Well, you’ve got a week.
Not to pooh pooh excitement over the Super Bowl, but there always is that niggling notion that, you know, it’s just a game. How does it manage to rate for so many?
Let’s do a little math. Roughly 1.6 million residents in the City of Brotherly Love. The New England Patriots? Well, until 1971, they were the Boston Patriots, so start there. Bean Town population: 673,184.
Let’s round that up to 2.2 million people who are actually from the cities represented by/associated with the two teams. Last year’s Super Bowl broadcast on CBS drew almost 112 million people, so the obvious is, um, really obvious: This isn’t just a city rivalry.
What about state to state? Massachusetts population is 6.8 million, Pennsylvania’s is almost 12.8, for a total of 19.6 million, still way short of 112 million. What about “New England” as Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Connecticut and Rhode Island? That’s about 14.7 million. Rounded up, New England and Penn’s Woods combine to about 27.5 million people.
That gets us to roughly one-quarter of viewership for last year’s Super Bowl
So, again to state the obvious, anyway you slice, dice or julienne these numbers, the Super Bowl clearly draws the interest of people far beyond the boundaries of the hometowns, or even home states, of the two teams on the field.
Jerry Seinfeld once famously said that rooting for a pro sports team is really just rooting for the uniforms. Teams move, players transfer to other teams, but you keep rooting for the ones in the outfits you were backing, not the people who left.
“It’s laundry!” Seinfeld snarked to a chuckling Dave Letterman on Late Night once, “We’re rooting and screaming for laundry!”
Well, yeah, in the same way the human body, reduced to basic chemicals, has been estimated to be worth no more than $5, or the way the Grand Canyon is “just another hole in the ground,” or a walk through California’s coastal Big Sur trail is just “rocks and trees.”
If you really want to boil everything down, consider the late, great Carl Sagan’s favored phrase: “Star stuff.” Science simplified says everything started in the cauldron of stars.
Actually, it kind of works. “Stuff” is about as generic and banal as you can get, yet “star” imparts an epic grandeur, a cosmic wonder so far beyond our mortal coil it suggests our existence transcends our daily lives.
Consider this, as the hype inundates during the coming week. The Super Bowl is, really, “star stuff.” Seinfeld’s right, rabid fans — regardless of where they live — are just rooting for laundry. But he’s also wrong. The fact that two teams that should have a few million fans will captivate 100 million or more is a remarkable reminder of how we mere mortals can see, be and feel more than the moment of our immediate surroundings.
Sure, it’s just a game. But we are able to make it much more in the same way we were able to make it to the moon and make the internet put the world at our fingertips.
And that seems like a good thing, even if you don’t care about these particular teams.