Sociological roundup for Super Bowl XLVI

Here are a few stories that highlight sociological takes on the Super Bowl:

1. The Super Bowl as unofficial holiday:

Because it has evolved into so much more than a game, the Super Bowl and all of the pomp and circumstance has become a star-spangled spectacle that may not live up to two weeks of hype or warrant six hours of pre-game coverage, but continues to be must-see TV for the masses…

Dr. Tim Delaney, chairman of the Department of Sociology at SUNY Oswego, said the Super Bowl has become much more than just the NFL’s championship game.

“It’s not only a social event, it’s really an unofficial holiday,” said Delaney, who co-authored “The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction and Sports: Why People Love Them!”

“People are going to watch the Super Bowl, no matter what. It’s part of American culture. It’s tradition. It’s a social phenomenon.”

2. Headline: “Super Bowl non-fans will replace the big game with shopping, sewing, sex.”

Wachs said that football has become so popular that it is like a “secular religion” in America. “It fulfills many of the exact same functions as religion,” said Wachs, an associate professor of sociology at California State Polytechnic University. “It separates the sacred and profane — the rest of the week is profane and on Sunday it is the special time. There are rituals associated with it. There is special clothing and special food associated with it. It really has all the elements of a religious ritual.”

But this fanatical attention to a single game has created another subculture in American society — people who are united against the Super Bowl, the rebels who refuse to watch because they don’t like football or don’t like the hype or don’t like to be told they have to watch something just to fit in.

Wachs said these people “feel resentful, feel put upon and, I would argue, feel persecuted by the importance of something that they just don’t get.”

3. The urban myth of “sewer sociology”:

Maybe you’ve heard the urban legend: An overwhelming number of Super Bowl fans take a potty break during halftime, straining the local sewage system and causing a spike in flows to treatment plants…

While sewage treatment workers do notice a change in “activity” during holidays and the Super Bowl, it doesn’t impact waste treatment facilities, said Kevin Enfinger, a senior project engineer with ADS Environmental Services in Huntsville, Ala…

Enfinger refers to the change in bathroom behavior as “sewer sociology.”

4. UCLA has experts on call ready to help you understand the “sociological and cultural phenomenon.”

Plenty of sociological material to talk about in regard to the Super Bowl and that is before even getting to what the commercials have to say about our society.

I do think I’ve heard more and more public discussion about the Super Bowl being a public holiday. It makes me wonder why sociologists don’t spend more time studying holidays, official and otherwise. The idea of “secular holidays” is particularly interesting – although once you get beyond the Super Bowl and Black Friday (still closely related to Thanksgiving), it might be more difficult to identify such days.

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