The general sentiment of last Sunday’s Super Bowl seems to be ‘disappointment.’ Many viewers felt the game itself was boring for the standards of a Super Bowl, with a lackluster game and a referee that some see as biased against the Chiefs. The commercials felt off, as some of the biggest recurring names like Coca-Cola and Pepsi sat this one out. R&B singer The Weeknd performed a halftime show that pales in comparison to the standards set by past performances, even though he spent $7 million of his own money on it.
And then, the camera pans to a half-empty stadium: A dystopic and depressing reminder of the pandemic.
No one expected the Super Bowl to feel normal in the middle of a pandemic. Some changes are to be expected: the half-empty stadium, the absence of an audience at the halftime show, the masked dancers. Some changes, although expected, do strike closer to heart.
The Super Bowl is a community driven event that simply isn’t the same when you watch it from your laptop alone. Many people—pre-COVID, at least—use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to throw a party; they make tasty finger food and watch with their family. Many drink with friends and place bets on the outcome of the game as they scream at their television. This is all part of the Superbowl experience. Nevertheless, as much as the game itself may have been disappointing, how many events like this have truly felt right since the start of this pandemic?
One of the most painful parts of the pandemic is not being able to see our family and friends at events that we usually look forward to. If anything, it serves as a reminder of the importance that community plays in our everyday lives. Holidays, birthday parties, game days; these were moments where having people to celebrate with was often more important than the celebration itself. Sadly, these are celebrations that we put on pause nearly a year ago—or at least, most of us did. The Super Bowl celebrations on the streets of Tampa are estimated to have consisted of thousands of people, most maskless and not socially distanced.
As the months go by, time we could’ve spent with our family and friends is lost. Yet sadly, COVID-19 has taken so much more from us than cancelled holidays. Even if we ‘return to normal’ soon, there are over 468,000 Americans that will not be returning with us, which is why maskless celebrations like those in Tampa seem like a smack in the face to those who’ve lost loved ones to this pandemic. It feels like a show of disrespect to the millions of people who have halted their celebrations to keep our community safe.
It’s usually exhilarating to see your team win, and disappointing to see them lose. But it is beyond infuriating to see people put others in danger when the rest of us have put our entire lives on hold for the common good.
To those of us who watched this Super Bowl expecting little and still receiving less, alone or with our roommates, I only hope that we’ll be able to get back to our traditions soon. To those who are making this pandemic worse by deciding to celebrate an underwhelming Super Bowl win with a superspreader jubilee, I hope that you enjoyed yourselves.
If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught us, it is that some people are far too comfortable with risking public safety and the lives of others. As much as we can hope that these people will face consequences for their actions, the harsh reality is that we are already living out these consequences. All we can do is watch the cases rise from our living room. If we fail to make a genuine collective effort to curb this pandemic, I’m afraid that we’ll have to sit through many more half-empty Super Bowls.