Lost amidst whether South Africa is safe, my amazing endless travels through the African continent, or that one trip to Japan, are the little things about living in another country. Sometimes you miss watching the sports from home like Football. American football that is. Mine, and the majority of Americans’ favorite sport to watch. In South Africa however, football is the game played with the foot. It comes as no surprise that one of the first things most expats miss (especially American ones) is good old fashioned American sports. Somehow America decided to say screw the rest of the world, and invent sports that have captivated the American population but shunned the rest of the world.
Case in point, soccer makes American football look like a high school sport in terms of a world popularity. Cricket, the world’s second most popular sport, has more fans than baseball and football combined. We Americans are completely fine with this however, and we’ll gladly keep our American football and watch the World Cup, sprinkled with a few MLS games on occasion.
Updated 2018: I’ve reached out to the Hard Rock Cafe in Nelson Mandela Square to see if they’ll show the superbowl again this year but have not received any response. If anyone in Johannesburg and/or Cape Town know of any venues showing the game, please leave a comment below!
American Football in South Africa
This is without question, a non-topic in this country. Most people know nothing about the sport, and the people that do know what it is, will just bandwagon complain about how rugby is more manly because it doesn’t use pads. The whole rugby vs football is a whole other debate that I’ll comment on some other time but as for the culture in SA, don’t plan on going to the bar Sunday afternoon and expect to catch any NFL games on. No chance. Rugby, Cricket, and Soccer dominate the landscape and morning conversations here.
Nevertheless, the friends that I have made here are always curious to talk to me about football. While they don’t know much about the sport, they are especially curious to understand it better. I, of course, would happily oblige since they reciprocate the favor attempting to explain the impossible sport of Cricket to me.
Where to watch the Superbowl?
Since the game kicks off at 1am Johannesburg time, most bars are closed. However, the Hard Rock Cafe in Nelson Mandela Square is open and shows the game on all its TVs. As it is an American company, I’d reckon this will continue for the foreseeable future!
How to watch the Superbowl in SA?
The one year in my life that I decide to leave the states, my team, the Seattle Seahawks HAD to make the Superbowl. And the Superbowl was played in NYC of all places! It killed me not to be there. In the end, it’s probably a good thing as I would have likely blown $1,500 on a ticket, which I could instead use to travel around Africa or seemingly drink at every wine farm in Cape Town.
Nevertheless, a few thousand miles, a 7 hour time zone difference, and a 1:30am kickoff would not stop me from watching this game. There are two ways to do this:
SA’s main cable provider, shows the Superbowl throughout the country this year in HD live at 1:30am. It seems they will do this again in 2015 and years to come. The only, and major downside to this, is they will not show the commercials. Something about watching the most American broadcast of the year mixed with random South African commercials just feels strange to me. Nevertheless, if commercials are not important, this is the way to go because the HD quality will make it feel like home.
First Row Sports:
FirstRow sports, god bless them, is an essential to any American sports fan living abroad. You can watch anything college football and basketball, NFL, NBA, Olympics, and everything else live from your computer. Coupled with an HDMI cable, this is easily transferred to the computer. Downside to this? A fast internet connection is absolutely necessary and streaming anything will not yield the HD quality one might be used to when watching sports. More than likely, this option will also allow you to view the Superbowl commercials.
EDIT 2017: Reddit NFL Live Streams
The good folks on Reddit always seem to find the best solutions for just about anything. Reddit users post live action streams for anyone to use which is a great second option if First Row Sports is not working. This is not just for the Superbowl either, as links to live streams are posted for every game during the regular season. Hook up an HDMI cable to the TV or stream using Google Chromecast. This method is by far my most preferred method now.
Superbowl XLVIII – Joburg
If it were any other team aside from the Seahawks playing, I wouldn’t have sacrificed my entire next day but this is the least I could do to support my team. After putting the word out, we managed to muster two South Africans to join us for the early morning spectacle. We bought some American Superbowl necessities like wings from KFC (not recommended), chips, dip, and beers as well as cuisine from our adopted new home like biltong and chili bites. Nandos would also be absolutely clutch superbowl food.
Sometimes when you live abroad, you just gotta make things feel as at home as possible. 1:30am comes along, and I’m already two redbulls deep so I won’t fall asleep and the game begins! Anyone who watched this game knows the outcome as the Seahawks destroyed the Broncos. I ended staying up until 5am, completely ruining the next day, but totally worth it seeing my team win the big one. Getting a little bit of American in didn’t hurt either .
It was quite tough not being able to watch 2014’s Superbowl the way I’m used to but I survived. Now . . . if I’m still in SA for next year’s Superbowl and the Seahawks make it again? Not sure if I can stomach that. However, there is always the option of trying to get into Rugby, and I have a few games I’m planning on going to in the very near future that I will surely write about. Rugby is not football but sometimes you have to make compromises living away from home 🙁
If anyone knows of a better way to watch the Superbowl in Johannesburg or South Africa in general, please post a comment!