Like so many of us, I have Super Bowl fever. I actually don’t care about football or even enjoy watching sports in general. But my kids, especially my middle son, are buzzing with excitement. And THAT is so fun to watch. The energy and passion are infectious. The fun of having friends over just ratchets up the buzz.
I used to think watching sports was a big waste of time. But I’ve come to see that there is something truly beautiful about the whole experience. In particular, the beauty of loyalty. As I witness my kids and friends perched at the end of the sofa glued to the screen, I remember a post I wrote a number of years ago but this topic. I was struck with the beauty of team loyalty when I was walking on my way to work early one morning. It must have been about 7:30 AM (well, early for NYC standards anyway :)) and I passed a bar already open for business. Sitting there was a woman all alone — literally. The place was empty expect for her! She was wearing a soccer jersey (I couldn’t identify the team or country as I am terribly sports-challenged) and staring intently, mouth agape, at the World Cup game on the TV. It was definitely an odd sight. But it was a moving one too
Sports are a wonderful thing. Not only do they promote physical activity and cooperation, but they sublimate our warring instinct. If you examine the pre-game rituals of some countries, you’ll find they are reinterpreting dances and costumes that were once used to prepare for battle. But another way to look at it is that sports invoke a sense of loyalty among all of us. No question loyalty can inspire people to do horrible things, from stadium fights to blindly following dictators to kill masses of people. And for my son, whose favorite team, the Patriots, lost the opportunity for another Super Bowl win, loyalty also means days of being in an outright pissy mood. For the most part, though, it is a wonderful, beautiful thing! Loyalty is what bonds us to our friends and loved ones. Loyalty signifies a human being’s potential for love, community and willingness to sacrifice for others’ welfare. No wonder being in a stadium is so exhilarating. Not only do we get to see the game in person but we can also connect and share in our excitement with a ton of other people. We don’t even know these people but our shared loyalty and energy builds our own and makes us feel connected. There’s a term for this in anthropology called “Communitas.”
Of course the Super Bowl is a big spectacle. It’s an opportunity to party with others and stoke our competitive spirits. And, frankly, it’s a whole lot of brain candy. I mean it’s just a game right? But this game, like so many others that we watch from afar, is also a moment to embrace our sense of loyalty and commitment. Who wouldn’t want more of that?