This is not intended to be a post in which I say that I am morally superior because I don’t really give a shit about football, more specifically the annual festival of indulgence that is the Super Bowl. Rather, I just want to comment on how interesting I find this event in a cultural context.
Football is to the US as hockey is to Canada, no doubt about that. When Canada faced the US in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics gold-medal hockey game, apparently 27 million Canadians were watching that game at some point or another. When you think about the fact that Canada only has about 33 million or so people living in it, that number is staggering.
I heard yesterday that 111 million people worldwide were expected to watch the thing, which shocked me a little until i realized that there is nothing bigger than football finals in the States. It’s kind of amazing, when you think about it, how much attention football gets over there. Compared to other sports, football players play a surprisingly small number of games but regularly smash all other sports in terms of attendance. Baseball teams play over 100 games in one season; football teams play 16.
And then we get to the Super Bowl. It’s such a cultural entity at this point that newspapers and TV stations have to say at least something about it. I mean, sports bars across the country here and next door will be packed with people, and many homes will be home to Super Bowl parties. For some reason, these parties involve usually a copious amount of food (usually junk), such as pizza, chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, chips, dip and god knows what else. Oh yes, and don’t forget pop and/or beer.
And then, halfway through the show, there is a halftime show which is always a huge deal. Organizers always go for the big name, this year bring in the queen herself, Beyonce. I didn’t see her show, but it was apparently electrifying, with her toting a 10-piece all-female band. Halftime shows in the past have been huge hits (Prince) or misses (Black Eyed Peas) or just plain controversial (Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson). These performances will be analyzed with as much scrutiny as if someone was reviewing a full concert.
And finally, finally, the most baffling thing about the Super Bowl to me is the commercials that are shown in between. Ads are so predominant, nowadays, appearing on the sides of and inside buses and streetcars, before popular videos on Youtube, the radio (if anyone still listens to it) and almost every website on the planet. Yet these commercials are hyped, usually because the companies producing them pay top dollar first of all for the rights to air them, and secondly because they usually feature big name celebrities. Some of the commercials this year included a “Gangnam Style” pistachios commercial, Kate Upton in a Mercedes Benz ad, and Amy Poehler asking a million questions to advertise Best Buy. This is the only time people actually look forward to ads and search them furiously on YouTube. I don’t remember actively rewatching a commercial since the original Old Spice ad with Isaiah Mustafah.
The Super Bowl turned a lot of my friends into football fanatics for the few hours the game and all its glory was on. It’s interesting to see people who are never sports fans suddenly become them. Of course, I’ll admit sometimes I do the same. When I go and see a Blue Jays game, I will cheer and (mostly) boo along with the audience. I get excited when I’m watching Germany play in the FiFA World Cup or the Euro Cup. I’ll cheer when Canada kicks ass in hockey (though really only if they’re beating the States).
So no, I do not care about watching the Super Bowl, but I do care about the way it transforms people and places. It’s interesting.