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A riff on the Super Bowl


Started writing this Friday. Didn't have a chance to really dig into it, but I scratched out a few thoughts before Super Bowl Sunday kicks into the proverbial high gear.

If you want a good taste of the Super Bowl, to capture the essence of The Big Game, you don't have to go to East Rutherford -  where the game will be played Sunday - or New York City - where it will be claimed for the rest of history. Because the Super Bowl, no matter how much your telivision or radio or computer screen or smartphone wants to tell you, is not something built for comments on YouTube or favorites on Twitter or even a two-minute highlight package on SportsCenter after countless hours of pre-game talk manufactured by the insatiable engine of the sports media hype machine.

Because the Super Bowl - with its 48th installment set for Sunday - predates ESPN and the Internet and high-definition television, and as much as the relationship between those things feels symbiotic, it isn't.

No, if you want a good taste of the Super Bowl, the Big Game between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, you can find its essence whisking through the streets downtown or steaming in the froth of a latte at the coffee house.


It was Friday, about 50 hours from kickoff to Super Bowl XLVIII, at a Starbucks in Lancaster County, some 1,660 miles from Denver, 2,755 miles from Seattle and 161 miles from MetLife Stadium, the established battleground for football supremacy.


A man sat on his laptop, a Macbook, and another young man, well-cropped and in his mid-20s, wearing a purple dress shirt and a silk tie and primed for his upcoming job interview.


They shook hands there in the Starbucks, exchanging a greeting while cups clashed in the background.


Before the interview, the questions and the forced jokes, the Big Game found its way into the conversation.


"What are you doing for the game Sunday?" the one asked.


The other, a "die-hard Eagles fan" said he was rooting for Seattle. He's been following the Seahawks for a few years and thinks it's their time.


Complete strangers. Small talk. The Big Game.


That's what the Super Bowl means. That is its essence. Other events - political conventions and concerts and religious services - they fail to match the scale and scope of a professional football game played between conference champions in February.


Sure, it begs questions and concerns about society's priorities. Other places warrant the attention. Better causes are more deserving of the billions of dollars generated by sports' largest spectacle.


The Super Bowl is cultural glue. It pulls together an audience from across the globe. It whisks itself among the clanking dishes and hissing steamers at the coffee shop. It brings names like "Sherman" and "Manning" and "Omaha" into the cultural lexicon.


That's the essence of The Big Game. A longtime sports editor and adjunct professor once said, "Sports is what people are talking about." People are talking about the Super Bowl, and the Super Bowl, well, it is what people are talking about.


We can debate society's morals as folks across the country gather in the luminescent glow of a football game, imbibing in the sense of community offered by the Big Game's presentation. But at a time when we focus on our differences and what sets us apart, it's refreshing that something can still bring us together.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
felixwas
Feb. 3rd, 2014 03:30 am (UTC)
Right you are, Tim. I've long maintained that for guys who don't know each other, sports is the ice-breaker many more times than not. As you point out, the Super Bowl is "cultural glue" (nice phrase). College football, major league baseball and college basketball, I would reckon, round out the top four, but their glue isn't as strong, except for maybe the Yankees—everybody has an opinion on the Yankees. And for all the hype, I can't see the Olympics having the same hold on us—too many (often obscure) events spread over too many days on too many broadcast outlets.

Having said that, if you're an NHL fan and it turns out the guy you don't know is a hockey fan too, then the conversation revs up much more quickly. Probably because hockey is pretty much of a niche sport, much as Gary Bettman hates to admit it.

On the flip side, the glue gets really sticky when heroes topple: Tiger, Lance, A-Rod. They seem to transcend sports and become morality tales.



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