The best thing about Super Bowl Sunday isn’t football
I am a bad American.
While the entire country is fixated on the Super Bowl, I’ll be gloriously out of step. What will I be doing instead that’s more fun? Oh, I don’t know… laundry?
What is the appeal? And not just football. Baseball, basketball… all professional sports. I could maybe — maybe! — grasp the appeal if the team is from your own town and the franchise pumps tons of money into your community or maybe if you have a friend or relative on the team. Beyond that? What’s the attraction to watching a bunch of grotesquely overpaid muscle-bound buffaloes trampling each other down while chasing a toy?
My theory is that humans are hard-wired to belong to clans so they know who to bash over the head with clubs. Yes, it goes back that far. The guys in saber-toothed tiger skins know that if somebody in a woolly mammoth skin wanders into camp — bash him over the head. Basic Caveman Survival Skills 101. Meanwhile, the cavewomen cheer the men on with pompoms made of baobab roots and make sure there’s enough Seven Layer Grub Dip to go around.
And I don’t mean grub as slang for food. I mean actual grubs.
Paleolithic diet. Meh. You can keep it.
More recent than Mammoth vs. Tiger wars is one of my more peculiar obsessions, the Wars of the Roses era in British history and the ongoing struggle for dominance between the Lancasters and the Yorks. Which color rose were you wearing? Red or white? It was literally a matter of life or death in those days. Our equivalent nowadays, of course, is the ongoing clash between Red and Blue, each complete with its own royal line — Bush or Clinton. But political melodrama is mostly an intellectual sport. It doesn’t have that blood and guts appeal of real battle. That’s where professional sports comes in. It fills a vestigial need in Homo Americanus to pull on that mammoth or tiger skin, and let the bashing begin, but without the actual death and gore. (And that’s not the only improvement. Let’s all be thankful for the modern invention of refried beans and sour cream.)
Back in Clan of the Cave Bear times, fighting the other clan was key to survival, and the same can be said for most other battles, on up and through the Wars of the Roses to modern times (false, unprovoked wars in the Middle East to gain control of oil supplies notwithstanding). In human history, battles and wars mattered. This is my biggest gripe about professional sports: In the end, none of it matters. No aria to last the ages was composed, no disease was cured, no breakthrough mathematical equation solved… nothing. All that expense, all that hype and hysteria, all that money spent on salaries, franchised material, tickets and television commercials — and in the end, nothing to show for it.
I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of dollars the Super Bowl rakes in? I wonder how many poor families could eat for a year on that amount? How many low-income kids could go to college — all four years? Breast cancer? Gone. ALS? Cured. AIDS? Thing of the past. Ebola? Done. All cured… if only all that money wasn’t spent on… nothing.
If you don’t believe it’s nothing — quick, without googling, who won the 1983 Super Bowl and what was the score? Ninety-eight percent of you won’t be able to answer that question. The two percent who can? Dude. There’s something wrong with you. Go waste your brain cells on something useful, like memorizing ’70s sitcom theme songs.
Maybe that’s my real issue with professional sports. My Inner Cheapacabra can’t stomach squandering so much money on nothing. But it’s entertaining, you say. You know what else is entertaining? A backyard barbecue and good beer with friends. You might actually remember that lovely evening on the day you draw your last breath. Will you remember Superbowl 2015? I rather doubt it, and if you do… Dude. Seriously. There’s something wrong with you.
I know. I just don’t get it. I’ll own it. There are lots of things I don’t get. Celine Dion. Goat cheese. Labia piercings. Not on board with any of it. But it’s a free country. If you want to poison your ears with crap music and put something in your mouth that tastes like the animal smells or dangle earrings from your lady parts, knock yourself out. Me? Not gonna. And that goes for professional sports in general and the Super Bowl in particular.
All that said, I really do love Super Bowl Sunday but not because I’m going to be watching football. It’s because everyone else will be. Freeways are empty. Beaches and parks — abandoned. The mall? A ghost town. You can go anywhere you like on Super Bowl Sunday and never stand in line. You can drive right up to the take-out window at In-N-Out and actually get in and out. Three-fourths of the population you normally have to deal with — vanished. A friend of mine once said that Super Bowl Sunday was the best time to go shopping or to a movie because “all the world smells like vanilla.”
So, yes. I’m looking forward to Super Bowl Sunday, but not to sit slack-jawed and stare at a bunch of buffaloes in jerseys running each other down. Maybe a hike in the hills? A back-roads drive into Napa? Cruise on down to North Beach for some linguini and clams? See any movie I want without standing in line? Drive around San Francisco and park anywhere I want, just because I can? Anything is possible on Super Bowl Sunday. In fact, I wish it was Super Bowl Sunday every day. I really love the scent of vanilla.