Monday, February 06, 2006

The Superbowl: A Cultural Perspective

This year's Superbowl was the first football game I've watched beginning to end this season, and the first Superbowl I've watched in at least ten years. The games are boring, blowouts usually decided somewhere in the first half. This one was a little better, the drama lasted until the third quarter. My friend, Bill, asked if I wanted to watch with him. Sure, it had been a while and being provincial, I rooted for the Seahawks. They lost, but I was only mildly disappointed. The Seahawks are from Seattle. Portland folks don't cotton to Seattle sports team very well.

The Superbowl just isn't about the game of football, though. It's a uniquely American celebration that American commerce. Commercials for the broadcast cost $4,000,000 dollars a minute. People talk about them for months. Hell, the commercials were more captivating than the game. Truth be told, I liked the one about the Clydesdale colt pushing the beer wagon. The Superbowl celebrates the consumer culture. American has 5% of the world's population and consumes 50% of the resources and we're damn proud of it.

The Superbowl is also a reflection of our society. The aging Boomers are top dogs in our society and our icons, the Rolling Stones, played at halftime. Of course, the Stones aren't the bad boys that they used to be; they labored under a five second tape delay and 'mild' censorship. Folks over 40 weren't allowed in the pit on the field (not energetic enough for the television moguls it seems). Boomers are in charge, but youth is sexy.

A couple of years ago, Janet Jackson popped a tit at halftime and our puritan right went bananas. I suspect the rest of world was amused by their reaction. The Italians tsk-tsked her costume, the Brits claimed that Benny Hill did it first and did it better, and the French missed the whole thing. They sat at a local sidewalk cafe smoking Gaulloises, drinking expresso, and watching the world meander by their table.

As the rest of the world catches up with the United States, American football remains one of the last sports to which Americans can claim superiority . . . We regularly get shellacked in Olympic basketball and a large proportion of Major League Baseball players are from other countries. Of course, lacrosse and roller derby are all ours, but for how long?

Actually, I did have a good time watching the commercials, the halftime, bullshiting with Bill, drinking beer and eating pizza. Oh yeah, the football game was okay, too.

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