The Super Bowl this year was pretty super–a tight battle until nearly the end, an early and controversial ruling on the field that was somehow confirmed after a challenge and video review, the underdog Denver Broncos, with their ancient field general piecing together some points and, mostly, a fierce defensive contest won by the Broncos, who forced the Carolina Panthers into key turnovers to emerge as the surprise winners.
It was a fitting game for the event’s 50th anniversary, and one of the infrequent instances when the game actually has lived up to the name.
And here, in Siem Reap, Cambodia, it was also a stupor bowl. Unlike parties in the United States, the game party here began at about 5:30 a.m. Monday morning, before dawn. In a bar. With the beer taps flowing and the mixed drinks swirling.
For a mere $16 U.S. it was an open bar from opening hour, and the crowd of mostly American tourists (there were some Brits and Aussies; they didn’t seem to have the slightest understanding or interest in the game, but clearly viewed a Super Bowl party as a perfectly good excuse for a sunrise drink or three) had a collective thirst that easily matched the intesity of the on-field action.
By the end of the first quarter, the volume in the bar had risen to a shout, and it only got louder as the game went on. Drinks piled upon drinks at the table, and by the end of the second quarter, attention to the game had slipped considerably. The always hyped half time show looked liked it must have sounded good, especially Beyonce and her leggy dancers, but the boozed up crowd drowned out any hope I had of hearing the show.
By the third quarter, a few of the young New York City finance industry guys at my table were sagging like beleagured defensive linemen under a relentless offensive ground attack. One, a pretty tall guy who was in front of me, went from sitting upright at the start of the game to taking little naps with his head against the chair in front of him. Maybe it was just the early hour. More likely, however, it was the multiple beers, screwdrivers and vodkas on ice downed at an hour before he’d normally be expected to even show up for work on his trading desk.
By late fourth-quarter, those of us who had behaved got to see the final humbling of the Panthers and their dynamic quarterback, Cam Newton. For the others, it was a time to stare at the undrunk ansenal of booze they’d built up by last call, half of it untouched as the reality of early morning inebriation began to take its toll. The bar did rouse itself–drunkards included–to pump out at the end of the game a brief, bizarre chant of “USA, USA!” Why, I’m still not sure.
I’ve long called the NFL’s title game the Stupor Bowl because so often they’re one-sided, non-contests. Today, however, it was a Super-Stupor Bowl, with both the game and the bar crowd pretty entertaining. I left it sober, headed for a cafe and a post-game cappuchino.