The Super Bowl may be the most American institution we have because it embodies two core American values: gluttony and violence.
Everything about the Super Bowl is absurd, if you looked at it objectively. From the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner” to the Air Force flyover to the game itself, it’s almost an object lesson in self-parody.
Let’s start with the national anthem and aforementioned flyover.
What’s that all about? Are we pledging allegiance to the Super Bowl? Is there some connection between football and our armed forces? The implication is that football is somehow tied to our national identity and if you don’t like football, you’re somehow unpatriotic.
Then there’s the game itself.
Let’s talk about what we’re really watching: a bunch of 300-pound men throwing themselves at each other and trying to cause as much damage as possible without actually killing someone. (I suppose that’s what all that padding and helmets are for.)
But a few weeks ago, the nation watched a football player go into cardiac arrest on prime time television.
For a brief moment, it seemed as if the powers that be might actually stop to consider the dangers inherent in this sport. But I knew from the outset that nothing would actually change. There’s too much money involved!
Which leads us to the other feature of the Super Bowl and the main reason why people like me (who don’t give a shit about football) might actually consider watching: the commercials.
Here’s yet another example of what makes this game so American. It’s all about selling people shit they don’t need and can’t afford.
But, hey, at least the commercials often feature celebrities because we are, after all, a celebrity-obsessed culture. So even if you don’t care about football, we can still bond over our mutual love/hate relationship with celebrities.
Then there’s the half-time show, another exercise in excess but, again, at least it gives non-fans like me another excuse to watch.
Last night I caught part of a documentary about the making of the last half-time show. There was lots of backslapping and self-congratulation to go around. You’d think they’d just cured cancer. (OK, even I would have to admit that the logistics of organizing all those people, sets, and special effects is some kind of accomplishment, but give me a break!)
Oh, and I almost forgot the gluttony part.
How ironic is it that we celebrate an athletic event by gorging ourselves on pizza and chicken wings? And then we act like we’re the ones winning even though we're sitting on our couches stuffing food down our throats!
So, yes, I will probably be watching today’s Super Bowl.
But only for the material.