KABUL — Kickoff was 4 a.m., and a driving snowstorm was battering Camp Courage as a couple dozen bleary-eyed troops trudged over to a tent to watch the Super Bowl. You might have seen them; they were shown live during the national anthem.
While the troops clearly got a kick out of being featured on America’s most-watched sporting event Sunday night (Monday morning in Kabul), once the game kicked off, fans got serious, high-fiving, cheering and trash-talking, all before the sun came up.
“It’s my team since I was born,” said Marine 1st. Lt. Sean Daley, a 25-year-old 49ers fan from Antioch, Calif., some 30 miles from San Francisco.
The get-together at the small camp on the military side of Kabul airport featured Super Bowl staples such as chips, cheese dip and cookies, but troops had to go booze-free, with cans of Krombacher (non-alcoholic) beer providing the taste but not the kick.
And just as the game in New Orleans’ Superdome suffered a blackout that halted the game in the second half, the Camp Courage fans ran into their own technical difficulties. The signal started to fade in game’s tense final minutes, so one intrepid fan had to find the satellite and clear off the snow to save the day. But no one was complaining.
Army Col. John Sheard, who helped organize the party, said he was just trying to give the troops a brief slice of home to take their minds off the difficulties of deployed life.
“That’s what it’s all about, a little stress relief,” he said.
While it was a good time, die-hard fans in the room looked anything but relaxed as the game turned into a nail-biter, with the 49ers staging a remarkable second-half comeback and looking for a go-ahead score with a few minutes left, only to be stopped near the end zone to seal the Ravens’ win.
It was the second time that Army Lt. Col. Andrew Ajamian watched the 49ers play in the Super Bowl while deployed. While serving in Haiti, he watched Steve Young lead San Francisco to victory in 1995, the last time the ’Niners played in the big game.
“It’s a little taste of home,” he said. “A chance to forget about where we are and what we’re doing for a while.”