After the initial total failure of my cable-less schemes for watching the Superbowl online, and the subsequent grumbling trip to an alternate viewing venue, I enjoyed watching the game. I say "enjoy" as in, "it roused the part of me that enjoys the technical aspects of physical competition and spectacle," not enjoy as in, "I really appreciate the Superbowl and what it says about the state of humanity." And I couldn't help but feel pretty dirty afterward.
Let's try out the "alien anthropologist" test: what kind of singular unprecedented event in human history would justify over a hundred million people giving their energy and attention for four hours straight all at the same time? Was it some sort of miracle that brings hope and happiness to our people? Or maybe it was some sort of massively collaborative conversation about the state of the world and how we can make it better? No, it was a sporting contest that really only needs to take a little over an hour, but is painfully drawn out to four hours so that there's enough time to sell products and degrade women.
I have some sense that the Superbowl is a big deal because the Superbowl is a big deal. In other words, if you took away the hype and the clever advertisements and the fancy camera angles and the overpaid players and the self-absorbed sports commentators, I doubt you could draw 100 million people. Maybe you'd still have an interesting contest and maybe it would still be worth watching, but then again maybe there would be more interesting ways to spend four hours in your own community. The spectacle breeds spectacle, and we humans love that.
And yeah, maybe I'm just an overly-sensitive, epicene failure of a manly man, but what's up with so many of the ads this year not even pretending to be anything other than misogynistic trash? Here's the script from a car commercial:
I will get up and walk the dog at 6:20AM.
I will eat some fruit as part of my breakfast.
I will shave, clean the sink after I shave.
I will be at work at 8:00AM.
I will sit through two hour meetings.
I will say yes, when you want me to say yes.
I will be quiet when you don’t want me to say no.
I will take your call and listen to your opinion of my friends.
I will listen to your friends opinions of my friends.
I will be civil to your mother.
I will put the seat down.
I will separate the recycling.
I will carry your lip-balm.
I will watch your vampire tv shows, with you.
I will take my socks off before getting into bed.
I will put my underwear in the basket.
And because I do this.
I will drive the car, I want to drive.
Translation: I hate you and all of the things that you bring to my life which are obviously contrary to my natural state of being an unhealthy, pig-headed moron, but I will temporarily stifle my hatred so that I can channel my insecurities and immaturity into the experience of transporting myself quickly from one place to another in a particular impractical vehicle that will serve as a poor substitute for any real sense of self-worth. I have no other reason to care about you or your happiness.
Compelling stuff, right? Ugh.
I know that there are people who thoroughly enjoy the Superbowl and all kinds of pro sports and all of the interesting cultural things that go with them. I'm not here to criticize them or tell them how to spend their time. My only hope is that there is some sense of clarity and self-awareness (for me included) that, by saying "I'm going to watch the Superbowl," we're at least in part also saying, "I'm going to give some of my limited life energy to support what the Superbowl stands for."
So, um, did you, uh, watch the game? How 'bout them Saints?