Why the Super Bowl is important

22:19, Feb 06 2013

Here's why the Super Bowl is important (if you're in America): 108.3 million people watched it. That's a tick above a third of the American population.

And there were probably a lot more people like LP who hung out in the kitchen near a TV, but only after handing out very strict instructions to call out when Beyonce came on for the halftime show. 

To give that figure some context, 39 million people watched last year's Oscars broadcast.

The Super Bowl is the one moment of mass-market cultural cohesion left in America, maybe even the world. And really, who doesn't want to feel a part of a moment larger than themselves?

The San Francisco 49ers' involvement added another edge to my interest. I was somewhat focused in the lead up to the game about what tremendous luck I bring to the local sports teams whenever I move to a city (the 2010-2011 Boston Bruins Stanley Cup victory and the San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series triumph being evidence of this).

The 49ers were favoured. On my midday, pre-game run (taken early in preparation for an evening of sitting stationary, drinking beer and eating a lot of Mexican food) the streets of my neighbourhood were filled with smiling people seemingly casting their mind ahead to the coming win. Many were dressed in 49ers outfits. It was nice to be amongst the people. The air held a palpable hue of excitement.


Of course "we" lost. Which was no good, although I didn't much mind. It was close. The only downside now is that after watching the New England Patriots lose from Boston last year and the 49ers lose on Sunday, my "home town" sports teams in the US are now 50-50 when competing for major titles.

I'm not sure I'm quite the lucky charm I anticipated.

The Monday morning following the big game I had two meetings with potential new sources of income (I am a humble freelancer, so the word "employer" would be a bit of a stretch). I eased into each appointment with perfect Super Bowl-related small talk: a reference to the surprising black out, a bit of a talk about the "blistering" Ravens offense, something about the young San Francisco quarterback Kaepernick and I had really proved how Americanised I was.  

The Super Bowl is the richest opportunity for cultural integration that there is:When in Rome, etc. etc.

I would also be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to comment (maybe even provoke discussion) on a few things.

The Super Bowl advertisements are fun, but completely, totally overrated.

It seems that there is about as much mild amusement to be taken from watching these ads as there is scrolling Funny or Die, or YouTube for a bit of a giggle (which people of the Internet do frequently).

There were some amusing adverts: I liked the advert for Budweiser detailing the man's reunion with his beloved horse set to Fleetwood Mac's Landslide, I appreciated the Rock in the Got Milk? advert (because I can't help but appreciate the Rock) and I had a chuckle at the Doritos ad with the man and his goat. I could even get behind the sheer audaciousness of the GoDaddy ad.

Good for a laugh, yes.

But what, really, do people appreciate and anticipate so much about these ads? Is it the comedy? Is it the avenue from which over 100 million people get to consume said comedy? Is it the break from the football? I don't know.

Most of the ads are teased out or leaked on the Internet in the week leading into the Super Bowl. There's little actual surprise. And isn't it all really just a pack of major corporations overpaying for the privilege of reaching Americans while they're all in the same place, leaning heavily on a collective global love of shock-tactics, celebrity endorsements and broad sentimentality?

I for one enjoy the Twitter-commentary a little more than the ads themselves. It's all become very 'meta'... a spectacle in and of itself that everyone knows is important, but no one remembers why.  

Beyonce killed it.

Did you know that for the first 25 or so Super Bowls an orchestra or a marching band played at halftime? Michael Jackson was the first true blockbuster halftime show in 1993 (New Kids on the Block cameoed in 1991, but lets strike those dudes from the record). Jackson's performance, and the rapturous response to it, started a significant trend. But, go watch it now; it seems positively quaint in comparison to what we have 20 years later. The halftime show has seen some positively crap moments. The Who looked old and pained, the bombast of the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen seemed positively flat, Aerosmith disgraced themselves alongside N'Sync and Britney Spears and Janet Jackson and Madonna had to reach for shock tactics to be memorable. Beyonce nailed it: Fierce performance, great dancing, outfits, stage-design and choreography and no awkward over-reach. She now sits in a club or two, alongside Prince (who else?!) in 2007 as performers who have pulled off a flawless halftime show.     

American football is probably never going to be my favourite sport.

The Super Bowl is the one game I watch each year and I've been lucky that each of the last two year's games has been decided on the last possession of the game. The game, I think, has some appeal for anyone who has been raised within the cultural landscape of rugby. I still have no urge to watch it outside of this one particular game. Dragging offensive and defensive units on and off the field, the stop-start crawl of the game, the two lines charging at each other time after time, all make it a little like slow motion rugby league. The fluidity of basketball and ice hockey will always make them more satisfying (to me) as spectator sports.  

Do you get in to the Super Bowl? Why do you think people are so enamoured with a set of ads? How did you find Beyonce?

Tell me your thoughts, no matter how odd. Let's get a little something going, shall we?

(Oh, and I hope you all had a happy Waitangi Day.) 

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