Although American culture is pretty much a baby compared to most world cultures, the “greatest country in the world”/dominant hegemon/only developed country that doesn’t guarantee healthcare as a right/M’urica has established some strong and outstanding traditions, which include Thanksgiving and fireworks on the Fourth of July. But the only tradition anyone talks about this time of year is the Super Bowl, the American Football Championship. The game has occurred fifty times now, and yet only one team has won it six times.* And it’s not the Pats. The Super Bowl was played this past Sunday, and although neither the Pats nor the team who’s won it the most times* were present, hundreds of millions of people still watched and ate a ton of junk food. Several bags of potato AND tortilla chips were consumed as was a lot of soda, beer, and last but not least, guacamole. Even Quarterback Peyton Manning drank a Budweiser (after the game). But this year, I learned firsthand that a bunch of people, even in America, don’t engage in what is considered almost a sacred tradition by many people in this country.
According to scholars of religion, the practice of millions sitting around to watch a game could be considered a ritual since it binds people together, and every sort of religious movement in the world grew into a religion through the development of ritual. Frankly, a religion involving the sacrament of eating tortilla chips sounds like something that would catch on. But, as with any religion, there are people that don’t really buy into it. One of these people who don’t buy into the Super Bowl ritual is the manager of a local restaurant I work at. Apparently, it was the only restaurant in Somerville without a TV that stayed open during the game. I was a worker who didn’t care to take time off for the game, so guess who he assigned to work. Due to my negligence, I missed out on a great American ritual, and it was hard for me to fathom that we’d get a good amount of business. As I walked through the chilly air to walk over, I thought to myself, “I’d like to watch the game, but at least this will be the easiest money I’ll ever make.”
As I walked in, I had no sense of mental preparation to work. My colleagues and I were out of the zone. The thought of going to the bathroom to check the score on our phones constantly slashed at our work ethic. To my surprise, the workload at the restaurant was similar to that of a typical Sunday. A hodgepodge of customers dined. There were hipster dudes with man buns and beards, girlfriends of hipster dudes, a few small groups of girlfriends, and a cheerful, white-haired pair of women who ordered some wine and shot the breeze like old pros. People-watching as a busboy is one of the best parts of the job. There’s an enjoyable aspect in seeing a happy snippet of people’s lives. Luckily, plenty of good people-watching subjects went out to eat on Sunday. There was one weird couple providing an odd display of public affection, but other than that awkwardness there were good vibes all around. I now know for a fact that hipsters “bro out” in their own methods instead of engaging in the mainstream tradition. Despite the interesting bunch of people, I actually did have to work and I ended up pretty tired. And as I was tiring, I made an epiphany.
Even in Pats territory, there are a significant number of people who don’t give a flying football about the big game. It’s a good example about how there’s definitely stuff outside of my heteronormative cultural bubble. If there’s one television event in America that would crowd the entire country into a bubble, it would be the Super Bowl. Not everyone thinks it’s cool. It just goes to show that there is no one thing that will ever be considered important and/or cool and/or worth caring about by everyone. The thing to care about would be the Super Bowl. It’s cool! There’s athletes and Beyonce! But even with all that jazz, there’s a bunch of ambivalence. There’s an amount of ambivalence toward everything in the world.
Frankly, I think I picked a good Super Bowl to skip. I didn’t miss any thrilling touchdowns or Cam Newton hitting the dab. Plus, I’ve already seen defense win a Super Bowl before, especially in 2005 and 2008.** Also, watching Beyonce trip would have further weakened my faith in humanity. Plus, the commercials keep getting worse every year. The only funny one I think I missed was one where Peyton Manning said he’d celebrate a victory by drinking a Budweiser. I really didn’t miss much, but I did make some cash. It’s safe to say that my manager’s a much smarter guy than Seahawks coach Pete Carroll in the last thirty seconds of last year’s Super Bowl. (For those who don’t know, Carroll made a really bad decision. Like really bad. Like much, much worse than ending an article with a footnote.)
*It’s the Pittsburgh Steelers. No other team has 6.
**Victories of the Pittsburgh Steelers, historically known as a team with strong defense.