Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Super Bowl

Well, last Sunday was the Super Bowl and on that Sunday and every Sunday before it, I somehow managed not to watch the Super Bowl. It's not that I'm against football or professional sports or anything like that; I'm just not that into sports -- either playing them or watching them being played.

But having said that, I'll say this as well: Based on previous experiences, I know that if If I did watch the Super Bowl, I'd probably enjoy it. That's because I'm just as susceptible to mob mentality behavior as anyone else. We all are. It goes back to our caveman days, or maybe even before that.

But even though I don't think I've ever watched a Super Bowl, I used to love Super Bowl Sundays. Back when I used to be a semi-avid bicyclist, I realized it was the greatest day in the entire year for a bike ride. That's because nobody was in their cars and the streets were practically empty -- everyone was sitting at home on their fat lazy asses guzzling cheap beer and shoveling mounds of junk food into their gaping maws.

Okay, that's such an exaggeration that it's almost not worth counting all the ways I deliberately maligned everyone who watches the Super Bowl. Obviously, I did it for humorous effect and not to denigrate all the people who watch the Super Bowl. But I'll count all the ways anyway.

To begin with, I know for a fact that they don't all have fat lazy asses. And for that matter, even though an ass can be fat -- and many of them are -- an ass can not be lazy. It's a small matter though, since we recognize that the term "lazy ass" is an example of synecdoche, and we therefore understand the sentence "Get your lazy ass out of bed!" for example, to mean get out of bed.

Secondly, "guzzling" may be an overstatement in many cases. Also, I have no way of determining the quality of the beer -- or for that matter, any other beverage -- that people drink while watching the Super Bowl.

Next, to my knowledge, nobody actually shovels mounds of food into their mouths, be it junk food or any other variety. As far as I know, no one has ever made a shovel small enough to fit into the human mouth. The closest thing to it would be a large spoon, I suppose, or possibly a ladle.

And finally, the term "gaping maw" is just plain insulting.

But ignoring the hyperbole for a moment, it is true that people tend to eat a lot while watching athletic events. This, by the way, is not behavior that we can trace back to our pre-caveman days. I don't mean the pre-cavemen never watched athletic events -- I'm sure they did, since this is probably part of our genetic make-up. What I'm I'm talking about is cramming huge quantities of food down our throats and into our bellies while otherwise sitting around idly. I think this sort of idle behavior might not have even existed in our early history -- I'm not even sure laziness can exist in a society where there is constant struggle for survival.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about today, so let's start all over, from the very beginning. I didn't watch the Super Bowl game last Sunday.

When I got to work on Monday, some people were talking about the game, and one woman who said she doesn't care much for football said, "I even thought the commercials were a disappointment." And then on Tuesday, I was having lunch with a few of my co-workers and one of them asked me if I watched the game. When I told him I didn't, he asked, "Not even the commercials?"

And this brings us to what I wanted to talk about today. Unfortunately, it's not very interesting so I'll try to keep it short.

Anyway, I told the guy what I'm about to tell you. No, I didn't even watch the commercials. To watch TV in order to see the commercials goes against human nature. We're not supposed to like commercials, we're supposed to be annoyed by them. Commercials are just a way for businesses to convince us that we can't be happy until we buy something they sell, even though it's usually something we neither need nor want. The goal of a commercial is to try to make us feel bad about ourselves and then tell us that the only way we'll feel better is by buying whatever product or service the commercial is advertising. It's that simple. So why would anyone want to watch something like that?

We can't fault the advertisers, of course -- they're simply doing what they're supposed to be doing. But our natural inclination should be to resist this sort of psychological abuse -- we're not supposed to be voluntary participants in our own brainwashing.

So not only should we find commercials disappointing, we should find them manipulative and annoying and insulting. And for the most part, we do. Normally, when a commercial comes on, don't people mute it, see what's on another channel, or use the time to prepare a snack or make a quick trip to the bathroom?

I remember reading a book in high school. It was written by a guy named Vance Packard and was called The Hidden Persuaders. All I really remember from it is his assertion that commercials are deliberately written to be stupid in order to make us feel smart, so we'll let down our defenses and not resist the messages that the commercials are delivering. I don't know if that's actually true, but it would explain why most commercials are so idiotic.

So, we know commercials are bad for us, and yet we watch them anyway. And for the Super Bowl, apparently some people actually look forward to them. I don't understand it, but it doesn't really surprise me either -- especially when I see people walking around with the logos for their favorite products on their T-shirts and bumper stickers. Those people are not just passively absorbing some commercial message -- they're actually paying to advertise some corporation's product. It's bizarre. It shows how much the world is out of balance.

So no, I didn't watch the Super Bowl or any of the half-time commercials last Sunday. I saw a couple of commercials on YouTube on Monday, and one of them was supposedly the most expensive Super Bowl commercial ever made. It seemed kind of long and boring to me, though, so I thought it was a huge waste of money. And it didn't want to make me rush out and buy some ugly new car either