The Superbowl, to me, has always been about a few important things.
First and foremost, there are specials everywhere on Superbowl food, that’s at the top of the list. Wings for a quarter apiece? Yes, please! Deep fried pepperoni and chips with dip? Sounds like a party! Happy Sunday, indeed. Sadly I don’t eat any of those foods anymore, but the memories of them live on, at a cellular level.
The commercials are usually big draws, but since we get the watered-down Canadian versions of the ads, I end up watching a YouTube compilation video on Monday morning of all the best ones.
Once upon a time, I would have watched the entire production just to see the halftime show, but since all the big acts have already performed in years past, I don’t have much interest in the entertainment anymore. These days it’s always two polar opposite acts appearing together, in an attempt to be ground breaking. This year is Maroon 5 (a rock band) and Travis Scott and Big Boi (both rappers); next year will be what, Nickelback featuring Cardi B?
So what’s left? If you take away the food and the commercials and the halftime show, you’re only left with one thing: the game itself, which falls considerably behind those interests named above.
This isn’t because I’m football illiterate. I have a husband who played, a son who played, and my dorm room in Loyola residence overlooked the beautiful football field at Saint Mary’s, which made me an unlikely (and sometimes unwilling) host of viewing parties while I was at university. I am familiar with the terms sweep, screen pass, blitz, and flag on the play, although I couldn’t tell you what any of them mean. I have a general idea of what’s happening, despite not being as well-versed in the rules as I am with other sports.
I don’t really have a team, though. My loyalty is very clear with baseball and basketball (Blue Jays and Raptors), and I am even considering making it a Toronto trifecta by supporting the Leafs. But since Canada doesn’t have an NFL team, I’ve never taken much interest in one squad more than another. I suppose I enjoy the Eagles, but just as a matter of familiarity, since a good friend is a die-hard fan.
I readily admit, however, I love to hate on the Patriots, like most people who aren’t staunch Pats foam finger-wavers.
This year’s Super Bowl – which will be here and gone by the time this is printed – promises excitement beyond the two-coast rivalry between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. For yet another season, the controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem continues intermittently, years after it started. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, in 2016, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem to protest racism and police brutality. As others took up the cause, arguments raged about whether the players were disrespecting the flag or protesting in true American fashion.
Not one to ignore a divisive debate, Donald Trump took to Twitter to insult a player and to argue that those taking a knee should leave the country. Others defended the right of the players to protest. Then, last spring the NFL responded to the controversy by telling players they had to either stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room, a policy that was dropped when the NFL Players Union filed a grievance.
I choose to not render a public opinion and instead refocus on the game they’re playing.
Yet the debate simmers like a stew left too long on the stove, threatening to boil over on the biggest football day of the year. Players still refuse to stand, Kaepernick has filed a collusion suit against the NFL, and sides continue to argue. The fighting is far from over, from what I can tell.
So whether they stand or kneel, the best case scenario to hope for is that everyone enjoys wings and dips and beer, laughs at the commercials, sings along to the halftime performance, and let the most American of American sporting events unite, however briefly, a country in pretty hard shape.