Monday, February 4, 2013

A Home Grown American Phenomenon

The Super Bowl and Our Indigenous Culture

Hub and I spent Sunday evening experiencing what has become, in less than fifty years, an American cultural ritual.

We watched the Super Bowl.

Tuning into the Super Bowl, the first question that came to my mind was – How many Americans know XLVII are Roman numerals for the number 47?

How many more years will Roman numerals be used before the powers that be (the TV networks, most likely) realize most people watching have no idea what the American letters which are actually Roman numerals stand for? How many Americans can find Rome on a map?

I admit I am not a football fan (for those readers outside the Milky Way, Super Bowl Sunday involves a football game between two teams composed of mostly obscenely high-paid athletes turned celebrities). I am thrilled my sons were not interested in playing football. My high school had a terrible football team and, unless you were a cheerleader, which I was not, football games were not a highlight of the week, month, year, or high school experience.

I went to a women’s college. No football team there. The closest college with a football team had the distinction of being the team with the longest loosing streak in organized sports.

As the Super Bowl wore on and on the incessant commentary began grating on my nerves. I found myself contemplating a profound philosophical question about American customs and traditions:

Why and how did the Super Bowl become the great annual American Sunday night winter festival?

I believe an alignment of celestial and earthly occurrences resulted in what is today a key American experience, a native born, locally nurtured and ever-growing event, one anthropologists and historians will painstakingly study, discuss, write about and analyze centuries from now.

I have no idea why the event has become an American institution, but here are a couple of foolish conjectures-

Several weeks have passed since the December holidays and New Year festivities. People slowly emerge from a period of semi-hibernation, recovered from the holiday whirlwind. They are stir crazy enough to go wild in winter.

The Super Bowl occurs in the dead of winter. People feel claustrophobic and are looking for an excuse to let off some steam, go out, get out, hang out, and party.

Winter is a time to eat hearty. Humans no longer need to eat to store food for leaner times, as our ancestors did thousands of years ago, but the urge to indulge endures. An excuse to splurge on high-calorie, unhealthy, fun foods and drinks cannot be ignored.

The moon and the planet Saturn can be seen in the winter sky on Super Bowl Sunday. The planet was named after the Roman god, who should also be crowned the god of the Super Bowl. Saturn was known as the god of:

         Generations – all generations, even if they do not actually watch the game, are aware of the event. No red-blooded individual living, visiting, or watching from afar could not be aware of the game.
         Plenty – there is plenty of everything on Super Bowl Sunday – people, craziness, TV, food, football players, fans…
         Agriculture – Did you see the commercial with Paul Harvey’s famous “So God Made a Farmer” speech and pictures of American farms and farmers? It was an ad for the Dodge Ram pick-up truck.
         Wealth – A lot of people spent a lot of money and a lot of other people made a lot of money.
         Periodic renewal – And so another Super Bowl Sunday goes down in history…
         Liberation – Americans gone wild.

The yearly ritual is highlighted by -

A shortage of chicken wings,
The purchase of bigger and better TVs,
Special deals at every bar and pub in the 50 states and ex-pat communities world-wide,
Family and friend get-togethers,
Gyrating superstars singing or lip-syncing,
Potluck meals, pizza, plentiful pots of hot food and gorging on high-calorie fare,
Commercials viewed, discussed, voted and analyzed,
An accepted hiatus on everyday chores, goings-on, worries and concerns,
A media circus,
Fan foolery,
and more.

The more this year included a half-hour interruption in the game in the beginning of the second half due to an electrical lighting mishap. Many of us on the East coast found our eyes beginning to droop as the game – and the hour - dragged on.    

What does it say about me when I do not know who is doing the celebrity endorsements in a commercial?

FYI - The Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers

And so another Super Bowl is over.

Let’s begin the countdown to Super Bowl XLVIII !

One last aside…I wonder how many people watching the game know why Baltimore are Ravens and San Francisco are 49ers?