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The Literary Side of This Year’s Super Bowl

11:30 AM, Feb 3, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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The Super Bowl is, as everyone knows, the biggest thing in sports.  And television.  Which are, increasingly, indistinguishable.  The game is routinely the highest rated program of the year.  Any year.  In fact, three of the four most highly rated shows of all time are Super Bowls.  And those would be the last three games.  The trend, then, is for this year’s game to become the highest rated ever.  For a year, anyway.

edgar allen poe

People who do not watch another game all year and cannot tell you, when a team is flagged for having too many men on the field, exactly how many are allowed … they will watch the game, eat the guacamole, drink the beer, and get into the betting pools.  The Super Bowl is, in fact, as big for the gambling industry as it is for avocado growers.  In Vegas this week, you can put your money on as many as 300 different “proposition” bets.

These are exotic wagers that go into a realm beyond that of the conventional, “I’ll take the 49ers and lay the points,” kind of action.  Included among the proposition bets are such exotics as, “Will either team attempt a two-point conversion.”  And if that’s still too football-themed for you, then you could wager that Alicia Keys will, or will not, take more than two minutes and fifteen seconds to sing the Star Spangled Banner. And, if you are utterly lacking in imagination and money management skills, you could bet on which way the coin toss before the game will go. It’ll cost you a dollar to win ninety-eight cents. Heads, for some reason, gets more action.

That enough people make the bet to incentivize Vegas into taking the action is just further proof that people – Americans especially – go a bit mad over this game.  It has become something that transcends both its origins (the first one, back 45 years ago was not even a sellout) and its essence.  It is a feast, in the ancient sense of the word.  Esquire magazine is conducting an appeal for signatures on a White House petition to make the Monday following Super Bowl Sunday a national holiday. 

This is an old idea that has been around a while.  (Also here.)  And why not? The day after Super Bowl surely must be one of the least productive in the United States, even among Mondays, and who would want to buy a car that rolled off the assembly line on that day.   We do, admittedly, seem to be piling up the holidays but perhaps we could find a Saturday, later in the year, when we would all go to work to make up for the lost time and wages.  Sort of a late homage to Super Sunday.

Just a thought.

Meanwhile, the game will go on, following a buildup that has lasted a couple of weeks, during which sports writers and others have mined the thing for all that it is worth, asking questions of the players that will, one hopes, have left them wondering if people really do that kind of thing for a living.  This year, someone asked Terrell Suggs about his Valentines Day plans.

“I’m going to the moon,” he answered,  “I’m going to go on a space shuttle. Then I’m going to Houston.”

Still, the media does have a tough job, given the gap between the last of the playoff games and Super Bowl.  It is a big two-week hole that must be filled with what they like, these days, to call “story lines.”  Whatever happened, one wonders, to “stories?” But never mind.

This, actually, has been a pretty good year for stories.  There is the interesting datum that the rival head coaches are brothers – Jim and John Harbaugh.  This has provided a lot of fodder for scribes and broadcasters and some pretty awful attempts at clever manipulations of the language.  “Brother Bowl?”  Really?

Then, Ray Lewis has promised that this will be the last game of his seventeen-year career during which he established himself as the Dick Butkus of the modern era and, arguably, the greatest linebacker in the history of the game.  The Lewis legacy has its dark side and is complicated by the fact of his arrest on suspicion that he was involved in a double murder that took place outside an Atlanta nightclub on January 31, 2000. Lewis pled down from two counts of homicide to obstruction of justice and testified against two of his companions who later beat the charges.  Lewis his since lived a blameless life and speaks often of his faith.  Still …

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