With what might be called a “calculated indifference,” Philadelphians either turned on – or tuned out – Superbowl XLVI last night.
As many locals had no horse – or, better stated, Eagle – in the race, buzz for the game was somewhat muted, but that didn’t prevent fans from filling local bars to watch a game that was hyped in certain circles as being one of the all-time great contests in sports.
In order to witness its impact in hyperlocal quarters, Newsworks sampled some of the offerings available last night in East Falls.
Here’s the play-by-play.
At Johnny Manana’s Mexican Restaurant, the Superbowl celebration is decidedly low-key, with only a handful of patrons watching the centrally-mounted Samsung flat screen television.
Half-bathed in a red glow emanating from beneath the bar is Rob Kennedy. He’s tired – he worked the overnight shift the previous evening – but he’s killing time before picking up his daughter at the airport.
With the Giants up by two points, Kennedy muses about the game already underway.
“This is going to be a blowout,” he says, without taking his eyes off of the screen.
While he’s an aficionado of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, he’s not very invested in this contest.
“It doesn’t matter who wins the game,” Kennedy says.
Sharing a table behind Kennedy are Robin D’Angelo and Kate Olson, who are seeking refuge from their suburban existence and, to some degree, the Superbowl itself.
D’Angelo explains that she left her home under duress from her husband and sons.
“They pushed me out the door, kicked me, and said ‘Don’t come back,'” she joked.
Olson is not much of a fan either – she grew up in a football-oriented family, and was turned off to the sport.
Subsequently, they demonstrate little enthusiasm or interest in the game; they save that for the half-time show.
“There’s no other reason to watch,” says D’Angelo, “even when it is the Eagles.”
Across Midvale Avenue from Manana’s is The Falls Taproom, where an intimate number of guests are gathered.
Seated at the bar is Joe Lang, a resident of Roxborough and Boston expat, rooting for the Patriots.
With his leg sprawled across an empty seat next to him, he makes furtive gestures with his hands at the television screen before him. After an agreeable play, he’ll often shout “Yes!” and clap.
He’s alone this evening – his wife is at the movies with her friend.
“My wife detests football,” explains Lang, but corrects himself by saying, “she actually doesn’t detest football – she detests me watching football.”
In his wife’s absence, his cell-phone acts as his companion. He’s receiving texts from across the country containing a variety of imprecations and exhortations aimed at the Giants, none of which are suitable for print.
“They’re overwhelmingly for New England,” he suggests as a euphemism.
Marvin Graaf, owner of Falls Taproom, attributes the paucity of guests to his establishment’s branding.
“We’re becoming more of a restaurant,” he says, adding that his clientele is drawn to the menu and the variety of craft beer offered. He notes that, as often as not, the television is off.
Lest the night be seen as a loss, however, Graaf says that pre-game take-out orders for wings and such were brisk, and he expects similar trade during half-time.
Up the hill from the riverside taverns is Franklin’s Bar and Grille, which has a sizable crowd.
“We’ve had a great turnout,” says Franklin’s General Manager Fran McMahon, “we filled the place.”
Franklin’s is one of the newer faces in the East Falls food milieu – it opened mid-September. With the football season at a close, they opted to go out with a bang, serving a large buffet with an entire roasted pig as the centerpiece.
Like many dutiful hosts, McMahon was on tenterhooks until the party started, despite these preparations.
“Every year at 5 p.m. I start panicking,” he recalls, “but then, at 5:30 p.m., the place always starts filling up.”
Availing themselves of Franklin’s festivities are Sandra and Greg Davidson. From their corner position at the bar, Greg’s attention fluctuates between the various television sets, while Sandra’s gaze remained fixed – on her smart phone.
Sandra is relatively new to the country – she moved from Colombia four years ago – and is scanning Twitter feeds in an attempt to learn about football’s finer points.
“I don’t understand the game,” she laughs.
Noting that American football has little traction globally, Sandra observes that NFL play is rough for the newly-initiated – especially for female viewers accustomed to soccer’s decorum.
However, Greg is charitable with Sandra’s relative inexperience.
“For people who didn’t grow up with it,” he cedes, “it’s a complicated sport.”
Down the street is the venerable Billy Murphy’s Irish Saloon, so ensconced in East Falls life that other tavern-keepers are forced to admit that “it’s a great neighborhood bar.”
Mike Murphy, son of the bar’s recently-deceased namesake, is pouring drinks to a crowd that is somewhat thinner at this point in the game.
Recalling an early peak in patronage, he says that “everyone leaves at halftime because they have to work tomorrow – and the Eagles aren’t in it.”
He’s rooting for the Giants – he considers the Patriots “the Yankees of Baseball” – and notes that his patrons’ loyalties were split, but not between the teams.
“They’re more into the commercials,” he says, adding, “they were talking during the game, but during a commercial – dead silent.”
Seated at one of Murphy’s tables are Hannah and Audra Murphy – no relation to Mike – two sisters who, in light of their indifference to a Superbowl bereft of the Birds, opted to play a game based upon the Superbowl.
They devised a 40-question rubric allowing them to monitor various aspects of the game’s spectacle and pageantry, with questions such as, “What color Gatorade will be dumped over the winning coach’s head?” and, “Will the last note of the national anthem be over seven seconds long?”
“Clarkson let us down,” says Audra, noting that “brave” lasted for only 3 or 4 seconds.
With no vested interest for the sisters, the 2012 Superbowl stands as little more than a compendium of pop culture, interspersed with seemingly anticlimactic moments, such as the “Hail Mary” pass in the game’s final seconds.
Oberserving that “purple” is indeed the color of the now-dumped Gatorade, Hannah discovers that her guess was incorrect.
“This is the worst game ever!” she declares.