x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Pass the chicken wings

Super Bowl XLVII is an opportunity for Americans to forget their troubles and feel united.

Super Bowl XLVII, the latest version of the championship game of American football, will be played today in New Orleans. Be gentle with your co-workers from the US: the National Football League enthusiasts among them will be energised today but bleary tomorrow: kickoff time is 3.30am in the UAE.

The Roman numerals add a solemn, not to say pompous, air of historical importance to what is really just a festival of marketing; indeed millions of Americans who could not care less about the game will tune in simply to see the cleverly written, elaborately produced, and celebrity-studded commercials for cars, fizzy drinks, and corn chips.

For fans in America, Super Bowl Sunday is in many ways the biggest holiday of the year: most chicken wings consumed, biggest television audience, and so on.

Tomorrow morning - Sunday evening local time - the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers will face off in New Orleans. It is the 10th time the big game has been held there, but the first since Hurricane Katrina destroyed large parts of the city in 2005. Smaller and poorer than before the storm, New Orleans is still far from regaining the carefree party-town atmosphere it had the last time the game was played there, in 2002. But hosting the event will help, with tourist dollars and publicity alike. Even an over-the-top sports festival has its uses.