The Super Bowl: One Sport, Two Teams, An Entire Nation — Priceless

Ah, Super Bowl Sunday. It came and went on Feb. 6 and won’t return for another 12 months. On only one day of the year can 30 teams and their fanatics sit at home with chips, salsa, guacamole, adult beverages, friends and family and pretend that they’re not totally, super pissed off that their team didn’t make it to the big game. Over the years, I’ve learned one thing from the Super Bowl: its exclusive nature of only allowing two teams to compete somehow, ironically, results in the most inclusive television program in America.

The football game can unite families, friends, Raiders and Chargers fans, coworkers, significant others and those who don’t know Ben Roethlisberger from the hole in their ass. A combination of professional football, hysterical commercials, political figures and annual halftime live performance (some more interesting than others … See Jackson, Janet – Super Bowl XXXVIII) seems to attract even the biggest sports snobs to record “The Mentalist” and get their once a year fill of sports before returning to their deprived lives.

One of my first Super Bowl memories was on Jan. 26, 1997. I watched the Green Bay Packers defeat the New England Patriots 35-21 in XXXI. I remember three events from that day, none of which include the outcome of the game.

One: my sixth grade brother taught me (a 5-year-old) that double-dipping a Tostitos chip in salsa is never acceptable. Is it okay to eat the chip on one side and then flip it and dip it in on the other side? My mouth never touched the other side, so it will have no contact with the salsa jar. Etiquette schmedicate!

Two: Brett Favre is pretty cool. Forgive me, I was naïve. With age I realized that one of the game’s all-time great quarterbacks throws ballsy passes and exemplifies a warrior’s mentality. However, after a few fake retirements, constant soap opera performances in the media and his infamous flaccid penis picture-message that he sent to a Jets sideline reporter, Brett has dropped considerably on the coolness barometer, in my opinion. I digress.

Three: Bud-Weis-Errrrrrrrr. Bud-Weis-Errrrrr. The frogs sat atop lily pads while their vocal sacs protruded as creative advertisers dubbed over the beer company’s three syllables. They first premiered in 1995’s Super Bowl XXIX, but the frogs managed to escape me the previous two years. You know America is the land of opportunity when three 5-year-old Kindergarteners sit upright in the playground’s park bench bellowing a beer company’s unforgettable slogan. That’s one way to stop underage drinking.

Growing Up
As the years progressed, I became more and more enthralled with the actual happenings on the field, but continued to enjoy the continuous entertainment that the event promises from start to finish. With hormones in full swing, you can imagine the disappointment I faced when I walked in the front door at age 14 after throwing around the pigskin, only to learn of the controversial disrobing of Janet Jackson during her performance with Justin Timberlake. “Damnit!”, my brother and I said after missing the breast, err, best revelation ever.

Overcoming Biases
When Eli Manning spurned the San Diego Chargers and chose to demand a trade to the New York Giants after being drafted first overall by Southern California’s lone football team in 2004, that was all I needed to despise Peyton Manning’s little sister, I mean “brother.” When he came to San Diego for the first time in his career on Sept. 25, 2005, I made sure to be in attendance to give him a piece of my mind. 65,372 other fans attended, most of which shared my sentiments and rejoiced as the Chargers pummeled the Giants 45-23.

A few years later, Eli found himself playing in Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3, 2008 against the undefeated New England Patriots. As a Patriot hater, something about watching the Patriots — a team who illegally filmed their opponents’ practices to gain an unfair advantage — play Eli’s Giants presented the worst disposition in my Super Bowl viewing career. Can they just tie? Can Eli break his leg and the Giants win without his help?

With time ticking down in regulation, I realized that I’d rather see a player who snubbed my Chargers (a team that’s never won the Super Bowl and only competed in it once) win the Super Bowl over a group of cheaters who would go down in history as the best team yet, with a 19-0 record. Down 14-10, Eli snapped the ball on 3rd and 5 from his own 43-yard line with 1:15. He danced around New England’s pass rush and brushed off a defensive lineman who was practically tearing his shirt off, dropped back to the 33-yard line and heaved up a prayer down the field. Waiting on the opposite 23-yard line was David Tyree, a wide receiver who caught just four passes for 35 yards in the 2007 season, trapped the ball against the back of his helmet and controlled it going to the ground.

“As much as I hate to say it,” I said with subsiding disgust to the room full of onlookers, “Eli probably just pulled off the best play in Super Bowl history.”

The Giants later punched in a touchdown pass as Eli connected with Plaxico Burress in the left corner of the end zone to defeat the Patriots, 17-14.

I chose the better of two evils, overcame my issues with Eli, and rejoiced the Patriots’ 18-1, not 19-0 record.

In 2007, the game was presented in 232 countries in 33 different languages. Budweiser, Ameriprise Financial, MasterCard and Pepsi commercials are featured annually. Some are funny, others are more serious. All of them are expensive. In 2009, NBC charged $3 million for each 30-second advertisement. This year, 111 million people viewed the Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, making it the highest American telecast in television history.

The Super Bowl is a fascinatingly uniting event. It meshes consumerism and athletics with camaraderie and growing up. For me, it was always a milestone. It was another year to learn something new about myself in life or a simple football statistic.
For those who missed the big game on Sunday, shame on you. This is America, if you don’t watch the Super Bowl, there’s the door. That might be a little harsh, but seriously, watch it next year.