The Super Bowl is as American as apple pie. An event that brings us together, if only for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon in February. We focus on thinking about pushing a ball up and down the field and forget about those things that divide us. And we put aside our diets and our January resolutions. On Super Bowl Sunday the menu is usually fried chicken, chili, chips, macaroni and cheese and something very sweet and filled with chocolate.
It’s been estimated that 100 million people watched the game this year, held at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix. Two teams, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Philadelphia Eagles, managed to keep all of us on the edge of our seats. Philadelphia ruled the first half, until the Royals began to take over during the second half. These teams are the elite players, the best in the football league. It would make sense the spread at the end of the game was only 3 points.
Of course, if you aren’t interested in football there was the halftime show featuring Rihanna who provided thirty minutes of pure entertainment. The advertisements can’t be avoided and according to NPR, “Super Bowl 2023 commercials advertisers spent up to $7 million for every 30 seconds of airtime.” These rather electric spots were filled with the celebrities who define our contemporary pop culture and were as entertaining as anything you might see on the television screen.
In what was an accidental sense of timing, last week a friend invited me for dinner and asked if I had seen the movie, Invictus the film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. It is one of my favorite films.
In 1995 South Africa was hosting the Rugby World Cup. The Springboks, the white South African team wasn’t expected to do well in the competition following the dismantling of apartheid. President Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa, concerned about the racial divisions in the country met with the captain of the Springboks and inspired him to push his team to victory. The day of the game, when South Africa had made it to the finals and was competing to become the world champion, President Mandela appeared at the stadium wearing a Springboks jersey and cap.
Previously most Black South Africans would root for another team before they would support their own country team. It was rugby, President Mandela recognized, that could bring them together.
A reminder that although we are one of the most diverse countries in the world, there are events and foods and customs that do bring us together. If only for a few hours on a February Sunday afternoon.