| It is Super Bowl time again and America is working itself into a frenzy of emotion as it usually does. I have seen many Super Bowls, missed just as many, and wished I had missed a few that I saw. As much as I have always loved football, I find myself repelled by a lot of the things surrounding it, especially during the Super Bowl. The enormous amounts of money related to it is horrifying, the fact that the commercials have become almost as big a competition as the game, and the fact that the whole business seems to bring out the crazy in some people is disturbing.
There isn't anything new about the behavior of human beings in relation to sporting events and the epidemic loss of perspective that ensues during major athletic events. The Romans were being fanatics about sports long before we were. The Roman public was big on chariot races and fanatical supporters of whichever team they preferred. There were four chariot teams in ancient Rome, the 'Greens', the 'Reds', the 'Whites', and the 'Blues', which, if you think about it, was a lot easier than trying to think up intimidating names designed to reflect how powerful you are and put fear into the hearts of your opponents. Just like today, Romans would flock to the Circus Maximus, which seated up to 250,000 spectators, adorned in accessories color coded to their favorite team. Green Team fans might wear green scarves, green shawls, green hats or green tunics and sit in the stand waving green flags. I read about a group of ladies who attended the races all with their hair dyed green. Painting your face green was common. Look into the stands in any modern football game and you will see exactly the same thing.
The teams in Rome were owned by rich investors, which goes to show you that some things never really change. These guys had lots of money and power and liked to throw it around. They hired people to go out and paint graffiti on the walls of buildings extolling the virtues of their teams and charioteers and making nasty comments about the other guys. Outside the stadium, where there were frequent fist fights between the fans of opposing teams, they had vendors lined up selling everything from official team sausages to official portraits of their key players. Advertising and merchandising scams are eternal and finding ways to capitalize on the rabid fanaticism of fans has been around a long time.
Gladiatorial games were even worse. Gladiators, who were essentially slaves to whatever school they belonged to, were celebrities on a huge scale. Despite the fact that someone owned them they were given expensive gifts by their adoring public, received invitations to attend the parties of rich people, and, if the bribes to their handlers were sufficient, received visits from powerful people and high born ladies looking for a good time with a muscle-bound athlete. Their sweat was sold as some kind of aphrodisiac or like modern day Viagra for enormous amounts of money. Ladies in the stands of the Colosseum were known to swoon when they entered the into the gladiatorial ring. It just goes to show you that crazy can exist in any space/time continuum.
People can get weird and take these things very personally, as is the case in this year's Super Bowl for my friend. Her oldest son married a girl from New York City and went to live there with her. Her family are Giants fans, which makes sense, and they are the kinds of fans that make you want to leave the room during a game. He and his family are Patriots fans. Shouldn't be a problem, love conquers all and if Romeo and Juliet could get over the whole family death feud thing dealing with a regional football team loyalty question should be a piece of cake, right? Evidently, not so much. The happy couple had a baby the first week of January and the first picture my friend received had the newborn lying on the bed cuddled up with a small football with the Giants logo on it. When he left the hospital he did in wrapped in a Giants blanket and wearing a Giants knit hat. Every picture she receives of the baby includes the Giants logo prominently displayed. The question of fan loyalty never even occurred to my friend, but this obvious provocation is like throwing down a gauntlet. While generally she is barely concerned with football, she has drawn a line in the sand on this one. She has bought Patriot hats, signs, and pendants and they appear in every photo or correspondence she sends them. I have been told that we will be joining them on Super Bowl Sunday at which time we will be issued a hat or flag and video will be taken. It has become such a big deal that if the Patriots dare to lose I fear she may put some terrible curse on them.
Let the games begin. The battle for the hear and mind of a 3 week old child is on. It may be crazy, but evidently, there really is nothing new under the sun.