Phoenix, Arizona was a frenzy of celebratory joy last week as it prepared for the Super Bowl. This was not just about a football game (the best I’ve ever seen by the way); it was a gathering of prominent glitterati from the worlds of sports, music, movies, politics, and big business. Every night of the week preceding the game, there was an assortment of party venues — some free, others easily affordable, and some high-ticket settings in chi-chi nightclubs hosted by hip-hop celebrities. There was room for everyone, and it was the first time I’ve seen all sides of this town come together in a communal celebration of joy.
We don’t celebrate joy together in community much anymore…… we hardly do it as families. We need to be doing it more, though, because it’s part of our nature. Since antiquity, people have craved live events that celebrate joy, because such events renew the bonds that tie people together.
Nowadays, maybe the only way such gatherings can occur in big cities is if they’re sponsored by business interests and produced as Hollywood extravaganzas. There is no question that this kind of commercialization tends to carnivalize such events.
We celebrated Super Bowl Sunday as a big extended family party, gathering in a pillow-laden “lounge” that featured a movie-screen size HDTV, open bar, hors d’oeuvres and gourmet pizza.
I stretched out with my grandkids, and got absorbed by the exciting game and the animated betting action that accompanied virtually every play. They wanted to know how anybody could keep track of all the action, so we got into bookmaking, odds, and the mathematics of risk and pay-off.
This is exactly how I learned math as a kid. . . when I took my weekly nickel for milk at school and gambled it instead on three baseball players who between them would get six hits. If I picked Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Jackie Robinson, it was almost even money, maybe 3:2, or 5:3, but long-shots with unknown players could get you 15:1, maybe 25:1.
Sitting with my grand kids, philosophizing about how much risk you are willing to take if the pay-off is enough, eating good food, listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, laughing, and dancing — it was a little piece of heaven.
Even if Super Bowl was a choreographed carnival, it brought together people in an atmosphere of joyful anticipation to celebrate life. That’s something we need to do more regularly, and we don’t have to wait for commercial sponsorship. Let’s find more reasons for spontaneous celebrations on a smaller scale.