Who's going to win the game? Who cares?

Sunday, February 1, 2004

HOUSTON -- Today is Super Bowl Sunday, the nation's biggest unofficial holiday, an extravaganza of American revelry and indulgence that celebrates not so much football as America's ability to celebrate.

"You take an event centered on TV, lubricated by beer and junk food, add the gambling element, drop it in a perfect spot on the calendar, and you've got the perfect American holiday," said Bob Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University.

Who's playing? Who cares?

Some 137 million people -- about half the nation's population -- are expected to watch at least six minutes of it on TV. About 86 million will watch in much bigger chunks.

Frito-Lay has increased corn and potato production by 10 million pounds, about 33 percent more than an average week. Americans will spend about $2.5 million on canned chili beans this week, double what they would usually spend.

One number-crunching company says corporate America will suffer an $821 million loss in worker productivity due to people standing by the water cooler talking about the game.

But they don't just talk about the game. In fact, they may not talk about the game at all.

It's the Lingerie Bowl (on pay per view), the halftime show, the premiere of a new season of "Survivor" when the game is over, and the commercials -- if you miss them, you'll simply be left out of the conversation on Monday -- that make the Super Bowl what it is.

The matchup barely matters.

"There is nothing else like the Super Bowl," said Donna Wolfe of the Universal McCann ad agency. "It's water cooler, it's an event."

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