Commentary 01 Feb 2013 01:46 pm
At least one local restaurant is closing early on Super Bowl Sunday.
The sign on the door didn’t indicate why — maybe they’re hosting a private party — but my guess is so employees may enjoy the Super Bowl with their families, a riff on similar wording used for holidays.
Super Bowl Sunday might as well be a national holiday; it has most of the characteristics. On that day, people hold soirees that would put Jay Gatsby to shame, fall off the diet wagon, drink too much, stay up too late and call off sick from work the next day. Just like Christmas.
Retailers advertise weeks in advance, construct special displays of soft drinks, beer and snack foods, and offer insane discounts on electronics, especially behemoth big-screen televisions so that viewers may enjoy up-close-and-personal views of the coaches’ nose hairs.
That sounds charming, yet in my usually curmudgeonly way, I don’t know if I’ll watch this year.
I don’t hate professional sports, but I am indifferent to them. Most people don’t see the distinction. If you’re a man who can’t rattle off at least half a dozen useless facts about a player’s yardage, passing percentages, hamstring injury and imaginary girlfriend, people tend to view you with suspicion, probably categorizing you as a closet tree-hugger, communist, or classical music aficionado instead of a red-blooded, camo-wearing, Bible-thumping American.
I learned this during my years in sales, where it was detrimental to my bottom line to see customers on a Monday morning without some knowledge of what went down on the national gridiron the day before. My usual procedure was to lie (hey, it WAS sales, after all), either by claiming I had family obligations that kept me from watching — I had a lot of sick grandmothers who needed visiting — or by rattling off one or two key plays that I saw on the morning sports wrap-up.
The latter was dangerous, as any follow-up question would reveal my complete ignorance of professional sports. In all honesty, beyond the Ohio- and Pennsylvania-based franchises, I doubt I can name more than a handful of teams in all professional sports, and even then, I can’t distinguish between baseball, football and hockey. It’s just not my forte.
That said, I have watched a few Super Bowls, sometimes for the inventive commercials and the halftime entertainment, but mostly because it’s kind of neat to recognize that, in a nation of 314 million people (give or take a few hundred thousand), so many are engaged in doing the same thing, at the same time.
Such universal entertainment used to occur more commonly, back in the days before DVRs, Hulu, Netflix and the fracturing of the popular-entertainment audience. With only three networks from which to choose and no easy way to watch a program missed, viewers engaged in communal experiences via television in percentages that are difficult to imagine today.
For example, the final episode of “M*A*S*H” was watched by over 60 percent of households with TVs in 1983, good for about 106 million viewers, still the top-rated, non-sports broadcast. Even the almighty NFL couldn’t beat that until 2010, when Super Bowl XLIV topped the record by about half a million more viewers.
Outside the Super Bowl and major breaking news covered by all networks simultaneously, it’s hard to conceive what sort of event these days might draw so many eyeballs at the same time.
Even so, I probably won’t watch this year. Too many news stories about the dangers of concussions in the NFL, too many players dead before their time, and too many athletes behaving badly on and off the field have tainted what little enjoyment (emphasis on “little”) I derive from the sport.
If the game is on at all in my house, it will be pure background noise, something to glance up at from time to time from whatever book I’m reading or set of papers I’m grading.
But I’m glad some local restaurant workers will be able to enjoy the game with their families and friends. Nobody should have to work on a holiday.
@cschillig on Twitter