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The rumble is unmistakable. You can hear it long before the headlights appear around the corner where January gives way to February. You can feel it.
Super Bowl coming through.
Once February was a mutt among months: short, stormy and cold in lots of places, spinning tires whining on the ice under the slush. Alone among the months it has no set number on the calendar. It adds and shrugs off days as if to avoid being pinned down, perhaps because it's ashamed of itself.
In the east, where I have always lived, people used to say February's only saving grace was the beginning of spring training.
Nonsense. That was one of the cruelest things about February. We'd read about the trailers full of gloves and bats and uniforms arriving in Florida and Arizona while we looked out the windows in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut at the accumulating snow we'd have to shovel while the boys of summer got summer early.
The tedium of February was broken, briefly, by Valentine's Day, upon which, as I recall, school children were required to give a cheap card to everyone in the class so that nobody would feel slighted, as if getting a stack of cheesy, obligatory sentiments would buck up even a kid in grade school.
No more. February is for the Super Bowl. Party time. Football is the nation's sport, the Super Bowl is the sport's Mardi Gras, and the occasion long ago transcended such concerns as which teams are playing or where the game is played. Some of the people who go to Super Bowl parties will have to check their laptops or their smart phones on Sunday morning to see who's involved.
Marketing majors and aspiring public relations directors have much to learn from the NFL about how to divert people from what is unsavory about their product by pointing out the shiny things. There is nothing shinier than the Super Bowl, and there is no better background for a shiny thing than February.
I recently spoke with some people who regard Super Bowl Sunday as the perfect evening to go to the movies, since nobody else is there. They were brave in their denial of the national obsession, these people were, but a little uneasy, too, as if they were worried that they might be picked up on their way out of the theater and brought in for questioning.
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