For American troops stationed overseas, the NFL season is more than just a series of games; it’s a slice of home, a touch of the familiar in often unfamiliar places. Recognizing the importance of capturing that feeling, various organizations, military bases, and even local communities around the world go to great lengths to host NFL parties that bring a taste of American culture to deployed service members. These events are not just about watching football; they're about camaraderie, morale, and a connection to the home they're serving to protect. And maybe a little bit about those side bets.
USO Hosted Super Bowl Parties
The United Service Organizations (USO) has been a pivotal force in bringing NFL excitement to troops overseas. Their annual Super Bowl parties are done big, with large screens, American snacks (sometimes a difficult commodity), and an atmosphere that rivals any stateside party. The USO transforms military bases into NFL havens. The 2023 Super Bowl party at Camp Humphreys in South Korea, for instance, was a massive hit, complete with game-day food, decorations, and even cheerleaders. If that doesn’t say America, I don’t know what does.
Armed Forces Network Broadcasts
The commercials on AFN can be terrible, and the eight hour repeating broadcast cycle is trash. Having said that, the Armed Forces Network plays a crucial role in broadcasting NFL games to troops stationed overseas, especially in a world of 15 streaming services where you rarely know who is playing what. While not a party in the traditional sense, the availability of live games is a cause for celebration, and bases often organize gatherings around these broadcasts, turning DFACs and MWR areas into mini-stadiums where troops can cheer on their favorite teams and have a few near-beers.
Embassy-Organized Viewing Events
Having personally seen the spectacle that some embassies will put on for the Super Bowl, this is a worthy addition to the list, even more so when you consider that the Department of State often has more party money available than Defense is willing to spend. American embassies around the world often organize viewing parties for the Super Bowl which are a unique blend of diplomatic formality and casual sports enthusiasm. U.S. Embassy Berlin has been known to host viewing parties that bring together American military personnel, embassy staff, and even local American football fans, creating a diverse and festive atmosphere and strengthening the bonds being built with our former adversaries.
Local Community-Hosted Events
It is little surprise that in some countries, local communities near American military bases have taken the initiative to host their own Super Bowl parties. Much like Australians, it is difficult to go out into the world and not bump into a random American, no matter where you are, so while these are sometimes attempts to garner more business they can often be run by expats who like to have American football fans to share the event with, or locals who just love the sport for its own sake. In Italy, communities near Aviano Air Base organize gatherings where American and Italian fans can watch games together, fostering a sense of unity and shared enjoyment.
On-Base Tailgate Parties
Many military bases host their version of tailgate parties. These events, often organized by the troops themselves, include much the same food and activities as stateside tailgates. Sure, this usually applies to little ‘d’ deployments in more friendly places, there have been a few of these ‘tailgates’ off of the back of a tracked armored vehicle or a Humvee. They provide a relaxed setting for service members to unwind and bond over shared interests, like hating the Patriots and talking about the decline of Aaron Rodger’s career.
For American troops stationed overseas, these NFL parties are more than just a chance to watch football; they are crucial morale boosters that offer a respite from the challenges of military life. They foster a sense of community, provide a touch of home, and serve as a reminder of the support and gratitude they have from their fellow Americans, if you don’t get stuck on duty. Remember, a Marine on duty has no friends, but you’ll certainly get away with a little more barracks rowdiness if you drop off some grilled meats at the duty hut.