There was a time when the day after Thanksgiving was a universal “working day” in the United States. After a Thursday filled with turkey, family gatherings, turkey, football and turkey, we all got up the next morning, feeling tired and bloated from the prior day’s events, and staggered into our workplaces, where we feigned productivity.
This has changed over the past two decades. Today, employers routinely close their offices on Thanksgiving Friday, providing employees the opportunity to recover from the prior day’s fowl activities. Black Friday has unofficially become a “holiday,” the near mid-point of a four-day weekend that marks the beginning of the December holiday season.
We call the day “Black Friday” because it is when the holiday shopping season gains momentum. Retailers, who routinely struggle during the first eleven months of the year, rely on December sales to turn their year around. “Black Friday” marks the beginning of a period of surging sales that will hopefully bring retailers “into the black,” thus justifying the moniker.
Still, if we put aside financial considerations, the day after Thanksgiving is principally a day of rest. Thanksgiving is a full-day event, with familial and clean-up activities often stretching late into the evening. Most of us need more than a few hours of sleep to recover, and not having to get up and drag ourselves into work the next day aids the recovery process.
I bring this up because last night, as the clock approached midnight and my wife and I completed the clean-up from our Super Bowl gathering, we both expressed regret that, in a few hours, we would be up and getting ready for work. This needs to change.
Super Bowl Sunday has, over the past several decades, become an unrecognized holiday, trailing only Thanksgiving and Christmas as a day of festivities. The day begins early, with ESPN’s Sportscenter leading things off at 9:00 A.M. Eastern – the first of the pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-game shows that will occupy our airwaves until the 6:30 P.M. kickoff. Most of the day is spent preparing for the Big Event, stealing glances at Terry Bradshaw and company while we cook and clean and make sure that everything is ready for the crowd that will begin gathering in front of our big-screen TV’s at about 5:00 P.M.
When the game begins, all extraneous activity ceases. We sit transfixed before our televisions, listening to the commentators and watching the action on the screen. It does not matter whether or not we follow the teams playing for the title (or whether we have watched even a single football game all season). Watching the Super Bowl has become part of an American tradition that rivals anything that occurs on “official” holidays. We root and we cheer, regardless of whether we know the reason why.
Having established this annual ritual, we need to recognize it for what it is: Super Bowl Sunday has become one of the most important “holidays” of the year, yet we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it as such. The day after the Super Bowl should be a day of recovery, much the same as the day after Thanksgiving. After a day of gathering, munching and worshipping (football has surpassed baseball as our national past-time, and is often treated with the same deference we accord some of our deities), we need time to regroup and refocus our energies.
We should cease pretending that anything of value happens on Super Bowl Monday. The day is filled with water cooler conversations about the game, office employees dispersing only when the boss (himself tired from the prior day’s activities) is in view.
Let us end the charade. It is time to make Super Bowl Sunday an official holiday, part of the three-day weekend that officially kicks off our year.