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Hill: Get to know Your New Zealand Family and their fresh takes on football

Sam Canestri is like many obsessed sports fans in that he dreams of one day attending a Super Bowl.

What makes that ambition unique is that he knew very little about the NFL, or really any American sport, just five years ago.

“It’s the top of the bucket list,” Canestri said during a stop in Las Vegas this week, as he sat less than a mile from where the game was played at Allegiant Stadium a few months ago.

“I don’t even care where it is or what teams are playing. For me, I want to see the anthem being sung. I’ll never forget the Chris Stapleton one (in 2023). That will have to go down as one of the best of all time. Then just the sheer spectacle of the game, the flyover, the way you put it on such a big stage. It looks amazing.”

Canestri was a father of two working as a technician for a barcode-scanning company while following soccer and rugby in his native New Zealand when he decided to document his journey to football fandom on YouTube.

“I wanted to discover American football from the point of view of a rugby fan instead of the same old yelling and screaming and complaining about how they were (less masculine) because they wore helmets and pads,” he said. “I thought I’d come at it from an unbiased angle and try to understand the nuances of the game, and I just fell in love with it.

“That just snowballed into other sports.”

Your New Zealand Family

The Kiwi Kicker channel quickly gained traction, but his side project became a full-time career when he started featuring his wife, Nadine, daughter Atlanta and son Denzel on a separate channel called Your New Zealand Family.

Canestri had gained more than 60,000 subscribers on Kiwi Kicker, but the family proved to be an instant hit, particularly among American audiences, with more than 400,000 subscribers and several videos eclipsing 4 million views. What started as a look at daily life in New Zealand during the COVID pandemic quickly found traction showcasing a family becoming infatuated with American culture.

Much of the content features the family reacting to patriotic and educational clips about the U.S. There are some very popular videos of the Canestris sampling American food and snacks shipped to them by viewers because they are unavailable in New Zealand.

But the sports passion of the family’s patriarch often shines through. Canestri, usually wearing one of his various sports jerseys, has made sure to include the occasional reaction videos of great athletes, sporting events and even impressive venues to help share with his family how big of a role sports plays in the culture. In one, the family watched in awe as they learned about Allegiant Stadium.

The vast majority of their audience is American, which is likely because of the untarnished lens through which they view our culture.

There is something quite refreshing about seeing people who are able to experience the joy of sports as we did as kids, free from the obsession over the money and drama and politics that games have become for many of us. And, yes, I’m guilty. We all are.

But imagine knowing about none of that and just seeing the purity of sports again?

Right time with Rangers

“I’m falling in love with baseball the same way I did with football,” said Sam Canestri, who was in a Texas Rangers jersey as he arrived in town on a family RV trip exploring the country. “I just started to really look at all the small details of the game instead of just seeing this thing I didn’t fully understand and brushing it off right away.”

There is a story behind the Rangers jersey. He purchased it last year on the family’s first U.S. voyage while browsing a store in Texas simply because he liked the way the state’s name was displayed across the chest, but he quickly found joy in how many strangers would greet him with “Go Rangers” during his travels.

Of course, the Rangers won the World Series, and Canestri hosted a livestream back home in New Zealand during one of the games as viewers helped explain what was going on and answered his questions in real time.

Before the Canestris head back to New Zealand this time, they plan to attend a Rangers game in Texas to see his adopted team. Their first American sporting event was a game last season at Angel Stadium, and though the venue has seen better days, it would be impossible to tell Canestri he hadn’t seen the Taj Mahal of baseball.

“There was a waterfall and a huge scoreboard,” he said. “And baseball stadiums are shaped so unique. Maybe I just don’t have anything to compare it to, but I was completely blown away.”

Imagine thinking Angel Stadium was that special? It’s a remarkable optimism we would all be so lucky to possess.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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