Iain Hepburn | February 3, 2013
The Super Bowl may be a permanent fixture both the sporting consciousness and the television schedules, but it wasn’t always the case.
The UK was just getting into the NFL in the mid 80s, thanks to then fledgling network Channel 4 starting to show matches late at night. As a result, you couldn’t move for local Football Leagues and teams setting up around the country as enthusiastic amateurs embraced the rough and tumble of gridiron on local rugby pitches and parks.
One such team was the Glasgow Diamonds, one of a number of teams set up in Scotland’s largest city. With the help of US-born actor Paul Birchard they made a low-budget rap video – also in vogue around that time – featuring the team and some cheerleaders in a gloomy, drench city centre.
Ordinarily, you wouldn’t expect something like that to find much of an audience. But CBS had other ideas, running a competition in 1987 for the best football-related music video to be aired during their coverage of Super Bowl XXI.
And so a tape of the Diamonds Rap found its way into the hands of the network, where viewers voted it the number one video, thus guaranteeing it a place on the screens of 87 million people.
87 million people. 87 million. At that point, the second largest audience for TV coverage of the Super Bowl in history. And the audience who tuned in to watch the New York Giants defeat the Denver Colts 39-20 were left remembering not just Phil Simms’ performance as quarterback, but Birchard’s gap-toothed grin.
Since then it’s found a new lease of life on clip shows and YouTube – a warm, heartfelt if slightly cheesy reminder of the days when global coverage of the NFL wasn’t the slick broadcasting powerhouse it has become today.
As for Birchard? He didn’t do too badly either. Now a well-regarded character actor on stage and screen, he pops up in The Dark Knight, Bourne knock-off Hannah, and on stage at London’s historic Old Vic theatre.
Meanwhile, while Beyonce’s belting out her lungs at the half-time show in New Orleans tonight, think back to a time when Pro Football’s half-time entertainment was just a bit more kitsch.