Dancing with Sharks

Super Bowl 2015, you rarified beast. Which part ruffled your feathers more?

When Nationwide brought the house down with their apocalyptic child accident commercial?

When the Seahawks and Patriots decided to settle things with their fists?

Or that dancing shark, man? You know the one. The one on the left.

(Clearly the answer is Missy Elliot, so I don’t even know why we’re talking about this).

The reason we’re talking about this (let me clarify) is because for one spectacular moment, we all lived together in a place where low culture and high culture slammed together to create something impossible. A place where scantily clad pop singers rode mechanical tigers into an arena with grown men, who beat each other up for our amusement, right after we’d been admonished to protect our children, at least, if no one else!

The Super Bowl, where we become a post-Giuliani, Disneyfied Roman Empire for a hot second, and everything seems like madness. We’re captivated by it: the gaudy, campy excess of the half time act; the impossible, Bruce Banner spandexing of the uniforms; the violence and skill of the game; the beer, the nachos, Jeff Bridges chanting by a sleeping man’s head; cheerleaders and pom poms and money.

The reason we’re talking about this (let me clarify) is because for one spectacular moment, we all lived together in a place where low culture and high culture slammed together to create something impossible.

How will history books explain this?

A simple paragraph, perhaps, discussing the European settlers, their genocide of the Native Americans, and how that conflict was memorialized every year in a sporting match between the uncomfortably named “Redskins” and the American “Cowboys”.

(It got political! I know, I know, we were having fun, and I brought that up, but you should stay, because we’re gonna get back to that dancing shark, I promise!)

To complicate matters, the former team represented the nation’s capital.

(To complicate matters even further, they never seemed to win a football game, making that Super Bowl scenario impossible).

Masochistic and thorny, snarky and derivative, it might explain certain hues of American football as pop culture, but it still won’t explain the Super Bowl: the game and all that grows out of it. An orgy of sculpted, muscular hysteria, that turns your Monday morning water cooler into the hottest spring around.

Super Bowl Monday, our most important holiday. A day that no one gets off work.

But rituals are important. Maybe football has literally nothing to do with history (despite my clever and awkwardly political hypothesis about future textbooks), but my suspicion is that it does.

We’re talking ritualized reenactments of battles. Tribes battling tribes, based in geographic pride and an urge to conquer. Ours is more synthetic; a little more Wal-Mart, a little less Custard’s Last Stand. Ours involves different skills on the part of the participants, who get to work through victories and losses without picking shrapnel out of their skin. Proxy wars viewed from a safe distance, usually with a couple pints of beer and sometimes from behind a flat screen television. Not so dissimilar from those well meaning picnic people who showed up at the first battles of the Civil War to witness the good fun, only those were real, vicious, awful, traumatic battles, and some of those picnic people got shot.

Also, none of them were eating nachos.

So we’ve changed things. We’ve watered down the violence (made tribal war lite).

Honestly, we’ve made it better, because no one dies (except that poor Nationwide boy), and sometimes Katy Perry shows up.

We memorialize history. Sometimes we trash it up. Do we trivialize it? Hey, we’re only human.

We’ve done this dance before.

Independence Day, for example. Once about lofty values: democracy, freedom, simple human dignity. No taxation without representation. Tea.

Then it became about Will Smith pummeling aliens (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Then it became this (probably NSFW) YouTube video from Randy Quaid (link to video).

We memorialize history. Sometimes we trash it up. Do we trivialize it? Hey, we’re only human.

It makes sense: according to this article, memories live on in your genes (read the article here). That’s right: your blood has a memory.

Transgenerational memories, meaning my blood still shivers at the thought of living in caves and hunting saber-tooth tigers; participating maybe in tribal warfare, or battles for liberty.

More frightening, these blood-borne memories have no idea what it means to lose. They must have no recollection of dying; after all, you only pass on your seed before you die.

Does that mean that each generation becomes bolder than the one before? Braver, more eager for battle, because none of our double-helixed genetic historians have any concept of what it means to taste defeat?

Or do we become more weary, more jaded, more cautious, because our blood certainly remembers watching other people die (thanks, Nationwide) and knows, without needing to articulate it, that it, too, will die?

Or will it?

Do genes ever lose? Don’t they just pass on? Where our individual personalities fade to rust, the genes keep on keeping on, don’t they?

Do you ever think that this planet, and our own lives, have literally nothing to do with us? That we’re just fleshy vehicles for our genes to live inside? That our genes are actually immortal, and we’re just fashion for them to parade around in?

What was the point of this article again?

Oh yeah.

The point is, the Super Bowl was fun, dude.

Not only that, but everything you ever need to talk about or think about happens within those few, short hours.

The bleary eyed water cooler lowdown the next day might not be enough to process it all, but luckily for your genes, they have literally forever to amuse themselves over that adorable dancing shark.    So cute. May my DNA never forget.

 

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