The Super Bowl
is America at its best and also America at its
worst. American conspicuous consumption. American
grossness. American fandom, American power.
American marketing. American ingenuity. American
skills and talent. All are on parade, all turned up,
tuned in at the same time for the same event. All of
that is the greatest power and the greatest weakness
of the big game.
Played in the
dead of winter in the United States across various
time zones, the “Super Bowl” on “Super Sunday” has
become a de facto American holiday, right up there
with Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving and the
Fourth of July. For many, better.
Of the top 10
most watched American television programs of all
time, nine have been Super Bowls. The game has been
to more than 200 nations in more than 30 different
languages. Many countries send TV crews to the venue
where the Super Bowl is staged. Nations like Brazil,
China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan,
Mexico, Russia and the United Kingdom have opted in
to do this for a more personal take on the big game.
Audiences have numbered
about one third of the population of the United
States. Millions of conversations about the game
will take place on social media in real time. The
Super Bowl produces more twitter tweets than any
other sports event.
Sunday is the most important single-day event in the
advertising industry. At the first Super Bowl in
1967, 30-second commercials cost about $40,000. In
2016, a 30 second ad will cost five-million dollars.
There are many who tune into the
game not to view it but to watch the inventive and
alluring commercials, the elaborate pre-game and
halftime entertainment, the stars on parade.
From the simpler
entertainment that was featured at the first
championship game in 1967, a cavalcade of “A list”
personalities have lined up to perform at Super
Bowls throughout the decades. Top-echelon
entertainers are eager to become part of the
extravaganza because, as Paul McCartney observed:
"There's nothing bigger than being asked to perform
at the Super Bowl."
The Super Bowl is big-time boom time for businesses.
large-screen TVs are purchased weeks before the
game. Super Bowl Sunday
attracts the most NFL football betting action. All
manner and type of “official” Super Bowl products
secret balloting by all NFL owners and a
supermajority of 75 percent has been the pathway
through which a city has been awarded the right to
host a Super Bowl. Part of the deal for a city to
even be in the competition is that a brand new venue
be the environment for the playing of the game.
The face value for a ticket to attend that first
game in 1967 ranged from ten to fifteen dollars.
2016 Super Bowl tickets cost about $650 each. The 32
NFL franchises, according to Forbes, are worth an
average over $1.2 billion each. Pro football,
overseen by the NFL, is a $10-billion plus industry,
according to ESPN.
The winner’s shares for the 2016
Super Bowl will be well over $100,000 each. Losers
will get more than $50,000 each– both vastly
different sums from the first Super Bowl payout of
$15,000 for winners of the first Super Bowls.
Taking into consideration that the playoffs last
only four games at most, salary-wise for players it
is almost like having another season.
Eating dominates the day. Only
Thanksgiving Day surpasses Super Bowl Sunday
as the highest calorie consumption day in the United
States. Restaurant sales plunge. Millions and
millions hunker down, shut-ins to viewing, drinking,
The Super Bowl has evolved into
the grandest, grossest, gaudiest annual one-day
spectacle in the annals of American sports and
culture. All of this incredibly spun off the game
that was played on January 15, 1967 at the Los
Angeles Coliseum, a game that for a time lacked a
name, a game that lacked a venue, a game that lacked
an identity, a game that when played was played with
two different footballs and didn’t even sell out.
And to think
that when it first began, National Football League
Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s biggest wish was that it
would surpass the World Series in importance.
He surely got
more than he wished for.
(Adapted from Harvey Frommer’s When
It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super