Pinto: How a soccer fan watches the Super Bowl

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Pinto: How a soccer fan watches the Super Bowl

Yoni Pinto, Columnist

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The whole room abruptly stood up. Jermaine Kearse’s catch was one of the luckiest, most unbelievable catches in American football history. It could have had a huge impact on the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX.

As we all probably know, it wasn’t enough. In the following play, Russell Wilson threw his only interception of the game, at the worst possible time he could have, arguably losing Seattle the game and the championship.

What a game that was.

Before Fall Quarter of my freshman year, I hadn’t seen an American football game. Having grown up in Turkey, I was surrounded by the true football, the game that’s actually played by kicking the ball with feet, better known as soccer in this country.

As my father and uncle often like to remind me, the first toy I had was a teddy bear wearing a shirt with alternating red and yellow vertical stripes, the jersey of Galatasaray, the Turkish soccer club I proudly support. I’ve been surrounded by soccer since then.

Throughout kindergarten and elementary school, soccer was the game we played with friends. During recess — fall, winter or spring — we would grab a ball, go outside to the schoolyard and play until we heard the bell. Every Friday night when our family went over to our grandparents’ for dinner, we turned the television to whatever game was on. After a great Galatasaray win, I would have an extra skip to my step the next day at school, and everyone would be talking about what a game it was, how there were great goals, how each team could have played better.

Having grown up with this sport all around me, I got to appreciate why it’s called “The Beautiful Game:” the fluency of a game with beautiful passing all around the pitch, the moment of silence right before an unbelievable shot ends in the back of the net followed by the deafening roar of the crowd cheering in happiness, the creativity of the players who scored the unbelievable goals and the unpredictability of the underdogs scoring the last-gasp winner.

Whereas soccer is so creative, what I knew about American football was that it wasn’t so fluent. It had a lot of breaks and tons of commercials. It wasn’t elegant. It was people running into each other at the line of scrimmage. It seemed boring, and it was rare that special moments of magic appeared that made games unforgettable. I didn’t think I could be entertained by American football the way I was entertained by soccer.

This past Sunday, I’d told friends, “I’m looking forward to the wings more than I’m looking forward to the game.” I thought even the commercials could be more interesting than the game itself. But when Kearse managed to hold onto the ball after it bounced off his knee, I excitedly got out of my seat just like everyone else. This was one of those great moments, so it seemed.

Although in the end Kearse’s catch proved to be for nothing, on Sunday I “ooh’d” and “aah’d” just like I do when I see a goalie make a wonderful save or a shot go just wide of the goal. I was excited when there was a long pass that just happened to slip out of the receiver’s grasp, and I was in awe every time a running back managed to sneak through the defense.

American football and soccer are still very different games. I still do think football lacks the beautiful fluency of soccer, but then again football, unlike soccer, allows trailing teams to take the lead with one score.

Maybe Sunday’s game was just a great one and not all American football games are going to be like that. But in the end, on Sunday I saw how football could be just as exciting as soccer usually is to me. Watching the Super Bowl was fun, even if I had thought I could never like football.

Although I still don’t understand why it’s called football — “handegg” seems like a better name for it.

Yoni Pinto is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at ybpinto@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a letter to the editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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