For a moment ...on Sunday, February 5 [NA-Land time], Americans were able to leave the world of political turmoil that is spreading across their country and focus on their major sporting event, the grid-iron final of the National Football League, won in dramatic style by the New England Patriots.
But football was not on everyone's mind on Super Bowl Sunday.
A large portion of the millions expected to gather around TVs across the US, the year's biggest sporting event, is much more than that. A national poll [but can you believe polls in the US nowadays?] stated that 35 per cent of viewers were actually interested in the game while 15 per cent were just in party mode, 10 per cent were only interested in the half-time show [this year it was the brilliant Lady Gaga] and 5 per cent would watch only because the commercials tended to be special on the occasion. That left 35 per cent who were not interested at all!
And that 35 per cent who were not interested at all is reflective of an ever-increasing number of people who are tuning out from both the Super Bowl and sports in general. It may be a blip explained away by a populace weary from the recent political debates and happenings, but it does not explain the gradual decrease in the game being the 'wow' factor it once was.
Fans are starting to fall out of love with the NFL. TV ratings over the season have shown an eight per cent decline, two teams have abandoned their fan bases in St Louis and San Diego in favour of other cities while a third is considering leaving their Oakland base for Las Vegas and therefore leaving a very disgruntled fan base. Fantasy football, which helped drive football's growth in recent years, saw its massive numbers plateau again this season.
Other factors are also coming into play - the concern about concussions and their effects on players, a domestic violence problem that has not abated, protests by players against political and social issues, a moving of games away from their city to see if there is an international market for the game [London has been the focus and Europe is planned for next season] and a commissioner who seems to have difficulty grasping these concerns and tends to be rather heavy handed when it comes to disciplinary action for some players and teams but not for others.
Although this year's Super Bowl turned out to be one of the more dramatic ones in recent years [it went into extra-time] and the half-time show by Lady Gaga was brilliant, the commercials were not to their usual 'charming standards' where dogs and horses had been the ads that received the most positive comments.
This year they were replaced by a carefully treading advertising core as a divisive political climate took away some of the 'buzz' from the occasion. Some tried a humorous approach but in general cars and tech gadget ads which dominated this year did not bring the usual 'cute-fun' factor that has been linked to the game in previous years.
But people were gathering at friends' homes for the 'party' regardless of the game, as it is a time to spend with family and friends for a fun evening without the stress of the Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers that had drifted by.
Food and beverages abound along with decorations and team apparel and accessories - one aspect of team jerseys in NA-Land is that they have the player's name and number on them which brings the focus on the individual rather than the team concept - this has been the marketing strategy of the All Blacks. Too bad if your jersey has a name on it and that player has been traded to another team - time to buy another jersey! [Good marketing strategy or ?]
So another American football season has passed into the history books - one that had players committed from June to late December and into January for a few more games if the team was at all successful.
Now the sporting focus moves to ... ¦ Basketball [college finals in March-April with pro-finals finals in May-June]; ¦ Golf [weekly with the Masters in April]; ¦ NASCAR [Indy in May]; ¦ Ice Hockey [finals in May and June]; and the ¦ 'Sport of Kings' [the Triple Crown starting with the Kentucky Derby the first Saturday in May].