When you boil it all down, is there a single day of the year that is more quintessentially American than Super Bowl Sunday?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the Super Bowl. But at its core, isn’t the biggest sporting Sunday of the year built upon some ideas for which many criticize our culture?
Rampant consumerism, lavish spectacle and gross overindulgence are the norm for the big game, but guess what? As unappealing as it may sound to the outsider, it’s just about the closest thing that we have to a Normal Rockwell painting these days. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Rockwell, a mid-20th century artist perhaps best known for his work in the Saturday Evening Post, was a master of depicting American life—or at least some aspects of that life—with many of his Post renderings suggesting a highly idealized, more innocent time in our nation’s past.
Some of Rockwell’s more famous works—including his World War II-era “Freedom From Want” painting, which depicts the All-American Thanksgiving meal, recalls a forgotten time in our nation’s past—real or imagined—during which the sense of family and community served as the building blocks for our culture.
Of course, as iconic as Rockwell’s thanksgiving scene was, if he were alive today, he’d have to amend his work by adding in a few harried Black Friday shoppers looking to bolt from the dinner table to get to Best Buy by 8 p.m.
Yes, the America that Rockwell painted, with its baseball, mom and apple pie, might be a thing of the past—or a figment of our imagination—having been replaced by helmet-to-helmet hits, wardrobe malfunctions and triple-stuffed fried pizza dough Dorito Supremes, but that doesn’t mean that we, as Americans, don’t still crave that sense of community or belonging to a group that Rockwell’s work once portrayed.
Nothing brings Americans together anymore—not Thanksgiving, not Christmas, not even the Fourth of July—like the Super Bowl. Gameday viewing parties extend beyond the immediate family, joining friends, co-workers and neighbors‑unless, of course, you root for New England and nobody wants to hear you whine about how your team deserved to be in the game.
Discussion about the game, its commercials and the Pepsi Max Pep Boys Dodge Durango Halftime Show™ will dominate conversation, both on social media and at the water cooler in offices around the country the day after.
It may be a loud, in-your-face, money-making bonanza, but it’s our loud, in-your-face, money-making bonanza. So scrap the stuffing, lose the mistletoe and keep the firecrackers in the garage, I’m ready for my favorite holiday. In some strange way, the Super Bowl captures the essense of what it’s like to live in America in 2014, and somehow it brings us together, at least for a little while.
What could possibly be more American than that?
Follow Mike on Twitter,