On losing the Super Bowl

I don’t quite understand the significance of a winner-take-all one-game playoff for the championship of the National Football League. After watching over forty of these things, none of them deliver the drama of the hype that is built up before the big game which turns out to be extremely anticlimactic. Even the exciting, close games are anti-climactic. Yesterday’s game was no different. Some great plays were mixed in with a few awful mistakes, and the Ravens won by three. So, on this given Sunday, the team from Baltimore won by three, which is not to say they were better, it just says that they won. Time finally ran out. The final grains of sand trickled through the hour glass, and the team from San Francisco came up three points short. I’m just not convinced that it means anything. The simulacra of battle, a non-lethal version of “take-the-hill”, is played out on a grid of one hundred yards with each team defending their “hill” at each end of the field, harkening back to the eighteenth century when the English and the French faced off on different battlefields across Europe. What is it about human beings, males in particular, that they must fight to prove dominance, to elect a winner. Why are we hardwired for violence? Granted, football is incredibly violent, but protections are built in to make it very painful, but generally non-lethal. Players are wounded in the simulacra of war, but they aren’t killed. Football is the ultimate simulacra of war with rules in place so that a winner might emerge and vanquish the loser. The losers are destined not only to the shame of defeat, but because they are not destroyed, they must live with their defeat. The worst aspect to their defeat may not be the humiliation of watching the victors pick up their trophy, but perhaps it is the dark shadow of losing which will descend on them, erasing them and their excellent season from the collective memories of all who saw them lose. No one remembers the losers–no fame, no glory, the taste of blood and dirt in their mouths as they lie beaten and sore on the ground, the sound of the winners shouting out their victory. The losers lost only by three points in this case, which makes their loss all the more bitter and painful. Was it a question of luck, of skill, of the stars, of predestination, of cowardly behavior, of bad planning, of poor execution, or perhaps it was a combination of many of those things. Now, it is all over, and planning for the next season is already underway. The fans will remember their heroes, and the vanquished have been swept into the shadows of sports history inhabited by the unlucky second-place finishers. Other than a little excitement when the lights went out, or when the losing side almost caught up to their destroyers, the game was a humdrum affair. Ironically, more people will remember the new advertisements that were displayed during breaks than will remember the actual game, which was pedestrian at best, totally forgettable at worst. So Audi, M & M Mars, Volkswagen, Anhauser-Busch, and Dodge had great games displaying their latest marketing strategies for selling their products. Perhaps playing the Super Bowl is less about deciding which team is best and more about a lollapalooza canon-sized salute to our hyper-consumer capitalistic society, obsessed with selling/buying the next big thing. The game is only a pretext to selling us more stuff.