Monday, January 29, 2007

the Super Bowl is the quintessential US holiday

Some point to the US's overindulgences at Christmas or Thanksgiving as proof that those holidays are the most important. While I can't argue against that, I think it's also true that there is one holiday which can claim to be still more emblematic, still more quintessential of the modern US: Super Bowl Sunday.
  • The holiday revolves around the top honors of a sport that simply hasn't spread as far or as deeply outside the US: American football, le football américain. Even the name has "American" in it. Tradition and pride, expressed by people colliding with one another, and working unbelieveably hard to accomplish a momentary blip of glory. Or, like some of the people I went to school with, feeling sufficient societal pressure to consent to merely sitting on the bench in uniform (but at least they had the privilege of exercising to the point of vomiting at practice!).
  • People across the nation gather around the TV. What could be more fitting, considering how much other time they spend there? The pregame show lasts for hours on its own, and the television show that comes on after the game receives instant recognition, if not viewership. Commercial TV is at its zenith, selling and displaying advertisements that will hopefully stimulate conversation and attention. The half-time show exhibits famous music stars in a performance spectacle that a variety of people will critique. National TV is one of the connecting threads, along with franchises and store chains, that bind the US into a gloriously bland whole.
  • Naturally, along with the TV-watching comes the food, fried and meaty and easily-prepared, not like that labor-intensive Thanksgiving stuff. As everyone knows, people can't be expected to gather together without eating. And if you're going to sit inertly for an extended period of time, you need to keep your hands busy doing something. What's the point of living in a country of plenty if you can't be decadent, at least on a holiday?
  • Some may say that the lack of gifts makes this a so-so holiday at best. I can't argue with that, but at the same time, the lack of gift-giving makes this holiday more similar to the way people act most of the time. In fact, the surge of entertainment-system upgrades that coincides with this holiday means that people have the chance to give to themselves. They give the gift that really keeps on giving: an enhanced portal to a rapid-fire, continually-renewed reality, an escape from drab everyday life. More sophisticated entertainment means more efficient happiness (at least, that's how I interpret the way the purchases in the Sims work). Quite American indeed.

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