Super Bowl LI (Strange echoes of November, the Consumer Frenzy, and Political Advertising)

Correction: In the original version of this article I included 84 Lumber as one of the “progressive” companies attracting the ire of Trump supporters. Turns out I, and others, misread the commercial. It’s actually supportive of Trump’s immigration policy. I don’t like being wrong, but hey, better to admit when I am.

Watching Super Bowl LI felt a little bit like election night. Looking for live coverage on YouTube, refreshing Google to get new updates on the score, and having the sinking feeling that despite things looking up it’s not over until it’s over.

Well, the Patriots won and the Falcons lost. So it goes. I suppose it’s for the best since I imagine Trump was ready to throw a tantrum if the team with his golden boy lost the big game. Yes, now Tom Brady can go into the history books as the NFL’s greatest quarterback of all time and Trump can sleep soundly knowing there hasn’t been an indirect assault on his ego.

This feels oddly appropriate. The Patriots were, essentially, the “Trump team,” whereas the Falcons were the “Hillary/Other team.” I’ll admit, I don’t follow sports in general and definitely not football, but the fact that the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl must mean they’re at least somewhat decent at their trade. In the first half of the game the Falcons thrashed the Patriots and even after halftime it seemed safe to assume it’d be a slaughter. Then the Patriots rallied and tied the game. It goes into overtime, and the Patriots pull it off. And like in politics, the Patriots didn’t need to blow the Falcons out of the water, they just needed that extra point to get over the line and get the whole shebang.

Ah, but unlike the 2016 election we can move on with our lives (unless you made some hefty bets about the outcome of the game, in which case I wish you the best of luck).

Something I noticed about the Super Bowl, that I don’t think I’ve noticed before, is the frantic consumerism that takes place before the big game. I ran to the grocery store before the game; a real in-and-out kind of mission. While it was a quick run it still gave me enough time to notice the way people behaved at the store and on the road. Shoppers zipping through the store with grocery carts chock-full of processed food and cheap domestic beer, a bunch of modern Romans stocking up on bread before the circus. They acted like some Doom was about to befall them if they didn’t get their shit and plop down in front of the TV before kickoff. The only times I see that kind of latent panic grip a mass of people is either before Christmas or when a helluva storm is coming. Cars flew through the parking lot with no quarter given to the poor bastards unfortunate enough to be in their way. Move it or lose it, I’ve got a game to watch!

What is it that makes people act this way? Do they actually enjoy the stress? Maybe there’s a sick thrill to it, the way their adrenal glands start pumping, their blood pressure skyrockets and their heartrate gets a little faster than usual. It’s controlled thrill-seeking; safer than skydiving, and more accessible than a rollercoaster. Granted, Super Bowl Sunday is an American holiday in its own right, but aren’t holidays supposed to be relaxing instead of a continuation of the usual stress? The irony is we make our own stress in these situations. We buy into the narrative that you must buy, buy, BUY before the big game. Yeah, part of the fault can be laid at the feet of corporations encouraging this behavior, but nobody is putting a gun to your head to engage in it.

Speaking of corporations, even the most ardent anti-sports citizen knows that Super Bowl is one-part football, one-part halftime show, and one-part advertisement. Hell, the advertising alone is a  is a bigger draw for Millennials than the actual game.

Well, that by itself is unnerving. The commercials aren’t anything new. A-list celebrities, sentimentality, and family-friendly comedy. Done and done. Granted, with multi-million dollar production budgets these 30-second bits are like mini-movies, and we Americans love our cinema (especially if it pulls all the right strings and tickles all the right places).

The love of the commercials isn’t the problem, it’s the oddity that Americans look to these corporations as affirmations of all that is Right and Good in the American character. We should take positive messages where we can get them, but at the same time I have a hard time believing the sincerity of the message. Look, I’m happy to see companies like Anheuser-Busch (Budwesier), Coca-Cola, and Audi. Still, business is business. A lot of people are looking for ways, big and small, to resist the Trump administration, so why not buy from companies that seem to be against him? It feels less like a direct political move and more like an ad strategy thinly veiled in politics. “We stand for what you stand for! (Buy our product.)” Predictably, the Trump camp is in an uproar against some of these companies calling for boycotts of those companies. In the black/white political arena that is American politics, if one side supports/opposes something then inevitably the opposing side will do the exact opposite. You voted for Trump and you’re against Budweiser? Well, better run out and buy a few cases of their beer. In all fairness, both sides do this. To be quite frank, it feels less like protest and more like profiteering. Ah…but listen to me being such a cynic! I suppose I should be happy getting support wherever we can get it, and after all, conflict makes for strange bedfellows.

Where were we before this extended tangent? Oh, right, the Super Bowl and its results.

Well, if there’s one thing that gives me hope it’s that nobody took to the streets after the Patriots’ victory. Americans love their football, and are probably more loyal to their respective teams than their political party or religious denomination. Still, even with that level of passion, people were more in an uproar over the election results than the results of the Super Bowl. The disappointment after a game lasts for maybe 24 hours, but not in politics. If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what would.



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