Why I’m Grateful for the Super Bowl

5 Feb

While writing my undergraduate thesis, I met a Holocaust survivor.  Not surprising since I majored in European history (concentrations in military intelligence, WW2 and the Holocaust).  What was surprising, was that after he answered questions from me and my fellow fledgling historians, he asked if he could ask some questions.  We waited, with bated breath, for insightful questions that would be treated more like answers.

Instead, he asked about sports.  He asked how we felt when the Red Sox won the World Series (a mere few months beforehand).  He asked what it was like to sit in Fenway Park.  And he asked about football, that favorite past-time of America.  And when we asked why he cared so passionately about sports, he shrugged and said “Because it comes last.”

I had no idea what he meant.

But now, being presumptuous, and possibly utterly wrong, I think I do.

On Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, sports (if it were listed) comes last.  One of the main reasons that America embrace baseball and football, not only as sports, but as paid professions, was because it showed the rest of the world that America had arrived.  Only certain societies, those not suffering drought and famine and warfare, can indulge in sports.  In a hobby that does nothing to keep you alive, keep you fed, keep you safe.  A hobby that exists merely to entertain.  To play at the big questions of life (Am I strong enough? Will my team win? Do I want this badly enough?) in an arena where others can observe.

Sports come last.  And I live in a society where I can get to last.  I’m utterly grateful that my needs are met and I can indulge in fun for the sake of fun.  Not every society is so lucky.  Where choosing sides does not involve hatred and loss of life. Where we display our affinity through team colors and not blood pacts.  Where our rivalries don’t tear us apart but bring us together, to watch the same game on the same field.  We sit on different sides but those sides aren’t so far apart.

Today, as my friend set a PR in his race and crossed the finish line, the race announcer said “I should probably say “Go Pats! But I’m actually an Eagles fan…”  There was poetic justice in this, I have to admit.  The racer finishing his victory lap is a Pats fan.  He referred to me, within weeks of meeting me, as the “vile Eagles fan” and could not comprehend how I could rout for “the wrong team”.

Today I’m cheering for the Pats.  Refusing to think about that game the Sunday after November when the Pats trounced my Eagles and the stadium emptied half way through the game. But even if the Pats weren’t playing, if I didn’t care about the outcome of the game, I’d be grateful that I have the opportunity to sit and watch the Super Bowl.  To cheer for something that really, at the end of the day, doesn’t matter.  If being able to do and watch and think about things that don’t matter is the essence of being wealthy, then I’m very rich.  And so is everyone living in a place where “sports come last”.




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