Brennan Hall is eerily empty at 5:00 pm, save for two students at the piano. By 6:00 pm, the executives of U of T’s American Culture Club (ACC) have arrived for their Super Bowl party and stocked the tables with traditional snacks — pizza, wings, and nachos.
President Jaimi Foster and Vice-President Charlie Mitchell co-founded the ACC with the mission “to promote American culture and society in a positive light amongst Canadians and other international students.”
“[Not] all Americans are the pro-[President Donald Trump] kind of people that Canadians think they all are,” Foster said. “We just wanted a club where people could have fun and say like, ‘Hey, we’re fun too, we’re people just like you.’”
The football pennants they put up on St. Mike’s trophy case are reminiscent of American high school homecoming weeks, while the handmade New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons signs inform those who have not followed the season exactly who is playing.
People slowly begin to trickle in, some for the free food, others actually staying for the game this year; maybe it’s due to the lack of midterms or just better advertising than last year.
Despite the inevitable handful of people simultaneously working while watching and the lack of super fans yelling at the screen, a decently-sized crowd forms this year’s party.
Of course, it is still much calmer than the Super Bowl parties Foster is used to in the United States.
In the US, Foster says, “You talk about it in class, people talk about the food, you see the early commercials, like the day of, you’re usually invited to several Super Bowl parties, plus your family usually has one. It’s a pretty big deal.” Foster has been a Patriots fan since she was 10, and tonight she is rooting for them.
From Arizona, Foster was surprised to experience such a subdued sports culture during her first year, especially when none of her friends expressed interest in Varsity Blues football games.
“I think sports are neat because it brings the crowd together, as opposed to, let’s say, if you liked to knit. [Knitting] is a very individualistic kind of thing, but sports are like a thing to do… You get the big hot dog, the beer, the coke, whatever, and you’re there with the crowd, and the band plays, and there is so much loyalty, and it gives people a sense of community,” Foster says.
Commenting on recent political events, ACC Treasurer Ben Alperstein says, “In a normal year you wouldn’t even think about [politics], you know? And that actually came up in my mind when thinking about who to root for.”
Alperstein continues, “[The Patriots have] won too much, they’re cocky, they support Trump. [Tom] Brady, the owner, [Bill] Belichick… have all publicly endorsed him.”
Alperstein wants the Falcons to win this year, but he is a Chicago Bears fan at heart, coming from “Chicagoland” himself.
For American students with close family and friends on opposite sides of the political spectrum, handling political divisions can be difficult. In times like this, sports has a chance to shine.
The Super Bowl, even if only for a night, can offer a much-needed reprieve from politics.
“I have people in my family that voted for Trump and it doesn’t matter,” Foster said. “They’re still all… coming together for the Super Bowl.”
In a first-ever overtime Super Bowl, the Patriots ultimately defeated the Falcons 34–28, which may be a much easier type of animosity to live with.