fall Saturday or Sunday and you’ll see at least a couple games. Fans everywhere talk college ball, pro ball, BCS, and playoffs. Though I check ESPN’s post-game summary after all of Notre Dame’s games, I haven’t seen a football game in over a year.
Dad and Brook are visiting here in Chile, and last night I turned on the TV in the hotel. (Our TV received 65 times the number of channels we have in our house: 1 compared with 65.) ESPN Latin America was showing Monday Night Football. I watched the last two quarters of the Cowboys vs. the Giants fascinated. It was amazing to watch the formations on the field, passes, rushes, and penalty flags. Everything was so familiar and strangely comforting. I stopped to think what it will be like when I can turn on the TV and watch Notre Dame play on Saturday afternoons: joy delivered through a TV.
American football (as opposed to fútbol) is poorly understood in South America. Part of that is due to the complexity of the game. Soccer has 17 rules. I couldn’t even begin to count football’s rules. Think about it: in soccer, ball goes into net, team gets one point; in football, a touchdown is worth six points, with the possibility of one or two extra points, a field goal is worth three points, a safety two, and I may not even be aware of some other obscure way to score points. In just defining scoring, football already has five rules where soccer has one.
I’ve tried to explain football to some people, but interest is low. On top of that, I really don’t know many of the words to use. How do you say downs, quarterback, or field goal? Hearing the Spanish commentary on the Giants-Cowboys game answered all those questions. One of the terms was particularly intriguing: Quarterback is mariscal del campo, literally “marshal of the field.”
In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the unlimited access to soccer games on TV here. When I am home, I’ll appreciate football more as the part of our culture that it is.