This Sunday’s Super Bowl game, the 40th is a game I do not think I have missed watching in my lifetime. I am an enthusiastic football fan, which makes me wonder why I bother to watch the game; as I have told my wife it is an even that is more show than football. I have few memorable moments from watching the game, probably the greatest is watching the ’85 Bears roll up the Patriots in Super Bowl XX as a child (my goodness, that has been 20 years ago now – and two days before the Challenger explosion).I especially have not gotten into the “show” aspects of the game: the commercials, at best mildly amuseing or the half-time events (who can forget the multiple years that Up With People performed). For me, football season ended a month ago with the end of the college bowl games.

Yet I dutifully watch, with this Sunday evening’s fest planned with a fellowship group from church. It is one of the few shared experiences, not involving crisis, that Americans share, though the commonality of the event is slowly slipping away with media defragmentation. Yet the “event” has captured the individual American’s mind like no other, in ways that are profoundly needed. We want to say that we all were there to watch it, even though if large numbers of us do not really understand what is going on, or at best have a rooting interst in the teams.

For good or ill, the attention that is demanded in the game shows to a large degree what we mutually demand. Fans of the game put up with the festivities, and non-fans enjoy the spectacle. For some reason, we as a people demand shows of strength plus commercial enterprise plus common cultural goals. We like the team concept, especially in a sport unlike any other that relies on so man differential talents working together by team.

Here is a great example of what the event symbolizes, from basically its founding father, Vince Lombardi. Former Green Bay Packer player, Jerry Kramer, secretly recorded this locker room speech from the man for whom Sunday’s trophy is named. I like it for no other reason than its refocus on the truth of excellence. The name “Super Bowl” seems to be to be more than the name that Lamar Hunt’s little daughter gave the game, it means something to strive for that seems inherent in America culture, or at least that is what Coach Lombardi is getting at: the game is a game of great lessons and is a game that is a symbol of the nation’s learned lessons.

Lombardi highlights what he calls this nation’s best attributes: courage, stamina, coordinated efficiency through teamwork acheived through violent action. He says this in the midst of the social upheavals of the late 1960’s, so if these attributes seem out of place now, they must have been old as a grey flannel suit in 1968, yet he really believes it; and I think millions do as well, which is why we’ll watch it. We are a nation that demands excellence among individuals performing as a group, even in the face of opposition.

Listen to the whole 2 minute speech from ’68 here or his pregame speech from the second AFL/NFL championship here.

Oh yeah, Sunday’s game… Pittsburgh has played with an extreme amount of enthusiasm and it is hard not to like them, especially with players like Bettis and Pomalalu, but with Seatle’s controlled passing game, power running game with Shaun Alexander and defensive speed, I will go with the Seahawks by a score of 31 – 21.