Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Holy day for America's football religious

Copyright © 2011 The New Yorker

Football in America is akin to a religion, and might have more members than any individual religious group. Super Bowl Sunday is the high holy day of this American religion, and we were all sitting in our pews at the Church of the NFL this past weekend. It was the highest rated event ever on American television. Can I get a hallelujah?

No? Well, I was being cynical. Sally and I watch football. We like the Pittsburgh Steelers (our son lives near Pittsburgh, and it is almost mandatory to be a Steelers fan). I also like the San Francisco 49ers. But we don't act like a win or loss is the apocalypse. We aren't the devout, or the zealots. Even after a bad loss by one of my teams, I've forgotten it after a few minutes and am ready to move on with my life. Not so True Believers, who, according to an article in the February 5, 2012 issue of Parade, are martyred, and actually have lower levels of testosterone after a loss by their football gods.

According to an article in the magazine by by Will Leitch, "'. . .[During the season] NFL teams play only 16 games—every one is a major event.'

"'Each game becomes the centerpiece of the week,' says Ed Hirt, a professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University. With so few games, 'every one can be critical to the teams potential for a playoff run, so fans have a lot of emotional investment in the outcome,'" says Adam Earnhardt . . . an expert on fan behavior.

"That investment can even cause chemical changes. 'Researchers from Georgia State University studied soccer players and extreme soccer fans and found that both groups exhibited the same increase in testosterone levels after a victory, and decrease . . . after a loss,' says Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University."

So now you know. If you can't get it up on Sunday night, it's probably because your team lost that day.

Not only do football fans worship their players and teams, but being Americans, they sing hosannas for the television commercials trotted out for the game. On Monday morning there was as much talk about what commercials scored with the viewers, as what teams scored touchdowns. Personally, I think all of this is lame. I saw some of the commercials, and my opinion was so what? The ones that scored highest with viewers I thought were stupid, and the one I liked best, the Jerry Seinfeld Acura commercial, hardly registered. That's because my tastes run counter to most people. It's something I've lived with all my life.

(No one commented on what my testosterone levels might have looked like after the game. I rooted for the losing team.)

Here's the commercial, and if you're looking at this and seeing a black screen it's because YouTube or Acura has pulled the commercial out of circulation. Sorry.


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