I failed at replicating a New Englander on Sunday. I wasn't prepared for the worst, a Patriots loss. I was preparing for the best while expecting the best. Perhaps that's why they lost, he says, now, finally emulating a New Englander. By the fourth quarter I was spilling part of my precious beer and scaring the neighbors with my exultant cheers. I felt confident they'd pull it out. Not in an "I believe in a positive force ruling the universe that would never allow me to experience defeat" kind of way, but because I know they're a good team. Turns out the Giants are better. Alas. But it was fun to watch.
But watching these monumental sporting contests always makes me wonder about the type of person who invests so much of themselves into the performance record of professional athletes that they wear jerseys to formal events when the team is doing well and become clinically depressed when they aren't. We say things like "our team," as if the team, like in the days of old, is made of athletes chosen from among the populace who represent our clan in the great struggles of mankind. But in truth, most of the Patriots aren't even from New England. And if they live there, it's only part-time. You can't even treat college athletes that way, as most of them are recruited from all over the country. High school, I think, is the last bastion of that sort of thing, but who really wants to watch high school kids play, except Texans?
But the teams are named for the place they play, which makes sense. You couldn't call them Team 32 and expect anyone to show up to the games. And without a regional identity, you'd have a hard time coming up with a mascot, which would cut into merchandizing sales, which would ruin the whole thing. I get it. I just don't get why so many people fall in love with a team just because they live near the stadium. Is it a laziness of affection? Are we not willing to root for a team we'd have to drive more than 40 minutes to watch play? Or is it some kind of instinctive longing for the good old days when "our team" meant something. When The Patriots might have been actually from New England. Either way I can't help calling them "my team" and hoping they win, being sad when they don't.
I took a break mid-game to watch the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet. I'd never seen this before. Basically, they put a bunch of puppies in a pen and give them toys to fight over. Then film it. For three hours. At half time they bring on kittens. That's it. Just small, baby animals falling all over themselves and having a blast. It's pointlessly fun for all the right reasons and I loved it. The Puppy Bowl, more than anything, reminded me why events like the Super Bowl are important and, simultaneously, so irrelevant.
Super Bowl Sunday is as much about the football as the Fourth of July is about a piece of paper. Super Bowl Sunday is about the party, and more than that - the spirit of community. It's about feeling a part of something that draws people together for layered dip and frosty drinks. It's about having a point of reference with which to relate to other human beings. It's about distilling the esoterica of everyday life into something simple we can agree on or not. Something we can chew on and debate. Numbers and stats and the thrill of victory or defeat.
It's about humanity.
Russ Pitts is an Associate editor for The Escapist. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com