February 3, 2013 is a wildly important date for NFL players and fans alike. It’s the Super Bowl, the Holy Grail for any professional pigskin player. It’s the criteria for determining the success of a player’s career. Like it or not, the algorithm for legacy is pretty straightforward. It pretty much boils down to counting the rings on a guy’s hands when he’s finally forced to hang up his cleats and start filming wrangler ads while riding around on a tractor for the rest of eternity (or whatever players who aren’t Brett Favre do with their retirement). Likewise, for passionate NFL fans the Super Bowl means validation. It means vindication. It means ultimate bragging rights with no shelf life. But here’s the kicker: the Super Bowl isn’t just a pivotal date for NFL players and fans. It’s a pivotal date for the United States of America.
Hyperbole? Perhaps, but allow me to explain. The United States is an increasingly divided country. Politically, economically, culturally, socially: it often seems as if the rifts grow wider and wider with each passing year. Blame the polarizing effects of our two-party system. Blame the avarice and duplicity of corporate elites. Blame the thousands of television channels made available by cable providers or the depersonalizing vastness of the internet and social media. Point fingers in whatever direction you please. The truth remains that the common ground beneath the feet of Americans is shrinking more rapidly than the passing lane of a receiver covered by Ed Reed.
Super Bowl Sunday is one of the only days every year when nearly every American citizen is on the same page. Last year’s Super Bowl boasted an average audience of 111.3 million people. During the electrifying fourth quarter conclusion, that number hiked up to 117.7 million viewers. Not only are these numbers staggering, they’re record breaking. The 2012 Super Bowl was watched by more people than any other television program in the nation’s history.
No matter your race, gender, age, socio-economic status, or level of interest in the sport of football, chances are you’ll watch, discuss, or consume alcohol in close proximity to the Super Bowl, or a Super Bowl party, in the very near future. Relish it, because no matter how trivial or grand-scheme-of-things meaningless the Super Bowl may be, it’s one of the few opportunities you’ll have in 2013 to live in a U.S. of A. where the U is actually carrying its weight.