Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Confessions of an Antisocial Apostate or "Why I Skip the Super Bowl"
I rarely watch the Super Bowl.
I watched last year and I watched Super Bowl XXXV in 2001 but that was only because, my team, the New York Football Giants, was playing. And I caught the last few minutes in 2004 when Adam Vinatieri’s field goal sealed the win for the Patriots. But the last time I actually sat down to watch a non-Giant Super Bowl, John Elway was playing. It has been more than a decade.
Blowing off the Super Bowl feels like apostasy. Well actually, double apostasy. Not only am I a red-blooded American male, but I work in advertising.
The strange thing is, I like football. OK, I happen to like baseball more. And maybe I don’t relish watching football the way I did when I was a kid, but that seems normal enough with age. There is still plenty about the game that I enjoy - the anticipation of those Autumn Sundays, the gladiator-like theater of the arena, the athleticism of a great run or catch, the pain and glory of rooting for a team, the smash-mouth pleasure of it all, and the Monday-Morning quarterbacking and arguments at the water cooler. Still, I can’t bring myself to watch the Super Bowl.
Here is my problem. Super Bowl Sunday is a national day of observance, bearing all of the ritualistic trappings and social obligations of a religious holiday. But it isn’t enough to worship, that is, to watch the game before the altar of some giant screen. You have to do something for the occasion. Like Christmas or New Year’s Eve, it is an event that calls for parties and plans and hanging out with people you wouldn’t hang out with otherwise. I hate Super Bowl parties. For me, watching television rarely works as a communal activity. Yes I suppose there is something to having a shared experience – the conversations, the cheering and the chicken wings. But Super Bowl parties have always struck me as a way to spend time with people without really spending time with them. (“Oh don’t mind him, he’s watching the game.”)
It sounds terribly antisocial of me. But watching the game by myself doesn’t really appeal to me either. There is still this overriding sense of pressure, this sense that you MUST watch this game and swallow all of the hype and the ads and spectacle for the masses. And then there’s the time commitment. Between the pre-game coverage, the extended television time-outs, the halftime show, and post-game wrap-up, we are talking about anywhere from five to 10 hours.
As acts of rebellion go, mine is rather modest. But here is my strategy. On Super Bowl Sunday, I like to pretend that the rest of the world is frozen in time in front of their giant screens. While they are trapped in their own dimension, eating nachos and pizza, drinking beer, thinking they are having a good time, here is the chance to seize the day and do something special with the time before you. Read a book, clean your closet, paint a picture, write a letter, call a friend (who is not a football fan), re-arrange your sock drawer or make that list of resolutions you thought about making on New Year’s Eve. Make it yours. It’s an opportunity to strike a blow against social convention and orthodoxy and take back the day.
Oh, but don’t forget to watch Springsteen at half-time. You really must.