Pretending to Watch the Superbowl

Tonight is Superbowl Sunday, the biggest sporting even of the year, at least according to the media. Millions of people will watch, and millions will be spent on advertising, and millions will forget about it by next week. Super Sunday indeed.

Feel free to substitute in the current Superbowl if this one becomes outdated.

I will watch the game the same way I’ve watched it for the last few hours: it will be in the background as I do other things. If I hear the announcers get all excited, I might watch a replay. Maybe. Football isn’t the most exciting sport in the world, visually, and you can only watch so many catches or runs

before they all bleed together.

Nonetheless, I will watch it, just so I will know what everyone is talking about tomorrow. That’s really the only reason.

You might remember this last year. Maybe it was two years ago; I don’t remember, and it doesn’t really matter. The Seahawks had the ball at 1 yard line, or thereabouts, and they have Marshawn Lynch, one of the best running backs in the world. You want to gain one yard, you give it him every time. Instead, Seattle threw the ball, it got intercepted, and the Seahawks lost.

That night, and most of the next few days, that’s all anyone talked about. “Why did they throw the ball? Why did they throw the ball?” I know people who don’t watch football, who don’t know a wick about football, going on and on about what a stupid decision it was … as if they were an expert. It became a meme, basically, both online and in everyday life, and it lasted for a good week before things calmed down.

They even made a shirt out of it.

Now, if I did not watch that game, I wouldn’t know what everyone is going on about. Sure, I could read about it, yada yada, but it wouldn’t be the same. I needed to hear the disbelief in the announcers’ voices, see the celebrations of the victors and the heartbreak of the fallen, to truly get a sense of how momentous it all was. Only that gave me a sense of the magnitude, of why it was all important.

The next day, everyone talked about, and I understood the context. I could add my two cents and then move on. It allowed me to participate in that social gathering, something I’m not normally very good at. I can then move on and relax. Honestly, that’s why I watch, so that the next day I know what to say when people talk about the game. That’s it. There’s no other reason to watch.

You might say, wait, what about the commercials? True, Superbowl commercials have gotten just as famous as the game, if not more so. You hear many people say they only watch the game to see the commercials. They have become an event onto themselves, even with their own teasers and previews on YouTube. Can you imagine that, previews for commercials? I find it funny how, in an era of Adblock and people skipping ads, people go out of their way to watch commercials.

Internet ads bad, Superbowl ads … good? I don’t get it.

Anyway, yes, Superbowl commercials are a big draw for some. Not for me. The main reason, as a Canadian getting the game through Canadian providers, I don’t get all the commercials. Or any of the commercials. I get the same Canadian commercials I get everywhere else, with every third one being Scotiabank.

[I’ll switch to your bank if you stop advertising! Or at least update your commercials, geez. I’ve seen the same commercial for a year now. I’m not joking.]

The other reason, of course, is I have no desire to watch commercials, as entertaining as they may be. They are commercials. They are ads. They are other people’s marketing agenda, trying to get me to buy things, or to build brand awareness. I have no interest in that. I’m not saying marketing or ads are evil, as that would be hypocritical of me. Rather, I simply think it’s insane to watch a show mainly for the commercials.

If you primarily watch the game for the game, and the commercials are a fun side content, that’s fine. To watch mainly for those advertisements, though, is something I cannot fathom.

Lastly, there is the half-time show. I doubt anyone watches the Superbowl just for the half-time show, but then again, it is generally the biggest short-show of the year. The production values are insane, and it is another thing people may potentially talk about tomorrow. If I watch the half-time show, or pay even a moment of attention, it will be for one reason: left-shark.

You might remember this from last year. Or maybe it was several years ago. It doesn’t matter. Someone was performing, yada yada, some artist I don’t follow, and for some reason it involved dancing sharks. As a concept, I loved it. I kept staring at the sharks … and then staring at the one shark in particular, one who couldn’t quite hit the same choreographed crispness of the other.

This remains one of my favourite things ever.

It was incredible. It was amazing. It became a thing, a meme, a cultural reference point. It stole the show, obviously, as it is the only thing I remember from that game. Left-shark wasn’t talked about as much as ‘Why did they throw it?’, but it was up there. Will that happen again this year?

Could the half-time show be amazing? Might they purposely put in something akin to left-shark, having perhaps a dancing mushroom flail around or something? Maybe it will be simply even more over-the-top dancing and pyrotechnics? That’s one reason to watch, to find out all these answers … and by watch, I mean have the game on in the background while I do other things.

Honestly, for football, it’s a perfect system. Football is a game where not much happens. There’s a play, and then they stop to think about the next play. This happens a few times. Then there’s a commercial break. Then it comes back, there’s a play, they stop to think, another play, maybe a score, more commercials, it just keeps going. If you only glance at the TV periodically, there’s a good chance you aren’t watching live action.

That green section shows you exactly why NFL broadcasts are so financially successful.

According to this chart, only 11min of the whole three-hour long spectacle will amount to anything worth watching. The rest is, at best, building suspense and atmosphere, and at worse, just noise. That said, I can appreciate the strategy behind the game. Reading the offence, trying to trick the defence, choosing between a pass or a run for a short gain, all these decisions matter. When it gets to the end, with two minutes left and one team trying to get the game-winning drive, that can be some of the most compelling moments in sports.

That said, there’s also the times where someone gets a touchdown, then there’s a routine extra point, a commercial break, then the kickoff which goes for a touchback, then another commercial break and you want to gouge your eyes out. Five minutes of real-time has passed and nothing has happened in the game. That, among other things, is why I’ll never be anything more than a casual, watch once-a-year football fan, if ‘fan’ is even the right word.

That said, I do not begrudge anyone for watching it. Do it, have fun, cheer and all that fun stuff. Have a blast, this is your night. I’ll just have it on in the background so that I know what you will all be talking about in the morning.

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