Monday, January 23, 2012

Why The Super Bowl is Really Super

Super (adjective) 1. very good, first rate or excellent             --Random House Dictionary

New England Patriots 23--Baltimore Ravens 20.

Did you hear the one sound, just one, throughout New England last Sunday night at about 6:10 pm?  It is rare that millions of folks experience the same moment all at once, or share an event as singular, or mutually participate in a collective drama, but that is exactly what happened, on a chilly January night, on the twenty-second day of the first month of the year 2012 in these parts. If you listened and could have somehow eavesdropped on folks you’d have heard a united and joyful cheer, rolling forth and outward across six states. 

From living rooms packed with families and sports bars packed with strangers, from folks driving in their cars and listening oh so intently to the radio, to people gathered around TVs in the basement or on the back porch or at work.  Together. All when the New England Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the American Football Conference championship game on a nail-biting, heart attack inducing, last second missed field goal kick, guaranteeing a trip to the Super Bowl in ten days and not just for one team but for a whole region and millions of fans too.

I don’t mean to sound overblown and hyperbolic about just what this one game and one victory really means.  Though a lifelong sports fan, especially of hometown teams the Patriots and Red Sox and Bruins and Celtics, I’m old enough and wise enough to remember that after all, it was just a game and is just a game. Though like millions of others I played sports as a kid and still today compete in various games of competition, I’m realistic enough to know that professional sports are finally just that, sports. An hours’ long diversion from the real life dramas we all play out and face.  A larger story we all get to participate in, where the actors are well known and the narrative is exciting but a story where there is finally little at stake, at least in the real world. Professional sports are entertainment, like a good escapist movie or a song that makes us want to dance.  When the game ends all of the emotions poured forth between the lines of play disappear, along with all the hyped hype and all the words typed and all the pseudo glory psyched.  Pro sports are culture wide escape, a pause, a time out from real life. It won’t provide a cure for cancer or end a war or fix the economy.  

But last Sunday’s Pats’ victory and now the run up to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis on February 5th: it is all going to mean a lot of fun for millions of us in the Boston area and beyond.  In times when it feels as if there is always so much which divides us as humans—race, class, politics, religion—pro sports provide a temporary respite from our fractured world, a chance to share in something together, bigger than ourselves, a rare opportunity to cheer as one. 

In a season when at least for the next two months we New Englanders still have to face into more snowstorms and more ice cold temperatures and more gray days before spring arrives, the road to the Super Bowl and that big game is a graceful gift, unexpected and a surprise.  For the next week and a half everyone (or almost everyone) will become a big sports fan. We’ll bask in a region wide celebration and grandmothers will sport brand new Patriots baseball hats and cheer at the top of their lungs and toddlers will get all dressed up in red, white and blue and folks will plan for Super Bowl parties and invite neighbors and friends and guess what? It will all be good. 

It won’t sort out the 2012 Presidential election.  Won’t contribute a dime towards paying down the national debt.  Won’t resurrect a stumbling economy or make any more certain these uncertain times we find ourselves calling home in 2012.  Yet our Super Bowl bound New England Patriots will give us a chance to cheer and to laugh and to hope and to play together in the coming days.  We’ll get to root as one when the players take the field and play just a game.  Play just for fun. Play for nothing more than the joy of competition. 

And that is absolutely super.  GO PATS!

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