Bormett's Vignette: A superb Super Bowl abroad
Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone. For many, this event means hosting parties with a living room full of appetizers, drinks and good company. I've certainly participated in a number of those myself.
However, my favorite game day experience is a little different. In fact, it didn't even happen during the day.
At this time two years ago, I was finding my footing as a temporary resident in Barcelona, Spain, for a semester abroad. I'd arrived about two weeks earlier with several fellow Mizzou students. It didn't take us long to locate a tavern and tapas bar called L'Ovella Negra (The Black Sheep) that became a staple of our nights out, and they were hosting a Super Bowl watch party.
The only catch? Due to the time difference abroad, the game wouldn't start until 12:30 a.m.
Our group didn't care strongly about the Patriots nor the Falcons, so my friend Kati, a fellow Wisconsinite, brought her green-and-gold Aaron Rodgers jersey as we headed out into the night. After all, we weren't going to be surrounded by die-hard fans anyway.
During the day, passers-by wouldn't find much at L'Ovella Negra beyond an expanse of windowless, sun-bleached, brick and concrete wall. There is no identifying business sign save for the spray-painted sheep logo on a metal garage door obscuring the entrance.
Once they opened for the night, however, the space burst with life. We walked through the front doors and found ourselves packed like sardines against the stone walls of the expansive hall. Murals of crashing waves crested above the heads of hundreds of Americans and Spaniards alike, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in a zig-zag of tables and benches throughout, waiting for the game to begin.
We fought the sea of patrons to the bar to acquire patatas bravas, a fried potato appetizer of sorts, and mugs of sangria, before attempting to locate a seat.
We zeroed in on a young man sitting with a group off to the left who looked to be wearing the same Rodgers jersey as Kati. What luck! We decided that if we could bond with him over being fans of the Packers he'd let us squeeze in at the end of the table.
However, after attempting to strike up a conversation over the chaos around us, we quickly realized that this man was Spanish and hardly understood English.
We switched to speaking in Spanish only to then discover that he didn't even know who the Packers were, and certainly did not hold any specific affinity for Aaron Rodgers the way Kati did. He chose his NFL jersey completely arbitrarily.
When it seemed that our perfect "in" to getting a seat wasn't going to pan out, this young man and his friends squeezed together anyway, making just enough space for the four of us to find room.
I don't know if we charmed him with our conversation, thoroughly confused him or just looked desperate enough for a seat, but we were grateful for the accommodation.
As we piled onto the newly vacant bench and turned to the projector screen hanging from the tavern's vaulted ceilings, the national anthem was just finishing.
As Luke Bryan sang "home of the brave," all Americans in L'Ovella Negra erupted into a chant of "USA! USA! USA! USA!"
We ate, drank, talked and cheered our way until halftime. Realizing that it was nearly 3:30 a.m. and we all had work the next day, my friends and I made our way back to salvage whatever sleep we could.
While this was not my wildest memory from my time in Barcelona, and not even my only sports-related tale, it still holds a special place. This was one of the first times my friends and I stopped approaching Barcelona like a tourist destination and started to make it a home.
L'Ovella Negra became a regular hangout for us, we got used to the late-night hours that the city's social scene kept and we melded what was important to us as Americans with the new culture we were adopting in Spain.
Sporting events have ways of bringing people together and creating memories regardless of what happened during the game. This was the most unforgettable Super Bowl I've ever
watched, and it had nothing to do with how the teams played. The experience was all I needed.