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Opening Arguments

Steelers sent Packing!

My friend and I were going to watch the Super Bowl with a certain amount of detachment. Since neither my Colts nor my Bears made it in, and her Lions continued their streak of never being in the big game, who cared who won? This was especially true because we had a dislike bordering on the pathological for both the Steelers and the Packers. Maybe it would be fun to watch the game without rooting for either team, or even actually rooting against both of them. That way we could just enjoy the commericials without the silly distraction of a football game.

Alas, we couldn't pull it off. If you're a fan, watching without having a team to root for is a little like reading a mystery novel without caring who dunnit. What's the point? So we chose to root for the Packers because, A) the Steelers already held the record with six Super Bowls, so they needed a win less on their team resume and, B) the Packers' quarterback is not, as far as we know, a sexually predatory pig.

It amused us for an evening. All of us have amusements, those pursuits that divert us from grim reality for a brief time, whether we find anything redeeming about them or are just in them for the fun. Not everyone likes the NFL, but not everyone likes opera, either. If you aren't amused by our amusements, that's fine. But if you sniff at pro sports as unworthy of our attention, you're just a snob:

Co-bloggers Sasha Volokh and Ken Anderson express puzzlement as to why anyone would care about the outcome of professional sports competitions. By the same logic, why would anyone care about any kind of entertainment? Why, for example, do people care about and identify with fictional characters in the Harry Potter novels or in Jane Austen's works?

Harry Potter is not a real person. Why should anyone care whether or not he manages to defeat Lord Voldemort? Elizabeth Bennet is not a real person either. Why should anyone care whether she gets married, and to whom? The answer, of course, is that vicarious identification with fictional characters is fun. Occasionally, it even has some educational value. The same, of course, goes for vicarious identification with sports teams. It's fun to root for your team and hate its rivals, even if your initial reasons for identifying with Team A rather than Team B are essentially arbitrary (usually that you grew up in City A rather than City B).

So, our Packers won, and those evil Steelers lost, and tomorrow we won't even think about the game any longer. Hooray. And maybe it was that we got distracted by the game, but the commercials didn't seem as good this year. Of course, a lot of people say that every year. It's similar to a phenomenon I've noticed about restaurants. If you go to a good one you've never been to before, and say how much you like it to someone who's been there before, especially a native old-timer, the response will always be: "Yeah, it's pretty good now, but it's not nearly as good as it use to be."