Waking up with my first cup of coffee this morning and flipping through the channels, I came across a news anchor saying, “We all watched the Super Bowl yesterday and saw some interesting ads…”. Well, I for one, didn’t! Apparently, everyone is expected to watch the Super Bowl. If you don’t, why there must be something wrong with you. What am I, unpatriotic? I’m a proud veteran. I vote. I even write my elected officials, for all the good that does. But because I’m not interested in sports and could care less about a football game, I guess that makes me un-American.
What my wife and I chose to do, in addition to fiddling with a jigsaw puzzle, was to watch Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl. There’s nothing cuter than playful puppies and we were smiling and laughing throughout the whole program. Super Bowl Sundays also provide perfect opportunities to go for walks on nearby nature trails. Because the not-so-silent majority glues itself to television, traffic is light and the folks you meet are people who value the tactile experience of fresh air, dirt trails, birds flitting from tree to tree and dogs nosing everything in sight.
The Super Bowl has become such a big deal, not just for sports enthusiasts, but it’s the single most important day of the year for television ads. Big money ensures that the Super Bowl will always be a big deal. It’s so big that the President is even interviewed. Big football game. Big party. Big advertising. Big entertainment. Big politics. Big, big, big! I was already an adult when the first Super Bowl was played. I remember thinking at the time that the last thing we needed was another playoff game. Also, a whole lot of women were already fed up with the amount of time their men-folk chose to watch games on TV, rather than to spend time with their families.
Now days we hear so much complaining about childhood obesity. Young people are urged to cut down on all the fattening foods, stop texting, get out there and get physical. And yet, the Super Bowl breeds couch potatoism. And while those potatoes comfortably nestle on their couches, they get the most effective advertisement of the year telling them to drink Coca Cola. The Super Bowl has become a politically correct institution with a mixed message: an invitation to become a spectator, an inactive consumer, an enthusiastic but unobtrusive observer — someone who is happy to watch others compete and achieve, and happily buy the products that will continue to finance those who do compete.
When the first Super Bowl was played in 1967, I remember thinking how “plastic” the word “super” sounded. There was always a feeling of hyperbole associated with the word “super”. Super market, super highway and Super Glue seem to conjure futuristic marvels, but never really live up to their names. Be honest. What’s so super about them? The word “super” is more appropriately used for the less mature. Super Man and super heroes come to mind. Although there are some technical applications, such as super nova and super heated that effectively describe physical phenomena, they lack the emotional capital of a big game. No. It’s the “Rah, rah!”, “Super-duper!” enthusiasm that is the intended meaning of the word “super” in Super Bowl. It’s strictly for the id.
Has America become a couch potato nation? Do we thrill at the non-involvement of watching others fight to win? Are we content to let “the professionals” do everything for us while we become fatter and softer, gorging ourselves on vicarious fantasy? My fear is that this mentality has bled into our political psyche. Do we look at our politicians and politics in the same vapid way we look at athletes and the games they play? Do we expect entertainment from those who govern us, rather than seeing it as a reality that requires our own responsible involvement?
The Super Bowl will always grab your attention, whether it’s the championship play, the clever ads, costume malfunctions at half-time or screwing up the lyrics to the National Anthem. Once they have your attention and the beer or pizza or whatever have reduced you to a state of complete self-absorbed complacency and you’re brain has become engaged into group-think mode, are you going to be able to recognize the propaganda when you hear it or see it, or are you just going to soak it in? Will you be manipulated or led or controlled so easily, and yet enjoy it all the while?