BY JEFF FALK
Sports have the power to bring family and friends together, allowing them to share a common experience. No other single sporting event has captured that family-friendly feeling like the Super Bowl.
For some, the Super Bowl is the culmination of a an intriguing six-month struggle to determine the best team in the NFL. For others, it’s the only football game – or sporting event for that matter – that they will watch the entire year.
For one day, it’s the one thing that everyone can agree upon.
The result? Parties, family gatherings, renewing old acquaintances and celebrations of the American way of life.
“It’s kind of like a holiday,” said Mike Givler. “It’s sort of like the Fourth of July. It doesn’t rank up there with Easter or Christmas or New Years. But you get to hang out with friends and family and eat well.”
Givler is the sports editor at the Lebanon Daily News and one of the area’s foremost authorities on ‘The Big Game’. He is also an avid sports fan.
“I have a group of friends I get together with,” said Givler. “That’s been going on for ten or more years, that we’ve been going to the same place. It’s six or seven families with kids, so it’s about 40 people, and we all bring something.
“It’s not something I think about before I get up,” added Givler. “It’s part of the day. But I’m just as excited to see friends I haven’t seen in a while as much as I am about the game.”
A devout Green Bay Packer backer, the Super Bowl takes on an even extra special meaning for Givler when his team is in it. Still, he hasn’t missed a Super Bowl in for as long as he can remember.
“Based on what the Packers did in the regular season, I really thought they had a good chance of getting back to the Super Bowl this year,” said Givler. “But when they lost to the Giants, the next playoff game, it wasn’t something I planned my weekend around. I would watch the Super Bowl, even if the Packers aren’t in it, just because it’s sort of what people talk about the next day around the water cooler.
“It’s more pressure-packed when your team’s in it,” Givler continued. “It’s more important. When your team’s not in it, you can sit back and enjoy it and watch the commercials. When your team is in it, you hang on every play. You’re invested emotionally.”
Since its inception in 1966, the Super Bowl has grown in breadth and scope expontentially. It’s a pattern that doesn’t figure to wane any time soon.
“I think it’s huge,” said Givler. “The TV ratings say it’s one of the most watched – if not the most watched – shows in the year. The advertising money and ratings tell you how big it is. The next day everyone’s talking about the game or the commercials.
“I would say that it’s the biggest sporting event in the country,” continued Givler. “The fact that it’s one game and and not a series increases its interest. The other major sports decided their champions with a series. Plus, football is king. It’s not baseball any more. And this is the culmination of a season.”
Givler actually covered Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa Bay between the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants. At that time, Lebanon native Kerry Collins was the starting quarterback of the Giants.
“It was easily the biggest highlight of my journalism career,” said Givler. “What I remember vividly was Media Day, when the entire media covering the Super Bowl received a police escort to the Tampa Bay Convention Center, where the players were. When you got there, there were all the players you saw on TV.”
So what about this year’s Super Bowl, number 46? The AFC’s New Enlgand Patriots will square off against the NFC’s New York Giants on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“I think the Giants’ defense is playing really well right now and defense usually wins these things,” said Givler. “I’ll say Giants 27-21. I think it’ll be a great game. I think the offenses will keep things interesting. But I think the Giants’ defense is just a little bit better than the Patriots’.”