Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Event

I was reading an article a few days ago about how the Super Bowl has become so much of an event, that the drama and production and all-around hoopla that surrounds it has actually overshadowed the game itself. I’m not a huge sports fan myself so I thought it was just me who in years past found myself more interested in the commercials than the actual game, but it seems I’m not the only one.

In fact, the Monday morning after the big game it seemed my fellow employees were much more interested in discussing which commercial they thought was best (the kid in the Darth Vader costume starting the Volkswagen with his ‘force’ powers seemed to be a big hit) along with how they enjoyed the half-time show or how they were shocked to see Slash rise up out of the stage to join the Black Eyed Peas on a rendition of the Guns N’ Roses hit Sweet Child O’ Mine.

Through all of that, the actual discussion of the game encompassed all of about three minutes. There were some comments about how it was closer than it should have been and a few comments about specific plays etc, but the discussion about the non-game events of the Super Bowl were far more abundant which is amazing considering I sit near three or four people who are very interested in sports including one who is a referee and another who is a coach.
This all got me thinking… is it really just the Super Bowl that suffers from this overshadowing issue? I don’t think that is the case and I actually think that our society has become so obsessed with the glitz and glamour of our big (and even not-so-big) events these days that we don’t have much time to actually pay attention to the core event itself.

Case in point, I can’t tell you a single one of the teams who made the finals or semifinals in this year’s World Cup, but I can tell you that the number one subject of conversation surrounding the World Cup itself wasn’t the game, but rather the usage (and perhaps abuse) of those rather annoying vuvuzelas. This actually may have something to do with the fact that I’m an American and thus by default I don’t really care about the game of Soccer or FIFA, but I can’t say for sure.

Truth be told I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that 97.6% of the American public thinks FIFA is an Italian automobile manufacturer, because that would almost make more sense to me. I'm not even sure what FIFA stands for and the only athlete in the sport that I could cite by memory is David Beckham... but that has more to do with his frequent appearances on the cover of supermarket tabloids and his marriage to a former Spice Girl.

All of that aside, even months after the World Cup itself if someone decides to talk about the event I can almost guarantee it has something to do with events outside of the actual games whether it be the actions of a star player off the field, or how a sanctioning body for some other major sport has decided to ban vuvuzelas from the stadiums.

This phenomenon isn’t just related to sports either. Just look at any major awards show on television from the Grammys to the Oscars to the MTV Movie awards… rarely do we remember who was nominated for an award or who even won, but we will probably remember if someone had a “wardrobe malfunction” or if someone decided to walk the red carpet wearing something that resembles a neon trash bag covered in rhinestones, or if someone bungled a speech or tripped on their way to the podium. We will also hear about the events that transpire backstage and read reports of what celebrity was offended that they didn’t win or who showed up to an after-show party and what they had to drink or who they were holding hands with.

So what is it with our society that is so infatuated with the whole experience rather than simply the main event? I can’t even fathom what it would be like to listen to a President give a State of the Union speech without someone analyzing how many times he was interrupted by applause or commenting upon the response given by the opposing political party. I can’t imagine attending a local sporting event without seeing the game actually interrupted long enough to toss t-shirts into the crowd or for the cheerleaders to do a little dance, or allowing at least one AC/DC song on the PA system to set the tone for the game itself.

Of course when you look around and notice half the people at any given event are staring at their smartphones or making a trip to the concession stand or engaging in idle chit chat with those around them it starts to become obvious that the “event” is almost a distraction. Perhaps it is to the point where we can no longer be satisfied at focusing our attention on one thing. Maybe we are so used to being tied to technology or being bombarded with information and technology that actually sitting back to relax and enjoy an event simply for the event just won’t do.

That may explain why I notice a lot of people have laptops or tablets near them even while watching television or why people feel the need to have a GPS activated in their vehicle even while making their daily commute to work which they have done hundreds of times before. To some degree it might indicate progress, but I’m not so sure it isn’t actually more reflective of a downward trend that leads to a point where people lose the ability to focus on what is really important or even worse – the ability to focus on anything at all.

Much like many of us require bifocals as we age so that we can see clearly at more than one distance, perhaps we (as a society) are evolving to require more than one stimulus at any given point in order to protect our brains from atrophy. Thus, before someone else suggests the phrase I’m going to profess that I am the first to label this condition as “Witnessed Observable Requisite Multi-Stimuli” or ‘WORMS’. That should be really interesting when someone has to tell some friends that their kid was diagnosed with a bad case of WORMS.

I have no idea if the acronym WORMS is already a trademark… but if not I call dibbs, and we all know calling dibbs is as good as any legal agreement known right?

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