The Super Bowl vs. The Awesome Box

The cruise before last was a bit different. It was the day before the Super Bowl, America’s biggest annual sporting event (why they can’t just play the same sports as the rest of the world, I don’t know), and I was expecting a lot of football jerseys. There were a few of them but, as I was standing on the gangway welcoming the guests onboard, I was surprised to see a whole lot of musical instruments, - tragically carried mostly by old white people.  At the safety briefing we were told that there was an Irish group on board for an Irish folk music charter. The same week as the most overly masculine super American sporting event of the year?

By the time we started the safety briefing for the guests and drunk middle-aged people who thought they were funny (they weren’t, they were just drunk) were adding their two cents worth to my actually funny but dry South African stand-up comedy set that is the safety briefing in the theatre, it was clear to me that it had finally happened: The Fourth of July and St. Patricks Day had collided into one really confused, definitely intoxicated holiday. I was scared. It was like Spring Break for old people.

American patriotism from a foreigners perspective

Of course, when they did the nationality breakdown, only 95 of the ‘Irish’ group members were traveling on Irish passports which meant that the rest of the 500+ group were Americans probably of somewhat Irish decent. I’m always in awe of how amazingly patriotic Americans are on the fourth of July and how, when they sing the national anthem and swear allegiance to the flag, it seems quite religious. By not joining in, you’re almost made to feel like you’re somehow being sacrilegious or blasphemous, even though it’s not your flag and even your own doesn’t inspire the same devotion from you (or anyone really) at all. Then, in March on St. Patrick’s Day, forget America! Everyone is suddenly Irish. Being American on that day isn’t even a thing. 

I was on this ship last year for both St. Patrick’s Day and the Fourth of July so I sort of knew the drill. The Super Bowl fell on the first Sea Day of the cruise. Just like the Fourth of July, the cruise staff were all up decorating for this event at the crack of dawn. Last year none of us were American and asking already sleep-deprived people to give up even more sleep for a holiday they would never otherwise celebrate (like Jews putting up Christmas decorations), seemed quite wrong to me. At least this time we had one whole American on the team. 

Our inflatable office referee
The day’s activities were pretty similar to what we normally do, except we added one or two extra football-related trivia into the mix. Fortunately, they assigned that to the American, because sports fans contest sports trivia answers as much as they do the decisions made by referees. Then, at about 4:30pm we started something called ‘Tailgating’. I had heard that term before but I didn’t know what it meant. I thought tailgating was when your neighbour drives into your complex (or ‘compound’ for people who live in first world countries who think they know what crime is but really don't) directly behind you without letting the gate close and reopening it themselves (proving that they live there), angering the body corporate in the process, because (even though they know the guy and know that he lives there and he’s not a criminal), they’re the body corporate and getting upset about petty things is what body corporates are for. It turns out that tailgating is also a term for when people sit in their cars outside stadiums waiting to get in, and do random things to entertain themselves to pass the time. 

I have mentioned one such famous American pastime once before, it’s called ‘corn-hole’ or ‘bean-bag toss’. It’s when Americans throw beanbags at a hole in a piece of wood (or plastic). You actually have to have two pieces of wood (or plastic) with holes in them on opposite sides, so each round you throw in opposite directions. I’m not really sure why you can’t just have one and go back to the same starting point each round, but that’s not how it’s done. Corn-hole is a big deal. Do not mess with the rules of corn-hole! (By the way, Will Ferell, if you’re reading this - and I’m sure you are - you should remake dodgeball and swop out the sport. It’s a pleasure.) Then, there’s a game called ‘blongo toss’ which is essentially the same thing, except you have to throw two golf balls linked by a rope at a plastic ladder (well, again, one of two plastic ladders).  

Hot dog eating made a feature as well, like it did on the fourth of July, because again, being the person who can shove the most processed meat and carbs down one’s gullet is still a much coveted title. We also hung a tube above the pool and had the guests compete to see if they could throw a football through it. 

Then, when the game started, the cruise staff actually got a little time off because all of the Americans were staring at screens, the “Irish” were simultaneously staring at screens and listening to live Irish folk music at the same time, and the Canadians went to the most poorly attended theatre show all year. 

I’m not interested in rugby let alone American football, so I wasn’t trying to get my head around the actual game, but I was trying to understand the hype and the geography of it all, so I surveyed two people that day, one guest and one crew member (obviously both American). The two teams in the finals were the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. Now, Atlanta I know I have visited. It’s a big city in Georgia. New England I am still not sure if I have visited. I didn’t think New England was a state but it didn’t sound like a city either. I didn’t bother googling anything or fact-checking, so if I spread any misinformation blame the people I surveyed. The guest said it was an area made up of five states, the crew member said twelve. So we have one city vs. between five to twelve states? Well, that seems fair!

There seemed to be a lot more Patriots fans on board. There also seemed to be a lot of people from Boston. Now, I associate Boston with Irish Americans, and the guest (who was a Patriots fan from Boston), confirmed that to be accurate. Massachusetts is part of New England.  So I figured that if there is a group of 500 Irish music fans on board and there seem to be a lot of people from Boston on board, they were probably part of the same group and simultaneously supporting the Patriots. And so, even though the ship is geographically closer to Atlanta, that might explain why there was much more Patriot support. 

My next question was, if Massachusetts has got so many ‘Irish’ people in it, and if America fought so hard for independence from Britain, why is it called New England? I was told by the crew member that the area where New England is, is where the Mayflower landed from England and where the first colony was started and therefore it became ‘New England’. So my next question was, if they're from New England and they’re called ‘The Patriots’ are they Patriotic towards England or America? And if, after so many generations, people are still claiming to be Irish, where are the people of English decent? And why aren’t they taking cruises in huge groups to appreciate various aspects of their English heritage like how to make an effing half-decent cup of effing tea for crying in an effing bucket? At that point his eyes glazed over. 

From what I can gather, the Patriots are patriotic to America (just like every other team that plays American football, but nice choice on the name there), and not towards England because no one has any sense of patriotism to Britain (I’m guessing because they were the bad guys in the war of independence?), regardless of whether or not their ancestors came from there. The the ‘Irish’ however (which is everyone on St. Patrick’s Day), are patriotic towards Ireland, except on the fourth of July (because on that day even the ‘Irish’ are American). There. Now you know. 

What seems crazy to me is that in this day and age, to discriminate against someone based on their race or gender is so taboo, yet to discriminate against someone based on the land of their birth (which is equally beyond anyone's control), is such standard practice in a society where one's national heritage is so often elective. To add to this, during the Latin Fiesta that followed the Super Bowl (probably not the best choice of theme parties for this occasion), I was thinking about the fact that California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada (almost half of America) all used to be part of Mexico. In fact the Mexican Cession where most of this land was ceded to the USA happened in 1848 at almost the same time as the Irish were coming to America as a result of the potato famine of 1846. (Okay, so I googled one thing.) The president though, who is of Scottish and German decent (he’s only first generation American on his mom’s side of the family and second on his dad’s - okay, I googled two things), wants to build a wall on that boundary line so that it’s harder for people to return to what was actually originally part of their country. Is that not also a bit of a grey area? But then, I'm foreign (just like most of your ancestors, and in some cases grandparents  (Donald)), so my opinion doesn’t really count.

At the end, the game was tied and they had to go into overtime. Fortunately, the Patriots won, otherwise the cruise would have been terrible and it would have all been our fault. The older folk were all partied out by the next day and things went back to normal (with the exception of one or two hopefully still somewhat intoxicated people who continued trying to give their two cents worth at various activities I was hosting). 

The highlight of my cruise though, was when one of the musicians got a new guitar in the mail and it came in a really big box, so we threw a party in it. #besthallwaypartyever! Everyone was welcome. And yes, I know I live on a billion dollar ship with broadway shows, free-fall vertical waterslides and ziplines that go over the side of deck 20, but forget that, we now have a really big box too! (Book your cruise now.) Why compete for a bowl when everyone (even people from different countries on different continents in different hemispheres) can all fit in a the same box? No one has to prove anything in the box, just revel in its diversity, equality and styrofoam chips. 

In other news:

I took an impromptu boat tour
The other day, the crew shuttle got stuck in traffic a few blocks away from our usual drop off spot near the Bayside centre so we all abandoned it. As I wandered through I saw the sign for the Millionaire row boat tour where they take you to see all the mansions and homes of the rich and famous, so I decided to take it. I’m going to have to do a lot of contracts to be able to afford on of those.

Ricky Martin's House

I moved cabins again
For the first time out of choice. I’ve been asking for a cabin closer to my office (since I have to go there on my way to any activity and my cabin could not be further away) since day one. Finally, half way through my contract, move number four made it happen. This time they got my name wrong on my name plate but at least they got my job description right. 

Valentines day
And then a week after the Super Bowl, I celebrated another event/holiday that is in no way relevant to me. I had to really muster up a whole lot of enthusiasm to put on a dress, but when it came to footwear I was upstaged by my male colleagues. 

This is why I'm single
(I'm on the right)

14.5 cruises down, 11.5 to go
Time left until St. Patricks day: 23 Days
Time left until the 4th of July: 4 months and 10 days




Accommodation deals

Sharon Waugh

Sharon is a writer, cruise ship entertainment host and freelance unicorn wrangler. She is currently taking a break from her seafaring adventures to explore some more landlocked locations from her homebase in Johannesburg, South Africa. She likes to photograph a plastic lawn flamingo 'Rodrigo' on her travels because it seemed like a good idea ten years ago and 53 countries later, it’s probably too late to turn back now.

 Sharon greatly dislikes reading 'travel blogs' by people who are just rephrasing press releases or composing lists like '15 ways to travel the world for cheap', specifically formulated for SEO, with absolutely no evidence that the writers have ever left their bedrooms. (This is not one of those blogs.) Sharon also dislikes bigotry and referring to herself in first person, apparently.

To find out more about Sharon and Rodrigo’s travel aspirations read this.

Browse by category

Practical travel tips and destination guides for anyone visiting any of the places I have been.

My thoughts on travel mascots, photographing your butt in exotic locations and the addictive nature of cruise ship employment, among other things.

True stories about trying to find trolls in Norway, toilets in Denmark and getting flashed in Cuba, to name a few.

Tips for cruisers and crew members, as well as anecdotes from a variety of experiences at sea.