January 29, 2004

Celebrating the Super (Bowl) Holiday

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If you lend an ear to the crisp southerly wind, lean toward Collegetown, and listen closely, you can make out the vague Spanglish phrases and bogus contracts peddled by area pizza houses in an effort to hire extra “workers” to help with the holiday rush. Orders have already been placed, twelve-foot party subs already assembled. Yes, boys and girls, it’s that most special time of year, the latest in the winter string of holidays promoting excess and libation (that’s parties and alcohol, for those of you not cursed with a liberal arts education). Of course, we’re still recovering from Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s; Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day (the verbally abusive drunk granddaddy of them all) are right around the corner. But first, this week, it’s Super Bowl Sunday.

After weeks away from campus, it’s time to work the ol’ ass-groove back into the couch, gather up your best friends and watch…Queer Eye For the Straight Guy.

What the hell?

It’s sad but true. For those who don’t enjoy watching large male athletes running around in spandex tackling each other, Bravo and NBC have teamed up to bring you a Queer Eye marathon that starts at noon on Sunday and will run against the Super Bowl until 11p.m. Apparently, the already-diluted sports appeal (I’ll address this in a moment) of the Super Bowl still isn’t palatable enough to force the other major networks into a ratings concession.

On the surface, this doesn’t make sense. A billion people watch this game every year worldwide; it’s the single highest rated night of the network year. Why run a popular hit show against the NFL’s juggernaut only to watch it get crushed? Is NBC bitter since it lost its football contract? Has the gaping wound left by the failure of the XFL, touted as a more-macho game than the NFL, persuaded Dick Ebersol to swing the pendulum all the way to the other side?

I’ll say only one more thing about Queer Eye and then I’ll move on, because I’d like to stay out of Matt Strieb’s column: Can we get the “fashion savant”, Carson (who, incidentally, used to be on the US Olympic Equestrian Team … insert your own joke here) to makeover the Carolina uniforms? I’ve already expressed my distaste with the color teal and all of its bastard children in one of last semester’s columns; even if I weren’t a Patriots fan, I’d root against the Panthers because they look like neon Smurfs. A fashion faux-pas if there ever was one. And I think Carson would agree.

Where was I?

Oh yes, sports. The Super Bowl is unique in both the NFL season and the world of sports in that such a large percentage of the hype deals with the pageantry surrounding the game rather than the game itself. The focus here isn’t on a football game (no matter how many times I watch SportsCenter repeat in the mornings, I can’t shake this feeling), it’s on the halftime show, the commercials, the cheerleaders, the Coors Light Twins, the celebrities, the host city, the gambling lines — absolutely everything but the action on the field. It’s faker than Janet Jackson’s ab implants (look me in the eye and tell me that washboard is real). It’s as if the NFL is trying to water down its most important night.

Nelly and Kid Rock are playing the halftime show, which is sponsored by MTV. Not a fan of craprock? No problem! Just shell out $20 for the pay-per-view Lingerie Bowl and watch scantily clad models play a “real” game of tackle football. Illegal use of the hands anyone? And any chance we get, we’re going to show hilariously over the top commercials involving talking animals and B-list celebrities!

As much as the athletic idealist in me can’t stand the impurities in the Super Bowl, I think the Carnivale` atmosphere is necessary. The NFL is the most popular television sport in the nation, yet it is also the most divisive. More often than not, the schism occurs along the gender line; guys spend Sundays watching football while women go to church and pray for their souls.

A stereotype?

Sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fair. The violent elements of the game intrinsically appeal to men, just like the emotive beauty of figure skating naturally attracts women (If you’re a male football fan, you know you’ve had that girlfriend who thought it was mean to call someone a “tight end” and kept talking about how the quarterback’s butt reminded her of Brad Pitt…. No Ashley, I’m not sorry).

Midriff-baring pop stars lip-synch the national anthem and squirrels run through the streets of Pamplona in commercials to widen the appeal of professional football’s big night. Pete Rozelle, the visionary former NFL commisioner who set Super Sunday on its current path, was a genius. While not true to the ethereal mud-and-blood tradition of John Facenda’s NFL, the Super Bowl experience has cemented itself as the pinnacle of sports television. The result is a multinational collective event of the highest magnitude, an event which crosses social and ethnic boundaries with the ease of a Tom Brady three-step drop.

Speaking of Brady, in between all the clever commercials and halftime extravagence, there is an actual game of football being played on Sunday night. It is a game the Patriots will win, allowing Red Sox fans everywhere to gleefully count the days until pitchers and catchers report and John Kerry is elected President. Can you imagine if the world’s best baseball team, its best football team, and its most powerful man were all from Boston? Say “Chowdah!!!”.

Archived article by Per Ostman