Super Bowl Sunday
This weekend brings the biggest sporting event in America, the Super Bowl. The violent antics on the playing field are only a small part of the ritualistic gatherings that happen in living rooms and dens around our country. People will congregate together to pass judgment on a well-known celebrity’s lip-synced rendition of our national anthem. (Whitney Houston’s some years ago remains the gold standard.) They’ll rate the commercials, each of which cost a reported $2.3million for 30-seconds of shilling. And those who don’t tune over to the first ever “Lingerie Bowl” on pay-per-view might even sit through the half-time show, which we boldly predict will have a grossly jingoistic theme.
This is a uniquely American event. It’s both grotesquely overblown and poetically symbolic. Whereas the rest of the world prefers soccer, a game of finesse, we favor a sport in which armored gladiators assault each other in collisions akin to a low-speed car accident. Everything that can be marketed will be. And yet we retain the essential freedom to look elsewhere, do something else, or vow to be slightly less consumerist than the producers of our nation’s detritus wish we would be.
There are few events anymore that bring us together as one great, disparate society. War is one.
We like Super Bowl Sunday because it gives us an excuse to commune, even if the game that has drawn us together is of little concern to the viewers. One way many people increase their interest in the outcome on the field is to bet on it. Various estimates peg the total amount wagered on the Super Bowl at $5billion — though knowing with exactitude is impossible. Suffice to say, it’s the biggest day of the year for bookmakers. A catastrophic result — getting “middled” [in which the bookmaker must pay bettors on both sides of the game] — would wipe out more bookies than a grouchy John Ashcroft. But a regular day, in which, say, the favorite wins comfortably but fails to go “over” the total, will enrich those taking the bets. The “smart money,” the fellows who bet on sports for a living, usually find value in the underdog. This year’s Super Bowl is no exception. Free advice: Take Carolina +7 points.
At the risk of getting maudlin about it , Super Bowl Sunday is another day that we can be proud to live in a flawed, infuriating, hopeful land, where the citizenry is free to be silly, irreverent, and together, all because 22 large men are running into each other.