Larry Mantle |

When the Super Bowl became more than a championship

I’m a big fan of professional sports, including the NFL, but I’m still amazed at how the Super Bowl has become one of the few mega cultural events of the year.  According to a major poll released this week, 78% of us say we’ll watch the game.

I understand that football is, by far, the country’s most popular spectator sport, and that it’s particularly well suited to television coverage.  Ratings are solid for even the most pedestrian of regular season matchups.

However, the Super Bowl is watched by a huge number of Americans who pay little attention to earlier games.  Part of that is natural curiosity for seeing the two best teams left.  What’s even more at play, in my opinion, is the opportunity the game presents for people to share an experience.

Many of us long for common events and experiences we can talk about with others.  Even if you’re not a football fan, it’s a good feeling to gather with friends and focus on a mass cultural event.  The day following, you can recount your favorite plays, or commercials, with your co-workers.  There aren’t many days when all of us at work will have seen the same thing the night before. 

For some people, the Oscars provide that opportunity.  However, the audience for the awards show skews far more female than the Super Bowl skews male.  It’s pro football that’s the most successful sport in shrinking the gender gap.

Do you agree that we have a strong human need for more shared events that cut across class and gender?  If so, where are the areas beyond pro football that universal events might arise?