Postcard from Spain: A sleepy look at Super Bowl "Monday"

NOT a pre-game Super Bowl parade in San Sebastian

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain—Sorry this Super Bowl report is late but, somewhere between Pink catching a cold and Nick Foles catching a touchdown pass, I face-planted into the synthetic-leather couch cushion of our mid-city apartment rental.

Last thing I remember was Cris Collinsworth, or maybe it was a rooster, crowing.

Some are calling Philadelphia’s 41-33 victory over New England on Sunday one of the most thrilling in history.

If you say so.

That’s not how it played in this sleepy little town, on the Atlantic Ocean, near the French border.

Here it was the stupor bowl, a snoozer, worse than watching Bill Belichick read the phone book to villagers in the town square.

I couldn’t stop yawning and needed the toothpicks from my pre-game olive plate just to keep my eyes open.

NBC isn’t going to like the “overnights” from San Sebastian because the entire broadcast was “over night” and played to an audience of two American tourists and one angry fisherman.

I finally know what Pac 12 “After Dark” football feels like for East Coast viewers.

Strange doesn’t begin to describe this experience for me. I covered nine Super Bowls for the Los Angeles Times, including the last one played in Minneapolis (Washington over Buffalo).

There are some coma inducers in my clip file, topped maybe by San Francisco’s 55-10 mauling of the Denver Broncos in New Orleans.

There are sleepers and there are SLEEPERS.

For starters, Sunday’s game for me kicked off Monday, 12:30 a.m. local time, just as my wife and I had completed the nine-hour, time-change adjustment from California.

Imagine a Super Bowl “party” in pitch dark, in the middle of the night, in a quiet neighborhood apartment complex; a Super Bowl with no cheering, shouting, stomping, or jeering.

The good news: at least no one's "friend-of-a-friend" spilled chili on the carpet.

Let me set the Super Bowl atmosphere for you in Basque Country. There was none. Back home, at Sunday Mass, your priest might have dropped a football homily reference about God not caring about the outcome of a football game.

I can tell you for a fact that, at Sunday’s Mass at the magnificent St. Vicente, God did not care about whether Tom Brady won his sixth Super Bowl.

The priest did go “hurry-up” and wrapped services up in 32 minutes, in two languages, Spanish and Basque (Euskara), but it wasn’t to get to a tail-gate party.


Church is serious business in Spain, held in magnificent architectural edifices and definitely meant to send you straight back to confessional-box, catechism fear.

The religious art and sculpture in Spain can be more ghoulish than a halftime hologram tribute to Prince.

Mass was followed by a magnificent parade in old town, Parte Viejo, but it wasn’t for the Super Bowl. It was the town’s annual celebration to honor Nursemaids and Shepherds.

Annual "toy" baby toss parade.

Our favorite part was the nurses tossing babies into the air—toy babies.

There may be more bars in San Sebastian, per square inch, than there are in Boston. But none of them were interested in Patriots or Eagles.

As I shouted “Don’t Even Ask!” my convivial wife approached a man sweeping the sidewalk outside an Irish pub in Old Town.

“American football?” I could hear him say as I hid my face behind of a slab of mortar and cobblestone. San Sebastian isn’t as ancient as you might think, not that this story is about me giving you a history lesson about something you could Google.

The short story is most of old San Sebastian burnt to the ground in the 1813 siege by the British Royal Navy with help from Portuguese.

You know how it was back then: siege, pillage, ransack, plunder and then a big pile of paella for dinner.

Anyway, my wife asked the pub-keeper if his establishment might be showing the Super Bowl on his wide screen.

You can only guess his answer. It was the same answer all over town.

Our only hope for watching the Super Bowl with home folk seemed to be finding Rick Steves eating “pintxos” at the Antonio Bar.

It wasn’t like a Basque family was going to gobble us up and have us for dinner. I’ll be frank: our experience so far with the Basque has been a bit off-putting.

Woman in San Sebastian who can't wait to say hello to us.

They are a proud, blunt, tight-knit people and have, historically, been through a lot.

And they don’t seem to like us. They can smell a tourist from 100 paces and seem opposed to eye contact. Many residents, particularly the elderly, are clearly not pleased having to share paradise with foreigners—even in the rainy, February off season.

For fun, on long walks along the gorgeous La Concha Beach promenade, just to get a startled reaction, my wife and I will shock them with an unexpected “Hola!”

The older men smile as much as Belichick before his coffee—although they are much better dressed. The older women just seem to want to beat you with a dust mop.

There is a hot food scene in Basque Country. The Basque people are a little more tepid.

One local phrase caught my eye: “Your Spanish Holiday is our Misery.”

Well, gee, sorry.

The anti-tourist attitude is worth it just for the breathtaking scenery and the food, although none of this made watching the Super Bowl any easier. We finally conceded and ordered the game, for 20 euros, on our apartment television set. Thank you, NBC, for allowing us to contribute to your bottom line.

This is how we witnessed the greatest spectacle in American Sports. My wife barely made it through the national anthem. It didn’t help that we shared a bottle of Rioja at our 10 p.m. dinner across the street at a fabulous restaurant called the “Real Moto Club.”

Did I mention the food here?

We started with an appetizer plate of tomato, tuna, chives and guindilla peppers, followed by entrees of veal cheeks (in red wine) and grilled baby squid.

The Super Bowl ended at 4:30 a.m. local time with Foles winning the MVP and my eyes losing their fight against the coming daybreak.

I woke up at one point swearing I heard announcer Al Michaels say Mike Trout played for the “California” Angels.

Must have been dreaming. I've also never heard so much about “RPO” but for me it all came down to REM.

Adios and good night. Or, morning to you. Or the other way around.