Americans love the Super Bowl.
In an era when it seems we can agree on little else, the game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will be viewed on TV by more than 110 million people.
Many of those people won’t care about the outcome and some don’t know a thing about football. They will be watching the commercials, the halftime show, or just socializing with friends at a Super Bowl party.
Others will have more than a casual rooting interest.
Nevada gaming authorities expect a record $100 million to be wagered on the Super Bowl this year.
Those are the legal bets. According to several sources, the total amount of money gambled on the outcome of the game throughout the country will likely be closer to $800 million.
I would be willing to bet that every one of those people has complained about taxes at some point in his life.
Hey, it’s one thing to have the government grab a piece of your paycheck and another to lay down a voluntary chunk of change on the type of hat Bruno Mars will wear during his halftime show.
Yes, that is just one of the proposition bets people will actually be gambling on during the game, along with whether the coin flip turns up heads or tails.
Hundreds of millions of dollars more will be put on the game by companies betting as much as $4 million that they can persuade you to buy their product in 30 seconds.
Actually, the cost is much higher. That’s just the price to get on the air, not the cost of producing the commercial.
All of that is dwarfed by the estimated $12.3 billion viewers will spend on Super Bowl parties this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
According to the Web site WalletHub, they will consume 1.25 billion chicken wings.
Entertainment has been at the core of the American culture since the invention of radio, but the popularity of NFL football is a relatively new phenomenon.
In old movies about World War II, you might see a soldier on guard duty asking for proof that someone is an American by asking, “Who won the World Series last year?”
Now the question might well be, “What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial?”
For a few hours, Americans will be joined together as a society as they haven’t been since, well, the final episode of “Seinfeld.”
I’ve watched every Super Bowl since the game was invented, back in the days when there were actually two different professional football leagues.
More often than not, I didn’t care who won or lost.
It’s entertainment, after all, not politics.
There was an ancient Roman named Juvenal who wouldn’t have appreciated the Super Bowl at all. He’s the guy who coined the expression “bread and circuses.”
He felt citizens had lost the capacity to govern themselves by indulging in mindless self-gratification.
Maybe he would have changed his mind if he had seen Janet Jackson’s wardrobe failure.