Schadenfreude Sunday?

Chelsea have had a disappointing week in the Premier League, but at least here in the States we have had the distraction of that other kind of football.

Sunday was the Super Bowl, the culmination of the NFL season that lasts around five months, half as long as the English clubs’ campaign in their version of the sport.

The Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots 41 - 33 in Minneapolis’ US Bank Stadium, the ground where the Blues’ pre-season friendly with AC Milan was staged in 2016. If the Patriots had won it would have been for a record-equalling sixth time, but as it played out, the Eagles lifted the Vince Lombardi trophy for the first time.

We don’t have an equivalent to Super Bowl Sunday in the UK. In the NFL, the winner of this one-off game is the champion, but whoever comes out on top in our biggest domestic football match, the FA Cup final, is overshadowed by the league winner.

In the USA, it’s an event for the whole family, even if some are only watching for the commercials and half-time extravaganza. Indeed my friend from Belfast who lives in California was at a Super Bowl party and texted me: ‘We live in a strange place. It’s supposedly the biggest sports event of the year but nobody pays attention until half-time.’

Stranger to me though was the reaction of the fans with whom I watched the contest here in New Orleans. The Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady had already won the title five times, the joint most of any player, and his team were favourites again. Of course, neutrals usually root for the underdog, but I was shocked by how fervent the support for the Eagles was. It was more than just schadenfreude - locals celebrated like the hometown team had won even though there is neither a geographical nor a historical reason to dislike the side from Boston.

Plenty of Chelsea supporters rejoiced when Leicester denied Tottenham the title two years ago - I was one of them - but this outpouring of joy dwarfed anything I’d seen in Britain. Shifting support I understand, and I roar on Arsenal, Manchester United and anyone else if them winning helps the Blues. But the bottom line is that I love my own team more than I hate anyone else.