Performance of Sports: The Super Bowl
For many Americans it is the biggest sports day of the year. My aunt even calls it Football Christmas. You guessed it, I’m talking about the Super Bowl. Every year on the first Sunday of February people from all walks of life gather to watch the Super Bowl. Some come for the game (since that is the main event), some come for the musical performance(s), some come for the commercials, and some come for the food. Depending on who is playing and who is performing at halftime that year, I am some combination of all four. This year I didn’t really have stake in either team, but I wanted the Chiefs to win. Haven’t we seen enough Tom Brady? Some people will disagree with that, but I can respect all opinions. I want to dive in a little bit to each of those four reasons why people might watch the game and how (or if) each one is a type of performance.
I spent the fall discussing how different elements of football are performance so this time I’m going to talk about the post-game. After a team wins every person on the team has a chance to touch (or hold) the Lombardi Trophy as it is brought out and presented to the team. Following that, the MVP does a brief interview and speech. It feels little bit like the kinds of speeches people give at award ceremonies. Then the famous question is asked, “_____ you’ve just won the Super Bowl. What are you going to do now?” And the MVP responds, “I’m going to Disney World!” WAIT! Not this year they didn’t. I have to admit, I was pretty sad to not hear those words, but it was the truth. This year, due to the ongoing pandemic, the winners of the Super Bowl didn’t go to Disney World. This whole post-game ritual feels a bit like a performance. That doesn’t make it a bad thing, but we have come to expect the famous line. We expect to see the players enjoying their trophy as it is presented to the MVP. They do it because they’re excited, but maybe it’s also a bit of tradition.
There are always three musical performances at the Super Bowl: America the Beautiful, the national anthem, and the Pepsi halftime show. This year a new performance was presented, poetry. The musical performances are usually my favorite part. I’m always excited to hear who is performing. This year, the halftime show fell a little flat, while the other performances soared. I will have to say I was surprised a little bit at the national anthem. It was a lot slower than other performances of the national anthem in recent Super Bowls. That isn’t to say it was bad, it was just very different and I really liked that about it. I don’t think I really need to elaborate more about how these musical performances are performances, except that I would like to stress my desire to see Taylor Swift perform in the halftime show sometime, and hopefully sometime soon. Besides the musical performances, this year was the first time that poetry was ever performed before the Super Bowl and much like her beautiful delivery of the inaugural poem on January 20th, Amanda Gorman was probably the best part of the 2021 Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl is the only day of the year that it is acceptable to watch commercials instead of skipping through them or using commercial breaks to go to the bathroom. Seriously, when does one go to the bathroom during the Super Bowl? Commercials are not only literal performances by the people acting in them but also performances of well-known and popular companies. What will they choose to perform that year? What will their focus be? Who will they choose to perform in their commercials? Advertising is already a field with a lot of moving parts, but the Super Bowl is not only the championship of football. In a way I feel like it’s the championship of advertising. Companies have to put on their best performance because those commercials will likely be remembered for years to come. Unfortunately if they’re really bad, as well as really good. My favorite commercials from this year were M&Ms, DoorDash with Daveed Diggs, T-Mobile with Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton, and Jeep: Meet in the Middle.
Finally, the food. This year I hope many (or all) of you stayed home and didn’t attend any Super Bowl parties. Here’s to hoping the Super Bowl didn’t become yet another super spreader event. In past years, and hopefully next year, Super Bowl parties are my thing. I’m a lot like Monica from Friends, “I’m always the host.” I love hosting parties. I made so much food for us during the holidays and last night and clearly I really don’t know what to do with myself when there aren’t people to host. I know some people who honestly just show up to Super Bowl parties for the food or the company. So what kind of performance are they putting on? Well, do they choose to pretend that they actually know anything about football? Do they pretend to enjoy the halftime show? Do they laugh at the commercials that everyone else laughs at? Do they only eat the food that others are eating? Who do they talk to? Do they just sit quietly and enjoy the atmosphere? There are so many different performances that these people put on.
So what performer are you? As we wave goodbye to the 20-21 football season and look towards the next season beginning in August, let’s all please try to stop the spread so we can have a bit more of a normal season next year.