Let’s get something out of the way: the Super Bowl is awful. Football is exciting, its rules provide room for complex, ever-shifting strategies, and, as with any sport, you occasionally witness moments of transcendence that you can carry with you for years. There are a whole host of reasons that you might think the NFL is just the monetization of bloodsport, and you wouldn’t be wrong—though Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth has a great long essay up this week that provides reasons for “realistic optimism” about the game and the league.
Everything about it is polished and buffed until it’s gleaming and seamless—an utter and abject embrace of the biggest brands in the world. When an ad is rejected from the proceedings, it’s not because the product is controversially manufactured in occupied Palestine, it’s because it mentions other companies in a negative light.
It’s a robot made of meat sitting on top of a mountain of money, and the money is on fire, and the robot is singing a song about how great America is. It’s a movie that goes on forever about a massive steel bowl that gets built in the middle of nowhere and then starts filling up with confetti, then the confetti turns into blood while everyone cheers. It’s impossible to describe the Super Bowl.
The on-the-ground realities of the Super Bowl are grimmer and more grubby than the televised product: the lawsuits over ticket prices, the strippers flown in from Russia to entertain the visiting broligarchs, the fans unable to walk to the stadium or tailgate because of the rings of guns and men and surveillance cameras that surround every major event in America now.
Luckily there is, underneath all that pomp and weirdness, a football game being played, and a good one at that—the Seahawks’ defense, Peyton Manning’s offense, etc. There are loads of previews out there if you want to read about strategy and matchups, including Bill Barnwell’s and Mike Tanier’s, so I won’t go into that stuff.