Super Bowl smackdown

The best Super Bowl preview you’ll read:

Compared to America’s official secular holidays (the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving), honoring America’s founding or the importance of family seems like work next to “Super Bowl Sunday,” which goes to all the effort of honoring itself. After even a perfunctory amount of pregame feature pieces, anyone watching will know how much the average seat cost, in order to reinforce the specialness of attendance. Pregame and halftime performers are introduced with a citation of the number of records they have sold, in case you are unaware of the rare cost of the treat.

More specifically, one guest at every party will have memorized the statistic printed in that morning’s paper and repeated on every pregame show indicating exactly how much 30 seconds of commercial airtime cost during the game. Despite the lack of creativity in the vast majority of commercials, many people watch the game solely to see how much money was spent selling them products, leading to the inevitable curse hurled at the screen, “Four-point-five million dollars for that?” This is serious business, and we are seriously invested, regardless of the fact that this is the act of insane people—like bitching not about the existence of Muzak, but because your favorite shoegaze band isn’t being played when the local cable company customer-service flunky puts you on hold.

At every step of the way, someone should laugh at this, and at every step of the way, every person involved in serving you this spectacle will completely fail to accomplish this basic human function. The NFL is all business at every given moment, because of that very serious $7 billion annual cost to the networks that broadcast it and are the primary source of “adversarial” journalism about it. On a workaday basis, this elevates insignificant bullshit like coaching and “game plans” to geopolitical high art, like two kids playing Risk thinking they are Talleyrand and Metternich about to vanquish Napoleon and establish the Concert of Europe.

When actual news breaks, the integration of the NFL as entertainment with its own reporting wing becomes unmistakable. At this point, Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King can’t speak when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is drinking a glass of water. ESPN’s Adam Schefter initially responded to Goodell’s preposterous two-game suspension of Ray Rice for knocking out his fiancée Janay by asking, “Was the Commissioner lenient enough?” There were, after all, the hundreds of thousands of people paying for fantasy leagues for whom Rice’s existence manifested solely as someone Starting or Not Starting in the NFL.