Eagles' Lewis, speaking Mandarin, added color

Updated: February 2, 2004, 4:04 AM ET
Associated Press

SHANGHAI, China -- China tuned in to an American tradition Monday, with millions turning from their morning routine to catch, for the first time, a glimpse of the Super Bowl as it happened with play-by-play and commentary in Chinese.

The game was broadcast on a 1-hour tape delay on state-run Central Television's cable sports channel. The estimated audience: 300 million people.

"It's not just the sport. It's all about American culture," said Michael Lu, a buying manager for a local sportswear company watching the game at a local sports bar.

But the game's start, 7 a.m. local time, precluded most members of the working population from sitting down to watch the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 32-29.

"If it were on a Sunday, I'd like to watch it. It's fun seeing those guys banging into each other," said Wei Jun, who was on his way to work early and drove his fist into his palm to illustrate. "But like most people, I've got to earn a living."

The game, the culmination of the NFL season, was broadcast to a potential audience estimated by the league at 1 billion in 229 countries and territories, including China. It was carried in 21 languages, including Arabic, Cantonese, Icelandic, Russian, Serbian and Thai.

For the first time, a crew from China was among the 14 television and radio stations from 10 countries broadcasting the game on site from Houston. The China crew included Philadelphia Eagles tight end Chad Lewis, who speaks fluent Mandarin, as its color analyst.

The Super Bowl has been broadcast annually for years in many regions of China, but never as it happened. In China, football, or "zuqiu," generally means soccer. U.S.-style football -- also known here as "ganlanqiu," or "olive ball" -- is viewed by many as a uniquely American phenomenon.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press