Sports & Entertainment

The Super Bowl as national holiday

I have unforgettable moments of Christmases from years back, when my wife and I would silently climb over the children sleeping around the tree to plant the presents without disturbing them. They had declared again that this year they would catch Santa. They never did. But I have lasting remembrance as well of the first time I ever saw New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throw a football 60-some yards to wide receiver Randy Moss, who defied gravity, sailed upward and caught it with one hand. It doesn’t register the same; the first brought our family together in a mysterious, internal way that has bound us now for three generations. But the second was a moment of exquisite, unforgettable bliss that I shared externally with maybe 80 million other Americans at the same time.

Admittedly, I was never much of a football fan until I saw Brady throw the football. Then when I saw Moss catch it, something happened, like when St. Paul was knocked off the horse.

{mosads}The Super Bowl has come to represent the cycle of the seasons in America in its 49 years, as baseball did decades back, decades before Red Sox slugger Ted Williams moved on to Texas. And at least for the gnarly old provincial New Englanders I’ve worked with building stone walls here in the New Hampshire hills, that era was much about New York and Boston; Yankees and Red Sox and “the curse” that sat upon us since Babe Ruth moved to New York in 1920. But NFL football has since come to define us from Texas to Green Bay, from New York to San Francisco and Seattle and everywhere in between, bringing us to our fullness as a unique, new and fully formed people across the continent in the post-World War II period.

We call now on winter’s end with the Super Bowl. Spring will soon be here, and there will be other holidays. Generally speaking, here in America, there are three major celebrations of the soul and psyche — Easter, Halloween (the eve of All Saints Day) and Christmas — and three celebrations of our shared American condition — the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Super Bowl Sunday. Together they form the circle of our year. But with one gap. Super Bowl Sunday is not a “real” holiday. It should be.

Like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, the Super Bowl has become nominally the third great national secular holiday for Americans. Last year, up to 112 million are said to have watched it on television. More are expected to watch today. Where I live, there will be no traffic on the road for three hours as the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks come to awaken us again; to remind us again that we are a singular free people in a brand new creation. And as much as they try to market it to the old worlds in England and China, this day belongs exclusively to us here in the pure land of the free.

It explains to us something deep and mythical. We are different because when we came to America, we left the world’s pasts behind. Ours was a passage from old to new, a journey of liberation which uniquely identified us as Americans. It is why they play soccer there and we play football here.

We came here burdened and alone, but we were free, free to start again, not from what we had inherited from time in other lands, but from what we would take here from what we would find and make here of ourselves again.

We celebrate that liberation of who we are together on the day of the Super Bowl. We, who play and watch football, have only the future. Super Bowl Sunday is our American day, in the seasonal cycle that forms us together as a people singular in the world. President Obama should declare it a national holiday.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at

Tags National Football League New England Patriots NFL Randy Moss Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Tom Brady

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