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In a recent column for The Nation, Dave Zirin calls the Super Bowl "Woodstock for the 1 percent."
And he's right. But the Super Bowl is so much more than that.
Annually, it is a preposterously popular television production, and whatever else you might think about television, the ninety nine percent gobble it up.
The Super Bowl is the last chance those who gamble on football have to bend the season toward the black. The one percent tend to invest in sure things rather than bet on football games.
Yes, the Super Bowl is extravagant parties for the wealthy, who travel to them in private jets that land silently beside waiting limousines. Okay, not silently. I got carried away. You get the point.
But the Super Bowl is also parties where you eat crackers smeared with cheese whiz and drink Bud lite or you go hungry and thirsty.
And the Super Bowl is commerce…a mighty magnet that attracts everybody with something to sell. There are Super Bowl t-shirts, of course, and Super Bowl cookbooks. There are Super Bowl sales of everything from cars to bedroom sets.
Which brings us to the TV commercials. Many Super Bowls ago, the ads ascended to the level of art, or at least to the level of conversation topic du jour, the "jour" being the day after the Super Bowl. On any other day, TV commercials are an irritant to be muted. But on Super Bowl Sunday, each time a commercial begins, somebody at the party shouts, "Shut up! Commercial!" Before the dawn of the mega-mattering of Super Bowl ads, could any Madison Avenue executive have dreamed that a sales pitch would be so extravagantly valued?
But wait. There's more. There's the halftime show, which has the size and scope of an Olympics opening ceremony. Like cities hosting the Games, each Super Bowl host strives for a production that will be higher, faster, stronger, louder, glitzier and more jingoistic than the previous host's extravaganza. Flyovers. Fireworks. Flags. Shrieking sound systems. The pressure must be terrible. So much can go wrong. So much already has.
But if you measure by numbers, so much has gone right. So many watch, or at least gather around the production of the event. We've bought it. We own it. All of us.
This program aired on February 4, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.
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