Troops Overseas to Get Live Super Bowl Feed
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2010 When millions of Americans gather around their TV sets this weekend for Super Bowl XLIV, they’ll have lots of company from U.S. forces around the world and at sea, thanks to the American Forces Radio and Television Service.
AFRTS has been delivering the game live for the past 43 years.
The full game, including the pre-game show, will be beamed by satellite to American Forces Network viewers and American Forces Radio listeners in 175 countries and aboard Navy ships at sea, said Larry Sichter, affiliate relations chief for the Defense Media Activity’s AFN Broadcast Center in Riverside, Calif.
So as the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts take their positions at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium for the 6:30 p.m. kickoff, troops in Germany will be cheering them on 30 minutes after midnight on Feb. 8. In Iraq, it will be 2:30 a.m. Feb. 8; in Afghanistan, an hour and a half later, at 4 a.m., and in Japan and Korea, 8:30 a.m.
AFN will re-air the game twice for those who prefer to wait until local prime time rather than watching the game live, Sichter said.
Regardless of where they’re stationed or deployed, everyone who watches the AFN broadcast will see all the Super Bowl festivities -- including Carrie Underwood’s rendition of the national anthem, followed by a flyover of four Florida Air National Guard F-15 fighter jets, as well as The Who’s halftime performance.
The only thing the overseas viewers won’t get will be about 43 minutes of mostly beer, pizza and insurance commercials. That, explained Sichter, is because AFN is not permitted to air them as a condition of getting the programming free of charge. So in their place, military viewers overseas will see a bevy of encouraging “shout-outs” from President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and many of the players themselves, as well as some of AFRTS’ newest command information spots.
Obama is taping his Super Bowl message today. Gates, who is traveling in Europe, already has recorded his 60-second video, in which he expresses appreciation for the troops overseas and recognizes the hardship of being away from home, especially during special event like the big game, said Paul Waldrop, chief of the AFRTS radio and TV production office.
In addition, AFRTS taped shout-outs from 22 players -- 11 Saints and 11 Colts, including Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, the two quarterbacks – to air throughout the game. All expressed thanks and encouragement to the troops overseas, Waldrop said.
AFRTS also will broadcast promotions for its other programming. It also plans to roll out several new spots on topics on the upgraded AFN decoder box used to unscramble the AFN TV signal for overseas viewers, as well as a new service that will enable troops to ask questions about their benefits, then get the answers aired on TV.
The early morning showings and lack of commercials don’t appear to have dampened any enthusiasm about the big game. Signs popping up at the new International Security Assistance Force Joint Command headquarters in Kabul advertise a big Super Bowl party in the command’s new morale, welfare and recreation tent. The festivities will kick off at 4 a.m., and will feature prizes, souvenirs and other treats, reported Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, the command’s public affairs officer.
To the south, at Kandahar Air Base, the Army Corps of Engineers’ Afghan Engineer District South is readying its own tent for what it’s billing as a “town hall” during the big game.
Unfettered by the nine-and-a-half-hour time difference from Miami, and with access to computers so they can continue working throughout the game, participants will feast on breakfast foods rather than hot dogs, and they’ll imbibe with coffee and orange juice rather than long tall ones, said public affairs officer Pat Ryan. Many of the staffers developed a deep fondness for New Orleans while working there after Hurricane Katrina, she noted, so they’re expected to root heavily for the Saints.
Meanwhile, the dining facility at Forward Operating Base Ghazni, in Afghanistan’s mountainous eastern Ghazni province, is setting up “something special” for Task Force White Eagle members who want to watch the game despite the “o-dark-thirty” kickoff time, reported Air Force Master Sgt. Sarah R. Webb troops, the provincial reconstruction team public affairs officer.
And at Balad Air Base in Iraq, viewing areas are being set up around every large-size TV around, a defense contractor at the base reported. Although General Order No. 1 – which forbids troops there from drinking alcohol – remains in effect, he said he expects fans to tap into a big supply of nonalcoholic beer and to chow down on other readily available munchies.
Troops overseas have been treated to live Super Bowl broadcasts since the first big game in 1967, initially through short-wave radio broadcasts, Sichter said.
Televised Super Bowl coverage was limited at first to videotape copies of the game distributed after the fact to overseas outlets, unless AFN outlets contracted with commercial networks to get the game live. That all changed in 1982, when AFRTS stood up its satellite network, enabling it to provide live Super Bowl broadcasts to all troops overseas.
Jeff White, the AFN Broadcast Center’s executive director, expressed thanks to the National Football League, CBS and Westwood One Radio for granting AFN the rights to broadcast the game again this year.
“We’re delighted to be able to deliver the Super Bowl to the AFN audience,’ he said. “It tops the list as the world’s most popular sporting event and underscores our mission to provide a ‘touch of home’ to the troops who serve out country overseas.”
Programming information, including times and channels, is posted on the AFN Web Site at http://www.myafn.net.