One nation, under the NFL, with liberty and justice for all

Alan Duff

I haven’t seen a Super Bowl in over five years. This has not been by purposeful self-omission, though; I want to make that clear.

I would never purposefully miss out on all the wonderful excitement and speculation surrounding which Super Bowl commercial will be the best each year. I’ve simply been busy with events that don’t involve sitting on a couch and cheering for my favorite corporate mascot.

But the Super Bowl is a special time. It’s the kind of excitement that we all live for, a true fight between corporations over who will receive our approval and votes with our time and wallets. I’m still talking about the commercials, not the football teams.

This is why, despite missing the last five Super Bowls, I have managed to make the time to watch the much-acclaimed Super Bowl commercials this year. When companies spend around $3.5 million to get my attention for 30 seconds, I would like to think it’s worth that kind of money — or so I keep telling myself.

It’s easy to see that a lot of money is spent each year on the Super Bowl by advertisers each year, and there’s a reason why. The Super Bowl has become the new national pastime.

Just this week, the Nielsen Co. stated that around 111.3 million people watched the 2012 Super Bowl. Whether they were all watching for the commercials or the sport has yet to be determined, but it shouldn’t diminish how much of an achievement it is to get about a third of the United States population to watch a single show.

In a nation full of individuals divided in what we watch on YouTube, what we read and what we do, finding this common focal point of interest is amazing. Most shows no longer enjoy the market dominance they once did as television has become more specialized, and the 21st century has been more about individualization than anything else.

Consequently, what we can all talk about in public discourse has become narrower. Now, everyone belongs to a niche, and marketing in America has acted accordingly.

The exception is the Super Bowl, when budgets are blown and everyone thinks differently. The target audience that day isn’t people who like puppies, Democrats or Republicans, or even sports lovers – it’s Americans.

That’s the beauty of the Super Bowl whether you enjoy it or not, it’s a point of common interest in a country that lacks a common ground in political opinions, in likes and tastes, favorite television shows, books and even if they want ketchup on their hotdogs.

It’s nice to imagine and see that for a single day Americans can all sit down and root for their favorite team, or at least for the one they dislike less; while they chow down on smoked BBQ and chips.

I think the real discussion shouldn’t be about how many yards were driven by Tom Brady or Eli Manning, but on which Super Bowl so far has had the best Doritos commercial. I’m still deliberating.