Super Bowl LVI: For Desis, American football is an acquired taste but with advantages

Tara Dahal never had an interest in American football and had no knowledge of the game either. But this time, when the Cincinnati Bengals reached the Super Bowl, he learned the game from his 14-year-old son, Subham. “We watched the final at home,” said the Cincinnati-based Nepalese American, who now enjoys watching the game and has become “a good fan of Burrow and the Bengals.”

Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval attends Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals and LA Rams at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, California on February 13. Top photo: American Indians enjoy Super Bowl LVI at the site. From left to right, comedian Rajiv Satyal and Samir Dedhia, co-founder and interim CEO of LemonBrew, a tech company for all things real estate.

While that year’s game was a catalyst for Dahal’s introduction to the sport, many South Asian American immigrants turned to the sport as a way to assimilate into the mainstream. For those who grew up with cricket, football, or even field hockey, watching college and NFL games doesn’t come naturally. Yet, as football season approaches, desis, sporting the jerseys of their favorite team, begin to congregate in bars or at home, rooting for their favorite team, clapping at a touchdown and cheering on cheers. high decibels, feeding on each other’s energy. It’s the social aspect of the game, along with its excitement and unpredictability that attracts them to the sport.

Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval tailgates with Bengals fans before the Super Bowl game at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, California on February 13. “We brought ENERGY to the tailgate! Bengals Nation has taken over LA,” Pureval wrote in a Facebook post.

The same energy was seen among South Asian Americans this Sunday, February 13, as the LA Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, California. From stadium stands to bars and homes, they cheered on their favorite teams and enjoyed America’s most popular sports day. Add to that the commercials, the halftime show, the food, the drinks, the company – it was a win-win no matter the outcome of the game.

Azra Big loves watching the Super Bowl every year – “the football game, the halftime show, the commercials and the food.” Although she had been a fan of the Cleveland Browns since childhood, she encouraged the Cincinnati Bengals because she was happy to see “at least one of the Ohio teams make it to the Super Bowl.”

West Windsor, New Jersey Mayor Hemant Marathe watched the game with his family. An avid fan, football has become an integral part of his life since he was a student at Virginia Tech in the early 1980s. He remembers watching college teams play and gradually becoming interested in the sport. His roommate taught him how the game worked.

While most watch sports for the love of the game or their allegiance to a particular team, fans agree that eating and drinking are a big part of watching sports. Super Bowl parties have become de rigueur, and many Indian-American families host annual events filled with staples like beer, fries and dip, chicken wings, pizza, and nachos. It is also a time of socialization.

Comedian Rajiv Satyal, second from left, with friends at the Super Bowl. Bengals fan Satyal, who was born and raised in Cincinnati, currently lives in Los Angeles, about 15 minutes from SoFi Stadium.

“Sport is more about being social than anything else,” says Navdeep Parmar. “Watching your favorite team with other fans or sports fans is always fun.” Parmar, of East Brunswick, New Jersey, gets together with friends to watch NFL games once the season begins. Although Parmar grew up here and most of his friends grew up in India, their shared love of sport brings them together. For many like him, watching the game with friends at a bar is an ideal Sunday.

Some supported the Bengals, probably because of their name. Many on social media joked about how the match was between the Bengalis and Ramas. “Watching the Super Bowl. Only football game I’ve watched all season,” actress Ranjita Chakravarty wrote on her Facebook. “Supporting the Bengals – simply because of their name. Since I am a proud Bengali. Why none of the team members are from Bengal? Oh what – well Bengali is a state of being.

(Legend has it that the Cincinnati Bengals got their name in part because of a rare white tiger at the Cincinnati Zoo.)

Tara Dahal of Cincinnati, Ohio watches the Super Bowl with his wife, Sulochana, and boys, Subham and Satyam.

Many have given their own twists to the game – whether it’s with the menu or attire or adding a workout based on the number of fumbles, interceptions and touchdowns. Varun Gandhi from Los Angeles organized a small gathering of friends. They enjoyed the game together while feasting on a delicious vegan spread. “Not everyone was into football,” Gandhi said. “Most of them came to hang out and meet; only 30% cared about the game. The biggest hit was the halftime show. “We were all in the age bracket that grew up on Snoop [Snoop Dogg]Dr [Dr. Dre]Eminem, Kendrick [Kendrik Lamar]and Mary [Mary J. Blige].”

The halftime show was also a draw for Atlanta-based chef Neelma Patel, although the game’s final breakdown disappointed her. “We always want to see the underdogs win when our own teams don’t get that far and so it was disappointing to see the Bengals lose,” she said. “However, it’s always the better team that wins,” she added. “The halftime show took me back to my youth and I loved showing my kids a part of me when the beat dropped.”

There were also advertisements. While ads for Uber Eats, CoinBase, Chevrolet and Lays stood out, there were at least two with a desi connection. An advertisement for Peacock featured dhol player Sunny Jain, founder of the band Red Baraat. Also included in the announcement are Brooklyn co-artistic directors Raga Massive, Need Murgai on sitar; Akshat Jain on sousaphone and Roshni Samal on tabla.

A Google ad included an American Sikh family. The spot promotes Google’s Pixel 6 phone and one of its defining features: Real Tone, a software technology that ensures its camera accurately captures various skin tones.

While those watching at home enjoyed the game with the ads, the broadcast, and the company, for those in the game, it was a surreal experience. Comedian Rajiv Satyal, who was on hand, described the feeling as “incredible”. Satyal, who was born and raised in Cincinnati, now lives in Los Angeles, 15 minutes from Sofi Stadium. According to him, nearly 53% of the tickets were brought in by Bengals fans. “There were so many Bengal fans,” said Satyal, who decided at the last minute to attend the game. “Standing at the stadium, in this energy, knowing that everyone splurged, was an experience like no other.”

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Satyal, whose immigrant parents are also fans of the sport, explains that the excitement, immediacy and unpredictability of the game, “is what attracts people. “Football is. Religion in this country, like no other.

Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval was also at the stadium in support of the Bengals. On his social media, he posted photos of himself at pre-game events, giving press conferences, hanging out with team members and stalking fans.

Dilawar Syed, President Joe Biden’s nominee for deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, supported the Rams. “Incredible energy and California spirit at the Super Bowl,” he tweeted. “Rooting for LA Rams – for the love of the Golden State!!”

New Jersey’s Samir Dedhia, co-founder and interim CEO of LemonBrew, a technology company for all things real estate, was also rooting for the Rams. “Congratulations to the Los Angeles Rams on their Super Bowl championship,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Coming from a Philadelphia Eagles fan, we know it’s not easy to win a championship, but the Rams organization is something special and their fans should be proud of what this team stands for. downstairs.”

Friends gather at Varun and Sheenika Gandhi’s home in Los Angeles, California on Feb. 13 to watch the game and feast on vegan food.

On his Facebook page, Satyal wrote about his connection with his local team. He admitted that although the team was not doing well, he broke up with it. “I never really took root against the Bengals,” he wrote, but he wished them no harm. This time, however, when I saw my dad so excited for the playoffs, I realized the Bengals were family. Sometimes you get mad at them, sometimes you even feel like you hate them. But you always come back – because the family always brings you back.

About Betty J. Snyder

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