Not everyone is a football fan, certainly. But there are a lot of reasons why the Super Bowl has become what may be the most widely shared cultural event this
country has outside of national holidays.
Indeed, some are saying Sunday’s game was the most-watched event in the country’s history. You can bet it was at least one of them.
For one thing, Super Sunday has certainly become a good excuse for a party – in the dead of winter and with nary a big holiday on the horizon.
In addition, just about every other sport has become international in scope. Football is uniquely ours – so much so that a book and a documentary series both call football America’s Game.
And, as opposed to other team sports, the championship is decided with one game rather than, say, the best of seven – channeling all the focus on that one event.
Football also inspires more rabid fan passion than many other sports, and that translates into loyalty.
Another thing that professional football has going for it is that the 32 teams’ owners long ago decided that they have common cause in mutually beneficial competition. They share revenues among teams and cap player salaries, so that teams in smaller markets have a chance to compete for talent with the New Yorks of the league.
Despite a few strike years, the owners and players also have found common cause in labor peace – even as they aggressively have taken on issues such as banned substances, player safety and aberrant behavior.
The result is a highly competitive, often unpredictable product that has inspired the term “any given Sunday” – meaning that on any given Sunday, either team might win. Moreover, in recent years especially, Super Bowls have been close contests that have come down to the last few plays.
On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens raced to a big lead before a power outage at the Superdome seemed to rejuvenate the favored San Francisco 49ers, who mounted a furious comeback. Baltimore withstood the surge to record a nail-biting 34-31 win.
Even that outcome might have been good for the sport. The 49ers have won five championships in the Super Bowl era; it’s nice to see someone else hoist the trophy, as the Ravens have now for only the second time.
And, of course, the Super Bowl has become big business. The cost of advertising time for the broadcast is beyond sky high, at about $4 million for 30 seconds. Because of that, advertisers work hard to appeal to viewers and even entertain them – and Super Bowl commercials have become nearly as eagerly anticipated as the game itself.
While chicken wings are said to be the most popular Super Bowl party food, they’ve got plenty of competition. The grocery stores and pizza joints were hopping Sunday.
It’s a great time any year, but Super Sunday may have been more of a useful diversion than usual this year, after a very contentious presidential campaign and the difficult politics and financial wrangling that quickly followed the November election.
Now if only we could get Republicans and Democrats to sit next to one another the way Ravens and 49ers fans did.