Enjoying the Super Bowl (between Commercial Breaks): A Comprehensive Guide

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I’m about to make a strange admission: I’m really not that into sports. Well, okay, I have spent years of my life sitting and watching football and baseball, and on occasion I will plop down to watch any number of other athletically based competitions.

I study Baseball-Reference.com, watch ESPN, and have been known to thumb through artifacts like Sporting News and even the local sports page. But unless I’m cheering for one of my teams (or praying that my fantasy baseball “star” will, for the love of God, please end that 0-for-18 skid), I am a casual fan at best.

This means that I am a lot like the majority of Americans when it comes to the Super Bowl: a willing consumer of the grand spectacle, but otherwise pretty ambivalent about the outcome of the game.

In order for me to really get into any particular game, I have to feel some sort of emotional investment. I have to want somebody to win. With this in mind, I’m going to look for some context that might help me or other casual fans like me pick a team to root for in this year’s Super Bowl. This will involve thorough research methods, outlined below:

1. Googling “who is in the Super Bowl this year,” since I haven’t paid attention to the playoffs.

Results:

Patriots vs Seahawks: Wait, really? I’m supposed to pick one of these two teams to root for? One the defending champion and the other a regular powerhouse of questionable repute? And neither with any obvious charm or amusing idiosyncrasies? I’m gonna have to dig a little deeper here.

Tom Brady: I seem to remember a lot of chatter early in the season that Tom Brady looked like he might be done. He’s now playing in the Super Bowl, so I’m guessing that rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated. While Brady is the central figure on the team that I’m always tired of seeing, I do think it’s a good idea to recognize great players while they are still playing, and Tom Brady has certainly proven to be one of the greats. So alright, go Patriots! Wait, deflated balls? What now?

Bill Belichick vs. Pete Carroll: Alright, so I don’t know what to make out of this whole Deflategate mess. The main thing I know is that “South Park” delighted in calling Bill Belichick a cheater in the wake of the Spygate controversy. If “South Park” says so, that’s usually good enough for me. Boo Belichick!
Unfortunately, rooting for Pete Carroll is a non-starter for me. I have enjoyed disliking Carroll, he of the movie-star hair and car-salesman smile, ever since his highly successful run as a collegiate head coach on the insufferable USC Trojans.

This little exercise is going nowhere. I might get invested in seeing whether Captain America or Andy Dwyer wins his Super Bowl bet, but that doesn’t really help much, because everyone wins either way.

Perhaps I should take heart in the progress I’ve made since the first Super Bowl I watched when I was around ten years old, as a chubby kid who cared nothing at all about sports. All that interested me at that time were the unusually funny commercials, and my dad’s fascination with the technology behind the brand-new yellow first-down line.

At least now I appreciate football enough recognize the difference between a bad game, like the Seahawks’ dismantling of Peyton Manning’s Broncos last year, and a great game, like when Eli Manning’s Giants took down Belichick’s rule-shirking Patriots in 2008. And, like most people who grew up in this country, I have a PhD in Super Bowl commercial criticism.

Conclusion:

I like football, I like beer, I like the junk food we get to eat and call “tailgate food,” and you know what, I really like the Super Bowl. To paraphrase Steven Colbert, I am America. And so will you.

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