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Super Bowl Highlights NFL's Global Ambitions... and Challenges

The Super Bowl is the NFL's marquee game. Yet the story of one Steelers fan's quest to watch the Steelers play the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV highlights both the NFL's global ambitions and challenges.

Hines Ward Scores TD in Super Bowl XLV
Hines Ward Scores TD in Super Bowl XLV
Doug Pensinger

Super Bowl Sunday both arrived and ended with a bang.

The Super Bowl is the NFL's marquee event broadcast globally, and it is the only American football event that is covered, in some form or fashion, by international outlets that otherwise ignore the sport.

Steelers Nation was of course forced to choose between the indignities of seeing the rival Baltimore Ravens crowned champions or watching the San Francisco 49ers tie Pittsburgh's in the Lombardi count. For better and for worse, the Ravens walked away with the Lombardi leaving the Steelers edge over San Francisco intact.

Super Bowl XLVII game however gives us at Behind the Steel Curtain a chance begin a deeper, if not quite direct, look at how the NFL and the Steeler both reach and fail to reach their audiences aboard.

Unique Challenges Steelers Fans in South America Face

Steelers fans in South America face unique challenges as I've learned in my 11 years living in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Like other Steelers Nation Expats living outside of North America, finding convenient and affordable ways to watch the Steelers play is a hurdle we must overcome.

Fortunately, technology makes that issue manageable, but there are geographic issue that technology cannot touch.

Much of South America is at least an hour ahead of Eastern time which means that night games end horrendously late, especially after the US turns its clocks forward in the fall.

Think back how you felt after Joe Flacco's last minute victory over the Steelers in 2011 and/or think back to that horrendous Monday night loss to the San Francisco 49ers and then imagine yourself living through at close to 2:00 am with work looming the next day...

  • If technology can do nothing to mitigate time zone differences then it's even more impotent against the issue of reversed seasons.

January is the height of summer in the southern hemisphere and prime time for vacationing. January also brings the NFL playoffs.

You've never had a real conflict between your love for the Steelers and family scheduling needs until you've sat there on a November evening arguing with your spouse about why you must rule out plane travel on Saturdays and Sundays in January because flying on those days could potentially force you to miss a Steelers playoff game...

  • ...Trust me on this one.

Such is the burden that Steelers Nation Expats in South America must carry.

Nonetheless, since my wife bought me Direct TV for our 3rd Wedding Anniversary (yes, you read that correctly, my wife bought me Direct TV as an anniversary present - how many men can say that - gracias mi amor) I've only missed a handful of games. The issues are manageable, until you have to face more than one together....

Trying to Watch Super Bowl XLV in Brazil

Professional obligations only left my wife and I a narrow window in late January for our 2011 vacation. That window coincided with Super Bowl week.

The Steelers 2010 season saw them playing extremely well down the stretch and when we pulled the trigger on our vacation plans in early December after the Steelers last minute victory over the Ravens I knew there was a real chance the Steelers might make it to the big dance.

That also meant that I'd be in Porto Gallinas, Brazil for Super Bowl XLV. Arrangements could have been juggled bring us back to Buenos Aries for the Super Bowl, but that would have created a lot of other logistical complications so we opted against that.

After all, the Super Bowl is one NFL game where you can see anywhere.

  • Everyone knows that. Right?

Ever the one to do my due diligence, as soon as the Steelers defeated the Jets in the AFC Championship, I hada friend (gracias Jaime) call ahead and checked about seeing the Super Bowl the hotel.

Yes, of course the hotel had FOX Sports and ESPN the NFL's two primer distribution partners in Latin America. It also carried SporTV, a Brazilian cable sports giant. I figured I was set.

  • Alas, my due diligence fell short.

Neither ESPN, nor FOX, nor SporTV was carrying Super Bowl XLV in Brazil.

BandSports had exclusive rights to Broadcast Super Bowl XLV in Brazil and not only did the hotel not carry the network no one had even heard of "BandSports." They were kind enough to call around to other nearby hotels - same deal - they'd never heard of the network either.

Someone on the staff was kind enough to lend me her personal laptop to see if we could catch the game on the internet. (Yes, she loaned me her personal laptop, that in-and-of-itself is incredible - the story of the Tabapitanga's incredible hospitality runs far deeper which you can read about here.)

And while we did find numerous legal and illegal sites showing the game, they all involved downloading and installing apps, and I was not about to abuse the generosity and trust of this young woman by installing unknown software on her computer.

We were forced to listen to Tunch Ilkin and Bill Hargrove's radio commentary - although we couldn't get it through WDVE as WDVE blocks its Steelers game stream outside the US (thank God the Harrisburg affiliate on the Steelers Radio does not follow suit.)

We were able to follow the action "OK" on the radio, although we did lose the stream for about 10 minutes during the first half while the Steelers were self destructing...

The NFL's Global Challenges and Ambitions

While the NBA and to a lesser extent MLB are global commodities, the NFL's international presence outside North America remains sparse as Dejan Kovacevic's column on the Super Bowl's global audience makes painfully clear.

Roger Goodell and company would like to change that.

As the story recounted here indicates, the NFL has work to do. Brazil is Latin America's largest country and largest market, yet a decision to take a "laptopless vacation" there rendered me unable to see its showcase game.

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers will do their part to support the NFL's global expansion by playing in London next fall.

In anticipation of the Steelers game in London, Behind the Steel Curtain is planning to cover at the NFL's international aims and the Steelers global profile at that time and to do it right we want to hear from you.

If you live outside the US, Canada and Mexico and are a Steelers fan, take a moment to comment on how you came to love the Steelers and how you follow the NFL in your corner of the world. You can also feel free to email me directly at hombresdeacero (at)