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Hayes: An American Moment

by Kelly J. Hayes

Sunday, Feb. 7, will mark the 50th anniversary of a game.

It is a game that unites us each winter. It is a game that moves us and compels us to watch, whether we care about the outcome or not. It is a game that has come to symbolize what we are as a nation and who we are as a people. It is the Super Bowl.

It would have been impossible to envision in January of 1967 that the Super Bowl would become the iconic event that it has matured into. The Los Angeles Coliseum was only 60 percent full for the game. Television ads (the game was shown on both CBS and NBC) sold for around $40,000 a spot. College marching bands provided the halftime entertainment.

This Sunday, an estimated average of 115 million Americans — one in three Americans — will be watching on television when the game is played. It will be broadcast in over 180 countries in 25 different languages. Demand for tickets could fill the stadium 10 times over. Purchasing a pair on the 50 or in a box above the action could cost you more than the 30-second commercial did in that inaugural broadcast. A television commercial will cost around $5 million. And at halftime, not one but three of the biggest musical acts in show business will take the stage

Why do we care so much? Because the game is a microcosm of our daily lives. It is about teamwork and discipline. It is about overcoming great odds and achieving great things. It is about people coming from nowhere and succeeding on a national stage. It is about drama and the idea that we have absolutely no idea of what will happen next. It is about being a part and playing a role as fans in something that is bigger than ourselves.

And it is about violence and money. What is more American than that?

Part of the Super Bowl’s growth in status has been a result of perhaps the greatest marketing manipulation in American history. The NFL and its network partners have done a masterful job of taking a game where 22 players engage for 60 minutes in child’s play on a field that is 100 yards long by 53-and-a-third yards wide, and turned it into an American obsession. Tapping into our love of military, our desire to defeat cancer, our compassion for Hispanic heritage, our obsession with fitness and our need to join others in wearing the same logos and colors, they have created a juggernaut of profit and passion.

Along the way there have been misdeeds and missteps. Players have engaged in grotesque acts of domestic violence. The league ignored the damage done to the very players that have been responsible for its ascension into the pantheon of entertainment vehicles. Stadiums have been built at taxpayer expense that have enriched those who own the teams that play in them to incomparable wealth.

And yet the game continues to grow. The fans buy the tickets and the merchandise, and tune in ever-larger numbers to watch both the exploits and the foibles of the NFL and the amazing athletes who play the games. Even in the offseason, the air pressure in a football becomes the subject of a national discussion on morality.

On Feb. 7, our home state team, the Denver Broncos, takes the field in an epic matchup in America’s single most significant annual event.

Thus, we thought it only appropriate to dedicate this entire edition of the Aspen Times Weekly to the Super Bowl — and our Denver Broncos. From food and drink to arts and the inside scoop on the teams, we share our thoughts with you.

So, read on … but remember, it is just a game.


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