Whether I attend or throw a Super Bowl party is always a year to year decision. The deciding factor is whether my beloved Steelers are playing. When the Steelers are in the Super Bowl, I isolate myself from all human contact. The intensity of the game demands my total attention -- plus should things start to turn bad for my boys, I become less than desirable company. When the Steelers are not playing, then it's party time.
Super Bowl parties are an interesting phenomenon. A major social event revolving around the television. Although it occurs here on a grander scale, this is actually a more common event than perhaps we realize. Watching television can be a significant social activity. Solitary TV viewing is not as common as many suppose. When most people watch TV, they do so with others. It thus becomes a shared engagement that creates social cohesion. We watch together and talk together about what we have seen.
A great example of this is the watercooler show. In the past shows like Friends, Seinfeld and others were social viewing experiences. You had to watch or be left out of the conversation the next day. Today, increasing numbers of shows function in this way: shows like Heroes, Lost, American Idol, etc. Friends regularly gather together much like in the old days for pinochle or bridge parties, but instead sit themselves down in front of the TV in order to share the experience of viewing their favorite shows. Even solitary viewing today is not really solitary. Even when a person sits down alone to watch the latest episode of Heroes, he or she does so aware that the next morning others in the office or at school will be discussing that night's events and that the web will soon be teeming with reviews and comments on that episode. They thus have an awareness of being a part of a much larger social movement.
Television viewing, for better or worse, is becoming something of a national pastime. As I sit down for the Super Bowl this Sunday, I will do so in a room full of other people, sharing food and conversation as we watch the action unfold. When you think about it from a social standpoint, it's not too much different than being at a real game. Minus the drunken fans and rude outbursts. Go Bears!