This week, TV’s most watched program isn’t 24 or Grey’s Anatomy; it’s Super Bowl 41. Across the country, Americans of every culture tuned into CBS’s broadcast of the game between ‘Da Bears’ and the Colts. Certainly, fan turnout was stronger in the cities directly involved — Chicago and Indianapolis — but clearly the Super Bowl holds a much broader appeal in this country.
Polls are predicting that approximately 90 million people watched the game. Why is this number so high? (Keep in mind that this is more than twice as many viewers than watched President Bush’s State of the Union address last month.) The answer is that the Super Bowl isn’t marketed to the core group of men who spend every Sunday afternoon of football season with a beer in one hand and a foam finger on the other. It’s more universal than that. It’s a genuine American experience like hot apple pie and backyard BBQ’s, and everyone can enjoy that.
The Super Bowl isn’t just about football. Getting together with friends, coworkers, neighbors and family for a party at which the consumption of tortilla chips, salsa, beer, pretzels, and pizza is part of the experience.
The commercials and half-time show garner an equally large audience as the actual game play. Companies spend upwards of three million dollars just producing some of what they hope are the wittiest commercials of the year. Overall, I’d give this year a low grade in that department. However, anytime I can watch three consecutive hours of TV and not have to see a commercial repeated, I’d say it was a good day. Besides, Bud Light provided a few chuckles with their ads the “Wedding Auction,” and “It’s a bottle opener.” Still, the only commercial that had me laughing out loud was a Nationwide commercial that opens with a K-Fed staring at his music video on TV and then the camera pans to a fast food manager yelling for Federline to get back to work. The moral: “life changes fast.”
Half-time is another aspect of the Super Bowl that makes it a unique experience to say the least. If sports or humorous commercials aren’t your thing, you’d still probably listen to the musical guests. This year Prince had the stage where he performed “Purple Rain” and butchered the Foo Fighters’ hit, “Best of You.” It seems to me that ever since the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake incident that spawned the catchphrase “wardrobe malfunction”, the half-time shows seemed to be geared toward an older audience. Before Prince the most recent performers included The Rolling Stones and before that Paul McCartney. Regardless of who is performing, playing the Super Bowl is one of the biggest venues in the country and with all the hype; it is not to be missed.
But before we overlook the game, let’s remember that the Super Bowl is the two best teams meeting head to head. Also, unlike many other sports, the Super Bowl is one game, on one day. There is no second chance or best out of seven. Despite all of our predictions and Vegas odds, no one really knows what will happen or who will win and become the new national champion. This year Peyton Manning proved to be too dominate for the Bear’s defense to stop. Though the Bears are known for their strong defense and forcing turnovers, they were in poor form for most of the last three quarters of the game. On the other hand, the typically awful Colt’s defense prevented Rex Grossman and the rest of the Bears’ offense from having an impact in the game until late when Grossman literally threw the game away.
Since I’m from Chicago, this loss hits pretty hard. It’s been a long time since the Bears had such a good season and Chicagoans really wanted to have the title. It’s amazing how the city came together over the team. A Miller beer ‘Man Law’ billboard on one of the freeways read, “Law #88: Baseball will divide Chicago, but Da Bears will unite it.” And that was true. As sorry as I am that my hometown’s team didn’t win, I’m still excited that we made it to the end. It was a hell of a season and we got to partake in one of America’s greatest traditions: the Super Bowl.
In the end, there are two kinds of people: those who watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, camaraderie and music, and those who watch to see good football. Maybe you’re both, but either way, it’s OK! Just keep watching and keep celebrating a great American tradition.