History of the Super Bowl: Just another Religious Holiday?

Super_Bowl_LVI_logo

HISTORY OF THE SUPER BOWL

The Super Bowl™ is a territory acquisition athletic contest played on a fixed agrarian grid using, as a token, an inflated porcine prolate spheroid. Some will say it is the most important holiday of the year in America. While it is ostensibly a secular holiday, others argue it is truly a religious holiday. And there are several reasons why. It has:

  • A liturgy
  • Multiple prayers
  • Special foods
  • Formal rituals that have developed throughout history

It used to be that commercials were the part of the worship service that was intended for taking a bio break, but not in recent years. The commercials are now the most important part (for 22% of viewers) of the service, and indeed some (like me) watch Super Bowl specifically for the advertisements.

 

Super Bowl Advertisements

Ad slots have been sold out for a while now. A 30-second advertisement spot on the Super Bowl costs $6.5 million, or $217,000 per second. The average cost of an ad in the Super Bowl has almost doubled over the last ten years. Google observes that those companies that post their ads on YouTube before the game receive more views than those that didn’t. Over 100 million viewers will watch the program, making it the year’s single most-watched television program.

Who can forget the premiere of Apple Macintosh*, directed by Ridley Scott (who directed Blade RunnerGladiator, and Alien), during the 1984 Super Bowl, when the ad closed with:

 

Macintosh

 

Super Bowl: a Holiday?

Kraft Heinz started a petition to make the Monday after Super Bowl a national holiday called Smunday. Their employees already get that day off to recover, and they want the same holiday for the 16 million Americans who would otherwise call in sick.

 

Super Bowl Food

Super Bowl food

After Thanksgiving Day, more food is consumed on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. These are usually selected for their high caloric index, sodium content, and crunch factor — along with carbonated inebriating fluids.

A national “cheat day,” many will suspend their New Year’s Dieting Resolution “for just this one day.” 67% more pizza is eaten on Super Bowl Sunday than on average days. 4 million pounds of pretzels, 2.5 million pounds of nuts, 8 million pounds of popcorn, 29 million pounds of chips, and 8 million pounds of guacamole are consumed on this day… some crediting the Super Bowl for popularizing the avocado; Americans eat more avocadoes on this day than any other day of the year. $1.3 billion dollars are spent on beer, $517 million are spent on soft drinks on Super Bowl Sunday.

 

Super Bowl Decorations

Not only is food a significant part of this holiday, so too are decorations. Consider Supermarkets (named after Super Bowl) that decorate the chips aisle as if it is Christmas. If you work for Frito-Lay, it is Christmas.

 

Super Bowl History

Super Bowl is the modern name, since 1967, for the professional football championship contests, which extend back into antiquity, Roman antiquity to be precise. This will be Super Bowl LVI, the Roman numerals for 56 to honor those Roman roots of gladiatorial contests. This contest is between the conferences of the National Football League (NFL), so named for the “League,” the unit of measurement used to express the distance a Roman citizen could walk in 1 hour. However, the modern game is about four times that length of time, even though there are four 15-minute quarters. Go figure.

NFC AFC

The NFL is divided neatly into two unequal halves, the NFC (National Football Conference) and the AFC (American Football Conference). These conferences are each further subdivided into Meetups, Get-Togethers, and One-On-Ones.

The Super Bowl will not involve the CIFL (Continental Indoor Football League) as it is not a TLA (Three Letter Acronym). The winner of the Super Bowl will be declared the “world champions of football,” of course ignoring other inhabited countries who may point out that they call soccer “football,” and they have a championship involving not a Bowl but a Cup. And involvement from teams from outer space is out of the question. For space action, we’ll have to wait for the next Star Trek movie.

Colosseum

Where does the word “bowl” come from? Initially, it came from the Rose Bowl, a college football contest held in Pasadena, CA, and done in an elliptical stadium.

In ancient Rome, a stadium was a sporting venue where foot races were held. But spectator gladiatorial contests like this were held in amphitheatres, like the Colosseum in Rome.

To be more historically accurate, the Colosseum was called the Flavian Amphitheatre, so named from the two ancient Greek root words amphi+theatron because they were made up of two theatres joined together or literally theatres on both sides, but that is more ancient history than most people can handle.

There was a consideration of changing the name from Super Bowl to the Tom Brady Show. But not any more.

 

Halftime

It is nominally named for being approximately in the middle of the game, though the second half can be much longer, going into overtime. The current rules allow both teams to possess the ball at least once in overtime unless the team that receives the overtime kickoff scores a touchdown on its first possession.

Unlike many other football broadcasts, this halftime event is actually shown to the TV audience watching from home. These festivities consist of first-class and second-rate musical performers, some who have questionable taste in attire, others who have costuming clumsiness or so-called “wardrobe malfunctions.”

 

Two Minute Warning

While using a clock, Super Bowl does not intend that this is to be understood as representing actual “wall clock” time. Instead, it uses poetic license to represent an epochal period that could last 30 minutes or an hour and a half, given overtimes. Then it ends in sudden-death — just like those gladiatorial games.

 

Super Bowl Protests and Boycotts

Just as there’s nothing more American than Super Bowl, there’s nothing more American than dissent and counter dissent. It’s inevitable, considering the number of eyeballs glued to the screen for this event.

 

Super Bowl Fun Facts to Impress Friends and Family

  • A Super Bowl I ticket in 1967 cost $6-$12. Now the average cost of a ticket is over $5,000
  • Super Bowl XLIX (Seahawks vs. Patriots) had a record 114.4 million viewers.
  • 17 million will miss work the day after the Super Bowl, and not due to Coronavirus.

 

Super Bowl Celebration

There is one reason for celebrating at the end of the Super Bowl, especially for “football widows” or “football widowers” like me. It means the end of the professional football season for the year! At least until August.

Will you be watching this year?

 

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
billpetro.com

* This was not the very first airing of that famous commercial. It had been shown just before midnight on December 31, 1983, on KMVT-TV in Twin Falls, Idaho, to be eligible for that year’s advertising awards.

 

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About billpetro

Bill Petro has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.

5 Comments

  1. Craig on February 5, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Loved the post, Bill. Good thoughts. Thanks.

  2. Michael Bierman on February 4, 2011 at 9:57 am

    As usual, a great post. The first superbowl was in 1967. The first supermarket was in Queens in 1930 according to wikipedia.

  3. Carol on February 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    posted this at the blog and also on my FB page. good sense of humor! :)+

  4. U2Joshua on February 3, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    I am a better man for having exposure to the incorporated prototypical terminologies employed, i.e. CIFs, or Carbonated Inebreating Fluids.

  5. Ricki Pezoldt on February 3, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    Very fun post ! Thanks

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