Sport and Society for Arete - Super Bowl LI

Unless you have taken on hermit status, you know that Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. This means that Americans have only had to go a little more than a month for permission to get drunk en masse. Not since New Year's Eve have the citizens of this Republic joined in a communal rite of this nature. TGISS.

By now most everyone knows the drill for Super Sunday. Stock up on beer and other alcoholic beverages, endless platters of meats and cheeses, and snack foods sufficient for the total population of your state of residence.

Preparations start just after Thanksgiving for the most authentic Super Bowl aficionados. One couple in Ohio starts making football shaped ice cubes on the day after Thanksgiving. Less vigilant Superbowlers wait until after Christmas to begin work on their Super to-do lists for the big day.

After the 50th Anniversary, or was it birthday, of the Super Bowl it may be difficult for the host city of Super Bowl LI to distinguish itself and notch a place in the History of Ostentation. Not to worry. After a one year hiatus the NFL is back to Roman Numerals and I know that gives everyone a warm glow and a feeling that this is a Classic event of an Imperial kind.

Furthermore this is Super Bowl LI. It is in Houston. IN TEXAS! Need any more be said?!

All the usual parties will be on the schedule: The Commissioner's Party, the NFLPA party, the ESPN Party, the Playboy Party, the Maxim Party, The Rolling Stone Party, to name but a few. The Maxim Party will be held in Sugar Land, Texas, which seems appropriate. One of the more pricey events is the Super Bowl Host Committee's "Luminaries of the Game," with tables priced from $75,000 to $150,000 tax deductible dollars. You may not be able to afford this one, but at least your government will be subsidizing it for those who can.

Returning to the Super Bowl for the 14th year running is the Leather and Laces party, a two night affair at the Hughes Manor. The first night will feature Donnie Wahlberg, Kyle Bush, and Jenny McCarthy, with the second night featuring Victoria Secret models, Adriana Lima and Sara Sampaio. Hughes Manor, as you know, is the home of "The Gold Champagne Room" and the "L&L Parisian Lounge."

On the other end of the spectrum is "Ditka & Jaws: Cigars with the Stars." Hosted by Mike Ditka and Ron Jaworski at "Irish Cowboy," it will offer fine tobacco and single-malt Scotch. Dan Pastorini's after party, transportation provided, will be held at The Redneck Country Club. Boots and Spurs optional.

Breakfasts, luncheons, brunches, and dinners; concerts, fashion shows, featuring celebrities, NFL Players past and present, owners, and whatever, are available all week prior to the game, and in some cases after the game. The number of events seems to have reached infinity and the variety of events seems to be expanding. Charity fund raisers, all genre of musical events, strange themed gatherings, religious semi-revivals, and most anything you can imagine, and some you can't imagine, are spread across the Texas landscape.

Each year there are a few events or parties that push the Super envelope. Two seem to stand out this year. First is the Virtual Reality Trip to Mars at Discovery Green Park. The only possible tie-in to football seems to be that Otis Sistrunk of the Oakland Raiders was listed in their media guide as being from The University of Mars. Second, New Era Caps will attempt to set a Guinness World Record by using 2051 caps for an art installation. Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers will host fans who can purchase the requisite caps from the NFL Shop. So that's the angle.

Norman Vincent Peale is often quoted as saying "if Jesus were alive today, he would be at the Super Bowl." Perhaps. What is more certain is that if Thorstein Veblen were alive today he would not only be at the Super Bowl, but he would feel compelled to gather data for Volume Two of The Theory of the Leisure Class.

Never has an event been so well suited to Veblen's descriptive vocabulary as is the spectacle that is The Super Bowl. Those great phrases "conspicuous consumption," "conspicuous waste," and "pecuniary emulation," apply as fittingly today as they did in the late 19th Century when Veblen used them to describe the public display of wealth by America's new rich. The Super Rich of the early 21st Century seem to have the same needs to flaunt their wealth as their 19th century predecessors, and increasing they feel less and less guilt about it.

As some will recall the Super Bowl gets its name from a football game. That can easily be obscured by the parties, but indeed there will be football on Super Sunday. Many will watch on television, not so much for the game as for the commercials. Of course it is no longer necessary to watch the game to see the commercials, the main event of Super Sunday.

In 2015 a Media Education Foundation study of the Super Bowl telecast showed that the ball was in play for 17 minutes and 30 seconds. Commercials or on-screen promotions occupied 48 minutes and 34 seconds. A 30 second commercial will cost the advertiser $5M and by most accounts it is well worth the investment. The largest television audience ever will be viewing the game, and that audience, especially at parties, generally are more interested in the ads than the game.

Interest in the commercials is also apparent in the fact that most of them will begin running on-line anywhere from two days to a week prior to the game, and will continue their on-line lives for weeks or months after the game. The on-line community will vote on the best and worst of these short films in a manner much like a film festival.

The other major driver of interest in the Super Bowl is gambling, which hits a record pace with each passing Roman numeral. The range of things to bet on seems to keep growing as well. Wagers can be placed on which team arrives at the stadium first, who gets off the bus first, who wins the coin toss, the cumulative score, and even the actual game winner or at least the point spread, is of interest to gamblers. Every possible permutation of activity draws a wager. Between legal and illegal betting, within the U.S. and across the globe, the sums bet reach into the billions of dollars.

So gorge yourself. It's the American thing to do, at least on select holidays, and Super Sunday is most certainly one of the select.

On Sport and Society this is Dick Crepeau reminding you that you don't have to be a good sport to be a bad loser.

Copyright 2107 by Richard C. Crepeau

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