11. The Superbowl on AFN

Feb 8th, 2010 (Entry 15)


In Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms,” the WWI soldiers had their horse races to watch. We’ve got our football games. But out here, the sports aren’t aired on the high-production networks that sponsor them, such as NBC, Fox, or ESPN, they’re aired with homegrown military programming on AFN.

AFN: The American Forces Network. It’s the military’s television, which rebroadcasts many shows, games, and movies out of the charity of American networks. The downside to this luxury is military rate commercials. While you might think the worst of television is commercial breaks, if you ever have to suffer through military programming and you’re an avid tube-viewer, you’ll never take the directorship and production of American commercials for granted again.

My favorite are the advisory ones. One in particular shows a young woman enjoying a book on a beach under the sun. After the shot focuses on her for a moment, she slowly looks up from her book. She stands up looking around, putting her hands out before running into something. A glass surface emerges in front of her to her horror, and the picture booms out to show our terrified, now freezing character stuck in a snow globe. Then the globe reads, “Hypothermia!” before the commercial abruptly ends. I’m sure the commercial makes some more sense with sound, but the point is clear as day: Hypothermia!!! Other messages of this caliber exist for domestic abuse, alcohol abuse, depression, reporting suspicious activity, etc. This is our break from regularly scheduled programming.

Today there was a commercial with a South Park cartoony style to it. The cartoon assumed the wishful thinking of EVERY Superbowl fan watching the game on the AFN: “Why can’t AFN air Superbowl commercials instead of these terrible ones?” The narrator explains that AFN gets their programming for dirt cheap, in an agreement that they don’t air any of the original network’s commercials.

Be thankful we at least get programming like the Superbowl. The protagonist says, “I guess AFN isn’t bad after all.” A text dialogue appears in the final seconds of the commercial (something like this): ‘Cartoon: Just air the commercials anyway. AFN: We wish.’ It’s comforting but odd that AFN acknowledges their mediocrity.

To every ten people on shift, probably 3 persons worth of work was produced during the game. I’d say half of that was yielded during the Vikings-Saints game. Probably ten people went to go pick-up wings for us.

I don’t watch a lot of football. I’ll tell you who does. He sits loudly behind me. Nick. There’s always one. Football is his life, with a little Marine Corps and weightlifting on the side as far as I can tell. But when the rest of us temporary fans come in to enjoy a game, he gets agitated.

Rather than use his unequalled dedication as a source of sophisticated argument, he prefers to disagree with, “You don’t even watch football.” In the middle of the Superbowl, apparently the entire workroom didn’t even watch football, and he started to lose it when the reviewed play showed the contrary (TOUCHDOWN SAINTS!).

Good job, Saints. Way to validate the Vikings’ loss a little. Oddly enough, I’ve watched more NFL out here than in the rest of my enlistment. Then again, football is very dear to the military’s heart so it makes sense that in a deployed environment where the military thrives, football would have a strong presence. Makes extra sense for Nick.

Hell, this was a holiday. We know what happens on holidays. The chow hall puts up too many cut-outs. Vague depictions of helmet-clad men hanging out with an oval ball plastered the white dome tents of our dining facility, and football linked party banners laced the frame. I withheld my criticism that they should’ve invested that money in better quality food for the occasion, and it was good that I did, because indeed they had buffalo wings available an hour before the 3:30 AM kickoff, God bless them.

The Major came in to watch the game, day shift workers woke in the middle of the night to see the score. Chips and soda covered a desk, and we all stared at the projector game, listening to commentary over a single USB plugged speaker. I got comfortable in my foam-padded card table chair.

When the commercials came, AFN touched base with their audience in the one way that would get us to hold our tongue: endless thanks for armed service members. Instead of sharing the latest global market changes and smokeless tobacco cessation campaign, interviews with Superbowl players shared a variety of thanks. Even a message from the President, and Secretary of Defense.

To be honest, we didn’t start laughing and joking about the commercials until at least the fourth or fifth time they were repeated.

Pizza Hut fighting is the war on terror by being the lone (chain) restaurant out here, but morale is a great asset to a war. For the masses, our spirits are marked by the driving entertainment back home. I stayed an hour and a half after a twelve hour shift a few weeks ago to watch the Vikings in the NFC championship overtime, probably just to be a part of the camaraderie.

12. Grenades, Cigarettes or Melons

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