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I'm a disappointment to Ireland's NFL fans

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Eli Manning & Tom Brady - known
to many  Irish sports fans.
There's so much hype here, in Ireland, that I'm beginning to believe I'm the only man in Ireland who doesn't care who wins the Super Bowl. Everyone seems to be talking about it. Okay, not everyone and undoubtedly the Ireland vs Wales rugby game Sunday afternoon is a bigger deal here, but I can't get over the interest in the NFL these days, especially among men under 35 or so.

There's loads of talk about the Super Bowl on the radio, in the newspapers even among men chatting in the pub. Of course I find myself included in loads of Super Bowl conversations. People only have to hear my accent and they engage me in a Super Bowl discussion. Unfortunately, I don't really know enough about football today to hold up my end of the bargain unless we take a diversion back to Super Bowls of the 70s.
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So this Sunday when I tune in it's more out of curiosity than as a real fan. And I'll probably only watch the first half, but no more than that. I can't stay up late enough for the whole Super Bowl.

You have to remember, by the time they finally kick off in Indianapolis it will be 11:18pm here. That's a big part of what amazes me about the interest here. The game is on so late and, of course, it's endless. Yet so many people will watch it to the end. {I wonder how much bigger the audience in Europe might be - extra $$ - if the NFL moved the kick-off up by 90 minutes.}

I can't say exactly when I lost my keenness for pro football, but my interest had waned significantly before I had moved to Ireland in '91. When I was in school I watched 6 hours of football every Sunday. I rooted like crazy for my team to win and suffered when they lost. Somewhere, somehow that left me.

None of this would be an issue if it weren't for the fact that every Irish NFL fan I meet seems disappointed that I can't match their knowledge and excitement and provide them with the conversation they crave. Sure I know who Tom Brady & Eli Manning are, but after that I don't know much about any of the others playing on Sunday.

Back in 1986 when I came here as a student, there was a weekly NFL highlight show on TV. It was weirdly, wildly popular, but those who watched didn't really get to know the game. These days Irish fans can watch two or three full games a week - and many do - and they follow internet message boards and take part in fantasy football leagues and so on. They really know the game and I disappoint them when they get talking to me.

Over the years I've gotten used to the fact that there are Irish people who know more about American politics than I do - and I feel like I'm keen follower. Yet, somehow I feel like I'm letting others and myself down by not being able to discuss football with them.

If only the Irish were as interested in baseball. That I could talk about knowledgeably and enthusiastically for hours, days even. Baseball doesn't appeal, unfortunately. Football has gripped the Irish sports fan. I don't know which of the two teams is the favorite with Irish fans, but I'll be giving half a cheer for the Giants simply because they're the NY team.

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It's not the Super Bowl, but tonight's college basketball game from the Bronx featuring the Iona Gaels and the Manhattan Jaspers has me excited. If I'm going to stay up late for anything it will be this game - a full-throated Go Jaspers from me.

UPDATE: Jaspers lost. These things happen. Plenty of basketball still to be played this month.

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