“The Super Bowl is more a secular holy day than a football game,” said Mike Celizic, sports contributor for NBC Sports. “For many, it begins in a church with a minister who is sure to mention the game. For most, it proceeds to a party.”
But here’s the big, big question: WHY? Why do people care so incredibly much? Now, this is not to say that I don’t like the Super Bowl. I’m actually a New York Giants fan…so I’m elated to be writing this post. I still wonder though – how did this game become so important to Americans? Well, there are a few things that I believe contributed to this phenomenon.
The first AFL-NFL Championship Game (now called the Super Bowl) took place in January 1967 in Los Angeles, California. The two football entities merged in 1970, creating the game that marks the end of the football season. Since this first game, there have been 46 played, the most recent won by the New York Giants against the New England Patriots 21-17.
Joe Namath. Do you recognize this name? Most probably do, Namath is one of the most famous football players in history. Namath was the quarterback of the New York Jets when Super Bowl III was played and assisted in creating what has been known to be one of the greatest upsets in sports history, according to NFL.com. The then Baltimore Colts were heavily favored to beat the Jets that year and because of this upset, the Americans became even more fascinated by football. I believe that this is a great spark in the great American following of football, specifically the Super Bowl.
Baseball – The (Old) American Pastime
For decades, the most-watched American game was baseball. Good ol’ Babe Ruth, am I right? Well, that changed. Not to say that baseball isn’t still one of America’s favorite sports. But I think football has pretty much taken over that category – really, the Super Bowl has. Larry Dobrow, a CBSportsline.com writer, explains it nicely in his article “Football v. Baseball: A fantasy showdown.” He lists a few items that explain what makes the Super Bowl so important for Americans – here are some of them:
1. Intensity: Think of that moment when a receiver on your favorite football team catches a 90-yard touchdown pass to win the Super Bowl. How did it make you feel? Awesome? Yeah, it’s a great feeling. It’s the anticipation too, the buildup to that great moment. Baseball doesn’t offer as much suspense, as much thrill. This gives the Super Bowl more appeal than the World Series and honestly, I agree. I don’t find baseball nearly as exciting to watch as football – I like to be on the edge of my seat.
2. Taunting: Football teams only play each other once, maybe twice a year. This makes for more buildup to each matchup. Rivals don’t get a lot of chances to play each other, and when two rivals make it to the Super Bowl, Americans have no choice but to take sides, sit down and watch. In baseball, each team has the chance to play each other many times, making a matchup, specifically a rival, not quite as exciting.
3. Community: I think that this is one of the biggest reasons that the Super Bowl is so successful – it’s an excuse to invite people over and have a party. If you have a group of people who like a certain team, they can gather together to cheer, through the ups and downs of the game. And even if you have people cheering for opposite teams, Americans find a way to bond from the fact that they just LOVE football (and nachos).
Football v. Politics
Sports often come first in conversations, as people seem to know more about the history of the Super Bowl than they do about American politics. Here’s an example:
Picture it now: September 2011. NFL opening night. Green Bay Packers v. New Orleans Saints. You’re excited. You’re pumped for the big game. The Super Bowl from last year just wasn’t enough. But…ooooooh. Snap. President Obama has scheduled a televised address to Congress for the same night, the same time. WHAT DO YOU DO. Well, we know what America decided.
“American football fans can rest easy,” said an NBC Sports article from Sept. 2, 2011. “President Barack Obama’s nationally televised jobs speech to Congress will not conflict with the season-opening NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints.”
PHEW. Right? Wrong. Are you serious, America? This was one of the most disappointing acts, to me, in a long time. The president of the United States changed the time of his speech about jobs and job creation to Congress for a football game. This still makes me mad, but also proves my point – American are obsessed with football and the Super Bowl. If this act of football v. politics tells us anything, it’s that there is a reason that the Super Bowl has the most viewers of any other game of the year. People are in love with it, the intensity. We love watching it to take our minds off of the real world, instead of thinking about other things, like politics.
The Beloved Halftime Show
If this isn’t a demonstration as to why the Super Bowl has so much hype, I don’t really know what is. The halftime show. I mean, it’s only the biggest show of the entire year! Who’s it going to be next year? Who has it been? Not only does it confirm fame if you’re a
big star, but, in some ways, it makes or breaks the way that Americans remember the Super Bowl. If I say “Janet Jackson” and “Super Bowl” in the same sentence, most Americans will be able to recall the incident that occurred in Super Bowl 38 and her halftime show performance with Justin Timberlake. So maybe, people watch the Super Bowl for the halftime show, hoping to see something crazy like that happen again. Or maybe people watch the Super Bowl for the halftime show so they can talk to their friends how terrible it was (because let’s be real, a lot of the time it is).
In short, it’s a free show! And usually, it’s a pretty “big” artist at the time that a majority of people will enjoy watching. So why not? It’s sports and music all in one, who wouldn’t enjoy it?
Viewership, Commercials and Social Media
In the latest Super Bowl, the average cost for a 30 second commercial to air was $3.5 million. Let me repeat myself, $3.5 million for a product to be put on a screen for 30 seconds. Wow. And if you’re going to pay that much, you better make that commercial good! Another reason the Super Bowl gets so much hype is because of how good the commercials are supposed to be. And most of the time, they are pretty entertaining. I mean, ask the 111.3 million viewers who watched the Super Bowl this year, according the Nielsen Company.
It’s insane the number of people that follow the Super Bowl each year. And since this game was first televised, the numbers have continuously grown, annually. And so had the number of people tweeting about it. This year in the 46th Super Bowl, the Washington Post reported that an average of 10,000 people per second were sharing their thoughts about the game on Twitter. This, again, just confirms how much people care about the Super Bowl, as well as how much they want other people to know that they care. Americans share their thoughts on social media to confirm to others that they care about the important things, and in this case, the Super Bowl.