Super Sunday: one of the few things America does together

First Posted: 1/30/2009

When the Super Bowl is played each winter, its truly a special time.
For one thing, the big game signals the end of football season for another year.
While I find it sad, that fact happens to delight many of my female friends and acquaintances who inexplicably fail to appreciate the greatest sport in the world, and eagerly look forward to its temporary demise.
To them Super Sunday is Liberation Day after, what seems to them, months of gridiron hell have elapsed. They finally can recapture the full attention of their boyfriends or husbands who have been distracted by blocking and tackling at least until golf season gets into full swing in the spring.
However, the Super Bowl is noteworthy for another reason: Its one of the few events that still captures the simultaneous attention of Americans as a whole.
Even if you dont attend a Super Bowl party with a group of people gathered at the home of someone with a wide-screen TV set for food, drink and fellowship you can be part of a party anyway. A really big party.
A person can find themselves completely alone on Super Sunday, snowbound in a cave in the Himalayas. But if that cave happens to be equipped with a satellite system and a TV, he still can have the feeling of sharing a special experience with others.
To put things into perspective, 37.8 million Americans are estimated to have viewed the recent inauguration of Barack Obama. Scenes of the throngs who showed up in Washington for what is considered one of the most historic events ever are still vivid in everyones minds. And those who werent there seemingly were taking in the swearing-in ceremony and other activities that day on television.
Even with all that, the inauguration doesnt hold a candle to the number of people who watched last years Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and New York Giants. That game drew 97.5 million TV viewers, almost three times the number who tuned in to what is considered a landmark inauguration.
If youre not tired of statistics by now, heres another: That 97.5 million figure means virtually one of every three Americans was watching the Giants upset the Patriots last February, since our population is about 300 million.
That adds up to a lot of nachos and dip, my friends.
Except for an incident such as 911, or some huge natural disaster, I can think of nothing that remotely attracts the collective attention enjoyed by the Super Bowl.
And unlike some calamity that grips the world, the Super Bowl is an enjoyable event that doesnt involve tragedy. (Unless you count me taking the advice of my Uncle Fred not his real name and betting on the Patriots to win last year.) Many people had expected a big victory on the part of New England, as evidenced by the Patriots being favored by 13 points.
I am not going to sit here and cry over spilled milk from Super Sunday 2008. But it is sad that the U.S. as a whole doesnt really get together as a big group anymore except for the Super Bowl. Of course, we all cant fit into one living room, but when watching that game you feel a certain kinship with the rest of the human race (which doesnt include fans of the Dallas Cowboys, by the way).
That spirit will last into the next day, as those still fortunate enough to have jobs gather around the water cooler to talk about the great run or seek answers as to why that quarterback threw such a stupid interception.
It didnt used to be that way in terms of people getting together just once per year in the collective sense. Not too long ago, Americans had access to only three TV networks. Due to those numbers, it was a pretty sure bet that some popular sitcom or dramatic series was being watched by millions of others at the same time.
Now thats not the case. With hundreds of channels available on satellite and cable systems, there are just as many things a particular family could be viewing at any given time. That is, if the family is still watching TV together at all.
Chances are, Dad is in front of one set in his den, Mom might be glued to another in the kitchen and all the children could be in their respective rooms doing likewise. And because of increased technology, no one really can be counted on to be in front of the TV, either.
Instead, they might be parked in front of a computer, listening to CDs, playing video games, watching a DVD or videotape or goofing around with a cell phone.
In years past, folks would gather at country stores to trade news and talk about the weather. Now everyone just sequesters themselves in their little protective pods surrounded by all the new technology.
While I have a great appreciation for things such as DVDs, I think weve lost a sense of community and humanity as the various technologies have developed along the way.
But come late Sunday afternoon, well all come together once again for a rare common experience the young, the old, those of all socio-economic groups and soldiers overseas. Even many of those females who hate the game itself, and dont know a defensive end from a lamppost, understand the significance of the Super Bowl.
I know I certainly do. But it will be a cold day in Tampa (site of this years game) before I listen to Uncle Fred about who to bet on this year.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at [email protected]

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