Tuesday, February 9, 2016

That Special Brand of American Craziness - The Super Bowl!

      I get apprehensive every year about the end of January, when I realize that once again it’s almost time for the Super Bowl, that annual celebration of the special brand of American excess which shows the world what we’re made of.  It’s a super concoction of sports, eating, drinking, gambling, music, and showmanship – all the essential properties that make American great.  (Don’t tell Donald Trump!)

     This year you could either fork over an average of $4639 for a ticket, or be one of the 12 million of us who preferred to watch at home (or in a sports bar.)  For your investment of time and/or money, you got to witness some of the highest paid athletes in the world bash their bodies against each other and perform tremendous acts of athleticism, all in an attempt to win bragging rights, membership in an exclusive club of Super Bowl winners, and that little gold ring.

   What’s more, if you left the room to go to the bathroom, you risked missing half the entertainment.  Advertising agencies devoted their best talent and $5 million per 30 second commercial spot trying to  produce the most bizarre, funny, outrageous, and heart rending commercials possible.  (Puppy-monkey-baby, anyone?)

    And that’s just the game itself. Halftime is another category altogether.  Parents of school age children must decide if they want to let their children watch and risk exposing them to another wardrobe malfunction a la Janet Jackson.  The producers seem to walk a fine line between keeping the young men in the audience interested and not offending everyone else.  Each year features at least one scantily clad young lady, and lately they have been leaning toward wild cartoon-like colors & characters to keep the kids and old ladies watching too.  This year there was even a nod toward the finer arts, with the band Cold Play backed up by members of the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles.  Bravo! I couldn’t tell if they were actually playing the chartreuse and hot pink violins they held.  If they were, they it was impressive because they were simultaneously jumping up and down to the music. That has to take some practice.  (When will Joshua Bell be invited to do halftime?)   After witnessing these spectacles, it’s hard to imagine ever getting too excited over a marching band again, but don’t worry. We will.

    And any Super Bowl party is not complete without mountains of mouth watering delectable dishes to much on, preferably finger foods that you can get from plate to mouth without looking, or worrying if your are holding your fork correctly.  It’s part of the tradition. 

     You have to wonder what the people around the world think as they look on. Do they think Americans are totally crazy?  Is this the highest expression of our societal values on display?  Should we be a little embarrassed about it?   I believe the Super Bowl is popular partly because it takes place in that downtime in the dead of winter, long after the Christmas holidays are over, before the trees start budding, when there’s not much else going on of interest except bad news and politics.  It distracts us from the humdrum of  our daily lives for just a few hours, and gives us something to get excited about.  It’s kind of like Mardi Gras, the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and the gladiators all rolled into one.   Maybe it is a little crazy, a little excessive, a little bit over the top, but anything that brings friends, family, and complete strangers together for a few hours, gives us something to cheer for and something to laugh about, and inspires someone to cook all that good food can’t be all bad, can it?   Next year when the Super Bowl rolls around, I think I’ll be looking forward to it.            

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