Monday, February 01, 2016

Bowled Over

We Americans like to party.

In fact, we like to party so much we have rolled the Christmas and New Year’s holidays into one week-long orgy of food and drink culminating in a form of gladiatorial combat we call football.

The ancient Romans would be proud of us.

Take Pasadena, for example. It’s not exactly a let-your-hair-down-and-boogie-your-butt-off kind of place. Indeed, the word “staid” comes to mind. Yet once a year, the city throws a giant New Year’s party complete with a sometimes maudlin but always spectacular parade and a football game played in the nation’s most iconic stadium.

After which, the days grow dark and cold. Americans have little to celebrate unless you circle Fruitcake Toss Day or Houseplant Appreciation Day or National Kazoo Day on your January calendar.

Faced with this daunting prospect, Americans do what they do best. They invent something.

In this case, we invented the Super Bowl, ostensibly a football game but in reality a reason to party.

Thanks to billionaire team owners seeking to further pad their wallets, it rolls around each February and has to keep us in a state of merriment until St. Patrick’s Day.

This year’s contest features the Denver Broncos versus the Carolina Panthers and will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, hard by San Francisco. Game time is 3:30 p.m. Pacific Standard.

Long before the ball is in the air, however, we will be bombarded by hype that will rival an El Nino storm in intensity.

This, after all, is Super Bowl 50, its importance underscored by the fact that the NFL is using Arabic numerals rather than Roman numerals it has historically shared with the Papacy and assorted royal families. We’re guessing Super Bowl L (the Roman numeral for 50) lacked a certain gravitas.

The event will be preceded by a four-hour pre-game show in which a panel of concussion survivors will explain the intricacies of the game.

The population of two competing cities in question here is a shade over 1.5 million. So why should the rest of us care?

There are two answers:  gluttony and gambling.

If you were to add up the calories per serving for every food item a household purchased during the week of the Super Bowl, it would equal more than 6,000 calories, according to a Washington Post story. That's the largest number of calories for any week through the year — more even than during Thanksgiving — and it's not even all that close. 

The second unhealthiest week, when people purchase closer to 5,500 calories per serving, is the week before the week of the Super Bowl, at which point people are just getting warmed up.

The National Chicken Council estimates that 1.25 billion chicken wings will be consumed during the Super Bowl. There are expected to be 48 million take-out pizzas ordered. Some 80 million avocados will be consumed along with 11 million pounds of chips.  It will be washed down with 325 million gallons of beer. 

 In a related development, the diet business will take in millions the following week.
And when it comes to putting your money where your mouth is, American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman said that his organization expects the Super Bowl to elicit $3.8 billion in illegal wagers compared with Nevada’s legal $100 million.

The bets know no bounds. For example, you can bet on what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach. Or the jersey number of the first player to score a touchdown. 

You can also put your hard earned cash on who the Super Bowl MVP will mention first in his speech:  Teammates are at 2/1, followed by God (5/2), Fans (5/1), other team (7/1), coach or family (12/1), owner (25/1) and none of the above at 4/1.

You can also wager on who will win the coin toss, who will call the first time out, who will be the first player called for holding, whether the first player to score will have an odd or even number jersey, whether the first missed field goal will be wide left or right.

Of course, you can develop your own bets right at home. Who will be the first to take a bathroom break, who will be the first to dump a plate of nachos cheese-side down on your new couch, who will be the first to say "I don't get it" after a multimillion dollar commercials screens, who will be the first to doze off in the middle of the game after consuming hot wings, chili, pizza and beer.

Note to gamblers: 26 percent of people say that God plays a role in determining the outcome of a game, the Public Religion Research Institute found.

Let the festivities begin.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

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