I have a startling confession to make: I hate the Super Bowl. Okay, that’s not completely true. I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the Super Bowl. I love the game and what it represents but I hate the event that is the Super Bowl, the giant annual episode of Hee-Haw that would make even Robin Williams nauseous with its parade of LOUD NOISES and dull-eyed stupidity.
I didn’t plan on writing this. After all, I am in the midst of a long and hopefully fruitful spirit quest and my Indian guide said that breaking my hiatus to comment on the mortal world was both dangerous and short-sighted, but I told him to kick rocks because I don’t need him, I have The Great Willie Young to lead me down the path of wisdom and, so, well, here we are. The banal truth is that while watching the damn game and the circus which surrounds it, I realized I had to write about it and even though no one will probably read this since it isn’t about the Lions or about Lindsay Lohan deep-throating a Kardashian or some such bullshit, I don’t really care because sometimes – increasingly rarely for me if I’m being completely honest – the spirit just courses through me and I am but a slave, dancing at its behest, and I have no choice but to hit you with the Good Word.
Okay, like I said, I both love and hate the Super Bowl. It’s easy to get lost in the endless hype and idiot noise that bleats through our TV screens and hollers at us from our computers in the weeks leading up to the event and it’s easy to then determine that the best course of action is to build a shack deep in the woods and spend the rest of your days growing your own, uh, let’s say fruit and vegetables and hunting Sasquatch and fucking sheep because at least the goddamn sheep don’t know or care who Betty goddamn White is, but in the middle of all that is an event that is profoundly important. Okay, fine, in the grand scheme of things, compared to world hunger and war and that goddamn neighbor who won’t stop making all that goddamn noise, it’s not all that important, but within the confines of the football world – which is the world we technically write about here at Armchair Linebacker, although I’ll admit that can be a little hard to discern at times – it is the fucking moon landing. For football players, for dudes who have spent their entire lives getting up and running at 6 AM on the beach every day just to get a tiny little edge over the other dude and who have made the devil’s bargain, sacrificing their brain power past the age of fifty for a shot at meaningless glory, it is everything, and that is a revelation that is taut with both high drama and almost obscene and maudlin tension. Once you realize and understand that, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the actual game, no matter who’s playing.
But it’s also impossible to ignore the dumb hype and bleating chaos which surrounds the whole goddamn event, a circus of the dumb, a circus of the absurd, a circus which makes me wish a tiger or a lion would leap through my TV screen and devour my eyeballs and my ears before my spirit horse could whisk me away to a better place. A person could spend an entire year in a coma and as long as he wakes up on Super Bowl Sunday and watches the whole obscene event from start to finish, he will be completely caught up with the rest of the world. Every catchphrase, every hit song, every meme, every star, every movie, everything that has been relevant over the past twelve months will get beaten into the dirt, resurrected and then cannibalized before being beaten into the ground yet again. Hey, look! There’s Betty White! Why not drag out the Where’s the Beef lady while you’re at it? It’s just a parade of wild and dumb noise, of hee-hawing bullshit that appeals to the idiot center of the lowest of the lowest common denominator. It is a world of the dumb and the insane in which tiny dogs moonwalk for no reason, horses fart flames and jackasses sitting at home guffaw and stuff their face full of death and corn flavored hate. And then a midget rides onto the field on a tricycle and Madonna shows up, cackling like the vampire spawn of Satan himself and then our eyes are peeled back like in Clockwork Orange and we all slowly go insane while a dystopian horror show plays out before our bleeding brains. A man in a dress bounces around on a wire and some clowns show up and start singing that goddamn Party Rock song and then there’s a choir because there’s always a choir and then we cut to a commercial of Christina Aguilera fighting with some hick and hey, there’s Betty White again! And she’s intimating that we all want to fuck her! USA! USA! USA!
And . . . breathe. I’m sorry. I kinda got carried away there. But every year it’s the same and about halfway through the game, after hearing for the billionth time some lummox prattle about how “I only watch the game for the commercials!” like it’s a startlingly new thought never experienced by man before, I begin to sharpen my knives and longingly eye the drain cleaner, wondering just what the barrel of a gun tastes like, and I wonder why I even watch this madhouse of the human spirit at all. But then, just like every other year, the game started again, and there was Tom Brady and there was Eli Manning, fighting to be the man who landed on the moon one more time, and in the wake of that simple truth, nothing else mattered.
It’s easy to shit on Tom Brady. He is not a well-liked guy. I get it. He’s rich, he has a hot model wife, he wears Uggs and he generally carries himself like a GQ model. You won’t find him sitting in his Wranglers, drinking beers with the boys. People hate that about him. But none of that matters. Not really, anyway. For all his money, for all his success, for all the times he gets to go home and hump Giselle Bundchen until the rest of the world fades away and he passes out in a hazy cloud of semen and drool until his butler shows up to wipe him off with a diamond studded jizz rag (actually, that would hurt, so, uh, never mind . . .) he is still just a dude trying to land on the moon one more time, and when he’s on that field, none of that other shit matters and that meaningless pursuit of glory becomes his green light across the water, his Daisy Buchanan, and then he’s just Gatsby, like the rest of us, chasing that one thing that actually can give the man a moment of peace in his soul.
And then you have Eli Manning. He’s the anti-Brady. At least that’s the role in which he’s been cast by most fans. They want to project onto him the image of the hard working blue collar good ol’ boy, the down to earth hero they can have a beer with and shoot the shit. He probably votes Republican and believes in the flag and Budweiser and hot dogs too. He probably has a firm handshake and he’s the sort of man you want your son to grow up to be. Yessir.
But not really. He’s almost as rich as Tom Brady. He probably lives in a New York penthouse and he would have his butler wash his hands with soap made from crushed babies if he was forced to shake your filthy hands. But again, none of that matters. Because once that clock starts winding down, he’s just another man in pursuit of a dream, a man in pursuit of his own moon landing.
Every year, by the time the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl arrives, the dumb commercials and the endless noise all seem to sort of fade away, as reality and the forces of nature reassert themselves and cause all that nonsense to blow away like so much cotton candy caught in the wind. The Super Bowl is an event, a celebration of everything banal and stupid about our Idiocratic society. They should get President Camacho to flip the coin before the game every year. And it’s easy to get caught up in all that bullshit. We all do, whether it’s in laughing like dumb animals at horrible 3rd grade level jokes designed to sell you some shit you don’t even want or whether it’s in cringing and considering taking up shack building or suicide as a hobby, we all get caught up in it and we let it define the Super Bowl, both the event and the game year after year.
But then Mario Manningham makes the catch of his life along the sideline and then it’s impossible to ignore that there is something real at stake here, something pure. And it’s pure because it’s trivial, because it’s meaningless, because it’s unquantifiable. This isn’t about money or fancy homes or supermodel wives or any of the things we hold up to the rest of the world in order to proclaim our value. It is the pursuit of meaningless glory, of victory, of something that means nothing and in meaning nothing means everything. Because it is not for anyone else. It is pure and it is honest and it is landing on the fucking moon not because you can ever hope to own the moon but because it’s landing on the fucking moon. It’s winning the fucking Super Bowl. It’s the mountain top, the goal, the thing that kept you sweating under the sun while a fat old man screamed at you and told you that you were a fucking shitty football player and that he would throw you off the team if you didn’t run just a little bit faster, hit just a little bit harder, want it just a little bit more. It is the reason why you pick up a football for the very first time, and in the truth of that, the importance of the Super Bowl, its pulsating heart, is revealed.
You can laugh at Tom Brady and you can shit on him all you want but it doesn’t change the fact that he wanted to win this fucking game more than you’ve ever wanted anything in your life. He’s going to see Wes Welker dropping that pass for the rest of his life and it’s going to weaken his knees and hit him deep in his gut, in that place that churns up life’s memories and makes everything else seem a little bit dimmer. That’s his now. For the rest of his life, that’s his.
And then you have Eli Manning, who will remember Mario Manningham making that catch for the rest of his life and when he does, he’ll smile that goofy, hick smile of his and everything will seem brighter and better because of it. It won’t matter if he’s in the lead car of a parade or floating on a fucking iceberg off the coast of Antarctica while the rest of the world burns, he’ll always have that memory and he’ll always have the pure satisfaction that it brought and it will make him smile.
That is all completely insane when you consider that this is just a dumb game, and that win or lose everyone goes home and fucks their trophy wives and counts their money and beats the help. And yet, it’s completely true. You think it matters to the fans? Well, this is the summation of these dudes’ whole lives. Man is a stupid beast and he is never happy, no matter what he achieves or what he gets in life and that is because the deep dark secret that everyone is afraid of is that most things in life are utterly meaningless. The only things that do matter, that do provide long-lasting satisfaction are those perfectly pure triumphs, those conquerings of the soul, those moon landings that validate the emptiness of everything else, that make the tortured two-a-day past and the concussed and addled future worth it. Man is an explorer of the spirit, a mountain climber of the soul, and he is never satisfied by anything other than climbing his own personal Everests, no matter how trivial they seem to be.
And tonight, Eli Manning and the Giants are celebrating because they climbed Everest. They landed on the moon. And they’re celebrating because of inches, because of fractions of inches, because Mario Manningham somehow made that catch while Wes Welker dropped a ball he never drops. They’re celebrating because the world is weird and strange and today it smiled on them and they believe, deep in their hearts, that it smiled on them because they willed it, because they pushed and pushed and pushed and as a result affected the events of the world. It is the ultimate manifestation of the arrogance of man, that secret desire which rests so deeply within all of our dumb hearts – if they fought hard enough, if they believed and struggled and bled and just pushed and pushed and pushed, they could control destiny, they could control the world. That, my friends, is power and power is the one thing we all desperately want because the truth is, is that we’re all powerless. And that’s why it’s so satisfying when you can clutch it in your fingers for just a fraction of a moment, long enough to achieve your stupid and absurd dreams. And that’s why winning – and losing – a Super Bowl means more to these dudes than anyone wants to admit. But deep down, I think we understand it, and that’s why we watch. Fuck the event. We watch for the game, for that crowning moment, for the fucking moon landing.
And just like Eli and the boys are celebrating, Tom Brady and his dudes have an empty feeling inside that they’ll never fill. They’ll blame themselves and each other. Wes Welker will never be the same again. He just got engaged to a hot new fiance but if you think that’s enough to make him shrug his shoulders and say fuck it and count his money and forget this ever happened then you don’t understand human nature. At all. We’re all Gatsby. That’s the great truth of that book and that’s the great truth which drives everything we do as a species. This one loss will diminish Tom Brady’s whole life. And by that, I don’t mean people’s perceptions of him. I mean his perceptions of himself. When he’s lying on his deathbed, he’ll weigh his life out and this game will flash before his eyes. That is enormously tragic and enormously compelling and that’s why the Super Bowl is the fucking Super Bowl. The rest is just noise.