It’s Super Bowl Sunday, one of the most controlled sporting events on the planet. While it’s not exactly rigged, every aspect of the game has been optimized for maximum viewing audience engagement. Sure, there’s a football game in there somewhere but every variable has been carefully engineered to maximize viewing enjoyment.
Some suspect that the two week media circus around Richard Sherman was a carefully planned media campaign designed to put Sherman, and his sponsor, the headphone maker Beats, into the spotlight. With all the attention on social media around the event, it’s no surprise that there are social media hashtag strategies of each brand hoping to cash in. Advertisers, eager to build up anticipation of the big event, are previewed snippets of their big 60 second spot during the playoff games. Our emotions have been conditioned to peak around mid-day today as they kick off to the fading strains of the National Anthem.
As long as people are going to control all the variables around the game, why not engineer the game itself? Jon Bois over at SB Nation has a column where he hacks around with the settings of the XBox video game Madden to come up with fantastical characters to face each other on the virtual gridiron. In this week’s finale, he puts the 7 foot 400 pound Seattle Seahawks up against the 5 foot 160 pound Denver Broncos. And he didn’t stop there. He also slides all the ability, stamina, and strength settings to “11” for the Seahawks and turns all the Broncos players settings down to zero.
He wrote about the resulting game in his column, The Machine is Bleeding to Death, a hilarious piece complete with animated gifs highlighting the best bits. It’s a distorted, comic book caricature of the contest being played out on a gaming platform designed to look as real as possible. The best sports writing is at once about the game but more broadly about society and the world around us thru the lens of the game. Jon Bois’ review of the video game of the football game which we are all about to watch is social commentary at its best.
May the best team win today. Despite the odds.