Once again, the holiest of American holidays is upon us. In honor of this hallowed occasion, we will offer forth a ritual sacrifice 1.2 billion chicken wings, 29.7 metric tons of nachos, and enough beverages of all types to fill our planet’s oceans 35 times over.
Already, we have been granted the grace of our football gods as CBS will televise the event, sparing us from the torturous four-hour neural assault from Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on Fox Sports. The game is also being hosted in New Orleans — a city that embodies the festive atmosphere of Super Bowl Sunday better than any other location in the U.S., and does so during the other 364 calendar days each year. Moreover, my favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers, has earned the right and privilege to entertain billions of spectators on the largest of stages.
But above all else, Super Bowl Sunday has the power to unite our divided nation by providing tradition and common ground for us all to simultaneously eat, drink, and be merry with one another in front of TV sets throughout the country.
But is everybody on board?
“I’m not going to watch the Super Bowl. I don’t care who wins.”
I recently overheard this nugget of blasphemy on a trip to my favorite sandwich shop. You are probably thinking the sandwich shop is located in Hanoi or that this nonsense was uttered by a member of the fairer sex. You are wrong on both counts. More importantly, it doesn’t matter whether it was a man, woman or child who displayed the audacity to say such a thing — this line of reasoning is the antithesis of celebrating any holiday in our great nation.
Do you have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Ask that question to the millions of Americans with ancestors from Germany, Mexico, India, or even Great freaking Britain, who don their green apparel and down gallons of Guinness every March 17th to celebrate their Ireland roots.
During Christmas, do you care about Santa Claus, sleigh bells, or Jesus? Probably not. But do you enjoy indulging in honey-glazed ham, egg nog and sugar cookies in front of a crackling fireplace with friends and family? Most definitely.
Super Bowl Sunday is no different. In fact, I believe it to be an important bonding moment which has the power to heal even the deepest of scars wrought upon our society in the name of political or religious differences. If one cannot rise to the occasion and take part in a national rite of passage that includes basking in the glow of enormous flat-screen TVs and consuming delectable foodstuffs of their choosing, I suggest they relinquish citizenship immediately and bequeath their inalienable right to watch NFL football to the millions of people living in other countries who are willing to participate in this modern American ritual.
Despite the obvious reasons for indulging in the festivities, the American media is busy concocting story lines to draw in casual fans, neophytes, and tabloid addicts alike to watch the game itself. This year’s payload includes the usual stories of players overcoming adversity to reach their profession’s greatest stage. It also features some unique twists.
With the showdown between Jim and John Harbaugh set to take place this Sunday, we have the first-ever instance where brothers will compete for the heralded Lombardi Trophy. Yet, I was tired of the HarBowl story line the Monday following Championship Sunday. The only way this becomes interesting to me is if there is a post-game handshake fiasco between the brothers Harbaugh.
The 49ers quarterback controversy has all but melted away to anyone who actually follows the sport, for which Jim Harbaugh should feel very thankful. This would only qualify as a story if the 49ers would have been knocked out before the Super Bowl. To his credit, Alex Smith has handled the situation with class, but it’s time to let this go (talking to myself on this one). I am Kaepernicking as I type.
Last ride of a storied yet controversial figure
I nearly vomited in rage before Ray Lewis’ final game in Baltimore’s M&T Stadium versus the Indianapolis Colts only because every NFL pregame show dedicated a 20-minute segment to analyze his introduction dance while entering onto the field of play. I am already choking on my regurgitated yet-to-be-eaten pregame feast as I imagine the attention that Lewis’ Super Bowl introduction dance will surely attract.
Pro-gay rights vs. anti-gay sentiment
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo had promised to use the Super Bowl as a platform to advocate for gay rights. I applaud his effort. As a result, the gay rights issue surfaced during media day when San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver expressed that he would not welcome a gay player into his locker room. He has already moonwalked away from his statement, but you would think that a guy who plays in San Francisco would know better. All will be forgiven if the Niners deliver victory. All will be forgotten on Monday, February 4th regardless of the outcome.
And my favorite of all:
Use of grade-A New Zealand deer antler velvet spray to enhance performance
Presumably used to improve performance on the football field and not in the bedroom, deer antler spray has claimed its rightful place in the Super Bowl limelight. No stranger to controversy, Ray Lewis has been met with accusations of spraying this exotic concoction into his mouth to help repair his torn triceps muscle and improve his ability to tackle grown men wearing helmets and shoulder pads. And we’re supposed to frown at this. I say, “live and let spray.”
As a grizzled veteran of soaking up a long string of Super Bowls, I never have any problems preparing to observe Super Bowl Sunday in an appropriate manner. Furthermore, as a lifelong San Francisco 49ers fan, I can hardly contain my giddiness for this year’s game. Yet, no matter who wins the game, it is important to remember one thing: it’s all about how you play the game.
In this spirit, I am hereby committing myself to eat that second plate of nachos, buy that extra six-pack or two, and scream a little louder at the television with a broader range of profanities than normally employed during a typical Sunday afternoon.
I promise to loosen that belt buckle for just one day (OK, one day this week) and relish the rights that our forefathers so eloquently envisioned in the Constitution. Win, lose, or draw — I pledge to honor the spirit of Super Bowl Sunday with more vigor than ever.
In the name of Walsh, Montana, and Rice. Amen.