Culture Schlock

Foreign journalists are incredulous at banality of Super Bowl scene

"American sportswriters, most of them, they only ask questions that they know the answer to. Half of the questions start with 'How important is it that'..."

During Friday's taping of The Tonight Show, Cusse says, an American sportswriter is sitting in front of him. "He went completely mad. Standing up, shouting all the time, fists in the air, shouting, 'I love you, Jay.' And I was thinking, 'How can I ever take something seriously that you're writing?'"

On January 26, 240,000 Norwegians open their morning edition of Dagbladet to find a special two-page spread.

Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza circulates among the people at the NFL Players Party inadvance of the Super Bowl. He tells Dagbladet that his only concern is to have a good time. "I'll let others talk figures and profit. My only concern is that people will be proud of their city."

"That's my translation of the lead, in Don King's English," Elvik says that night. He explains that he tried to convey the prevalence of corporate silliness.

"I'm not used to that hard a sales pitch. But Americans seem to be much more immune to that. It's one of the things thatpuzzles me. I did a reference to the sales pitch when I wrote that Diana Ross was doing a halftime show named after the sausage of Oscar Mayer. And in Norwegian, there was a nice double meaning there."

Friday night finds Elvik looking for more indulgence, and his search for balloons takes him to Jungle Cabaret not far from his hotel. The strip club has advertised NFL Players Party Night, and many of the patrons are wearing official Super Bowl XXX hats and shirts while they watch nearly naked women gyrate.

Thanks to television, Elvik says, American culture has displaced some of the folkways of his countrymen, which alarms many native Norwegians. But lap-dancing has yet to make it across the Atlantic.

Elvik's never seen it before.
Seated football fans are paying lithe young women to move seductively over them, imitating the movements of intercourse and oral sex without making actual contact. The men, some old enough to be the dancers' fathers, sit ramrod stiff, never flinching in their part of the strange ritual.

"The girls are working hard," Elvik says, "and it's all an illusion. It's weird. I'm amazed."

It's a trait that many of the Super Bowl ceremonies seem to share. Whether it's simulating the game of football itself at the NFL Experience or suggesting that one can hobnob with celebrities at a party downtown, it's illusion that the natives seem more than willing to pay for, and it fascinates the Norwegian writer.

Not enough, however, to pay for a lap dance of his own. After a half-dozen scantily clad women ask if they can dance for Elvik, he excuses himself, shaking his head. "I don't see how the men can sit so still. I think I would be embarrassed," he says with a laugh.

Americans consider themselves the chosen people. They call their country the leader of the Western World. But only a minority seems to be interested in matters outside the United States. The first thing you miss as a Belgian is a decent news program. Especially when you're here during Super Bowl week. I haven't heard the words "Bosnia" or "Palestinian" once since I've been here.

Patrick Cusse says that's how the lead of his story translates, more or less. He's buried the game's outcome several paragraphs down, knowing that his Belgian readers will be less concerned with the score than Cusse's observations about fan behavior.

That unlike Belgians, American sports fans don't sing during the game, for example. Or that they shout obscenities at each other without any intention of coming to blows. Or that Cusse spotted three fans peeing in sinks and trash cans, and all three were wearing Steelers shirts. In his article, Cusse wonders if it's something they do regularly in Pittsburgh.

Elvik, on the other hand, remarks in his article that seeing Diana Ross carried away in a helicopter made him think about the Vietnam war.

Cusse, who compared Ross' voice to the squeal of a pig, finished his article by noting that the new Pepsi commercial featuring Deion Sanders was chosen as the best during the Super Bowl. Naturally, the announcement was made during a local newscast.

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