Driving around the day of the Super Bowl is like living in a post-apocalyptic dream. I drove by the mall this Sunday. I don't usually do this. I usually try to avoid the place, if possible. The continuous stream of shoppers coming and going is like a spider's web of potential fatalities, each hurried shopper eliminating one of my possible selves. Drive by the mall enough times and I'm certain the counter will reach zero and my time will be up. Heisenberg's Parking Principle.
But Sunday I had to take a chance. I was in a hurry and the shortest distance between Point A (my house) and Point B (where I needed to go) was down Heisenberg Way, past the mall. Lucky for me the universal constant (mall = traffic up the ass) was taking a day off. Super Bowl Sunday is like a national Holiday in reverse. It's not on a Monday, like most holidays, but on a Sunday, the day we usually reserve for lying about in pajama bottoms or mowing the lawn. And unlike on most national holidays - and most Sundays - on Super Bowl Sunday, people don't shop. Not at the mall anyway.
Driving past the mall on Sunday, automatically marking down the number of potentialities in which I survived to my 34th birthday by one, I noticed a strange thing: There wasn't anybody around. It was noon on a Sunday and there wasn't anyone coming or going to the mall. Nobody even there. At noon. On Sunday. Parking lots were more than half-empty, the carefully designed retail rat trap entrance devoid of cars waiting to enter or leave. It was eerie. And awesome. If only I'd needed to shop.
Instead I needed snacks, so I went to the grocery store, and that's where I found them: the teeming mass of humanity that on any normal day would be clogging the arteries of the mall. This is the equivalent of opening a storage room door in the abandoned mall and finding it full of zombies. The grocery store was full to bursting with soon-to-be partygoers, all aching to fill their baskets with the exact same things I was after. I wasn't sure what to make of this. I don't usually do what everybody else is doing. This caused a momentary crisis of faith. I persevered.
The game, it would seem, isn't simply an athletic contest between to great teams, the resolution of the question of who's the better (and the best) football squad in the land. Instead, for most Americans, it's a reason to use the word party as a verb.
And why shouldn't they? Few things go better with football than beer. Add barbecue and salty snacks and it's an outright orgy of awesome. Trying to get into the spirit of the thing, I took a break from my self-indulgent health regimen to devour some nachos. I even drank a beer. It was a dangerously delicious moment.
Full disclosure: I have to confess to being a Patriots fan and watching this Super Bowl, not out of morbid curiosity as in past years, but because I was genuinely invested in the outcome. I don't actually watch football, but I occasionally like to turn a game on and cheer just for fun. I imagine I'm not alone in this. Living in Boston for several years, I acclimated to the joy/love/hate relationship most New Englanders have with their team. A bond that causes them to tip over cars and chase policemen with rocks when they win. I can only imagine what's happening there today. I assume nothing. New Englanders feel they deserve to be miserable. They're probably taking the Patriots' loss as the inevitable correction of their previous good fortune. I imagine many folks are out buying bomb shelters as I write this, preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.