In an age of tribalism, when individuals tend to retreat to their own comfortable corners, the Super Bowl stands as a holdout. It is a throwback to the days when a large segment of the country’s population was affixed to one event at the same time. That it has reached a pinnacle of attention is a culmination of a process that tracks its growth from rather rudimentary origins.

During the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the National Football League teams were largely playing in stadiums where they were second-class tenants to the major league baseball teams. Baseball was still America’s pastime and tackles were often made on infield dirt base paths. Until 1958, the Eagles used Connie Mack Stadium where the Phillies were the landlord. In New York, the Giants played in Yankee Stadium. The Steelers used the Pittsburgh Pirates Forbes Field. That was the norm.

Along came the upstart American Football League starting in 1960, and the competition would result in an eventual merger between the two leagues. In that process pro football, as one league with National and American conferences, expanded from twelve markets to 24 in time for the 1970 season. By this time, Philadelphia-based NFL Films had been bringing a new dimension to the TV screen.

Founded by Philadelphian Ed Sabol, the violent sport was turned into a form of ballet. Slow-motion footage was met with the dulcet voice of Philadelphia TV News icon John Facenda. Chilling instrumental music formed the bed for this mix, and suddenly the beauty of the sport was being enjoyed by countless millions.

In 1966, while a teenage vendor at Franklin Field, I was fascinated by the 60,671 bodies who would inhabit the iconic horseshoe shaped stands for the six home games. By the time the American Football Conference’s New York Jets beat the favored Baltimore Colts in the 1969 Super Bowl III, led by the effervescent Joe Namath, it was clear that pro football had become America’s new pastime.  As the advent of fantasy football leagues took hold, the popularity swelled even more.

At one time, there were countless national TV shows that reached vast audiences. They drew tens of millions of viewers into a communal experience. The many decades ago final episodes of The Fugitive and MASH come to mind as programs that promised extensive discussions between colleagues at the next mornings’ coffee breaks. With the proliferation of countless choices in both traditional media, pay cable and streaming channels and social media, audiences enjoying the same experience at the same moment on a super-large scale are quite rare.

In his 1956 book, Broadcasting In America, Sydney Head described a mass audience as “an extremely heterogeneous audience whose members need have nothing in common beyond receiving identical messages at about the same time.”  Such lightening rarely strikes these days.

It is a tribute to the NFL, that 93 of the most-watched TV events in 2023 were games involving its teams.  Last year’s Super Bowl drew 115.1-million sets of eyes, according to Nielsen ratings. It’s been a steady climb that has resulted in a bridging of the many social divisions that normally separate so many of us. And it is something that ought to be cherished and duplicated in other yet anticipated arenas.

Jeff Hurvitz ( is a freelance writer and Philadelphia native.

3 thoughts on “Jeff Hurvitz: The Super Bowl’s communal allure”

  1. It certainly *could* be an opportunity to unite if the Right weren’t exploiting it to spread (even more) unhinged conspiracy theories about how the NFL is scripted and Taylor swift is a pentagon asset 😂


    And of course Dear Leader is using his Truth account to make bizzare attacks on Taylor Swift and Kelce instead of justifying his decision to order his lackeys in congress to tank a border security bill that would have stopped the flood of illegal immigration. (Hint: he doesn’t want Biden to solve an issue he’s using to rile up his base. Political talking points are clearly more important to him than national security.)

  2. Cicero:
    1. Trump said: “Fake News” and I hated him. He trashed POWs. It is 2024. Now, I see fake news everywhere. In 2008, reported: “Massive reserves of oil have been discovered on Titan (one of Saturn’s moons) and other so-called fossil fuels have been found all over space.”
    According to “Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, has more oil reserves on its surface than the entirety of all the oil reserves on Earth.” No one disagrees on that supposed “fact.” Yet when people contemptuously ask: did they have dinosaurs on Titan – that’s when all the doublespeak and verbal gymnastics start. Why on Earth does the oil have to be from dinosaurs but the rest of oil in the remainder of the vast Universe… that oil has a different origin? That is a fair question. GTFO.
    Trump was correct. There is “Fake News.” Maybe you missed the years of coverage on Covid, and masks, and BLM protestors breaking into stores peacefully. Pay your taxes.
    2.Did you just watch the Super Bowl? Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift were highlighted about a dozen times – they are both older than 30 and the MSM acts like they are teenagers. There are 11 positions on offense, and 11 on defense. And there are special teams and subs. Trump makes a very good point about [D’Andre] Swift and [Jason] Kelce. That is a joke. Swift and Kelce are special. Just pointing out some Eagles’ players’ names.
    3. Under Trump there was no border failure (except his bs about Mexico paying for a wall.) And under Biden Administration the border has been an abject disaster – but somehow MSM wants us to think that is Trump’s fault? Are you serious? Are you being a serious adult? That is a very silly position to attempt to blame Trump for the past 3 years’ failure at the border.
    4. No one believes the media. And Trump is not to fault about that. The MSM is to fault about that.

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