It is a fact that this is Super Bowl Week, but it is also true that it doesn’t quite feel like it. The waves of plague-related death and hardship sweeping over the land have something to do with that, much more so than the absence of the week’s traditional bleary halfhearted hype cycles and the NFL’s signature stilted Brand Experience trade show mummery. All of it is jarring, but the absence of some stuff that no one really liked much in the first place is much easier to take than the constant presence of this heavy and repetitive moment, the same failure and cynicism and atrophy every day.
Drew is right that Super Bowls, over the course of a life, mark specific moments in life in a unique way, and one that, at least for me, mostly has little to do with the football involved. There is something about knowing that you are at the center of millions of concentric circles for a few hours, you and yours within all those bigger orbits further and further out of other people doing the same thing with their people, and also with everyone else. We can’t really be together in the way that matters now, for obvious reasons that are still maddeningly denied in ways that are literally killing us, and that leaves us with the game, on a screen. Even if you’re not watching it alone, it is hard to escape the sense that all this is happening at a greater distance than usual. So it’s no surprise that when we had the great Justin Halpern on this week, we wound up talking more about all that pressure and distance than The Big Game.
This is nothing against the football stuff, as the game itself promises to be fun in the ways that high-stakes football games between good teams are fun. But there is also all that other noise, which manifests both in my own beleaguered brain and this podcast as a kind of channel-flipping restlessness. So while the Super Bowl is in there, so are discussions of Los Angeles’s haunted malls and general crushing outbreak pall, the organized dread of film and TV production during Covid-19, great moments in expense account abuse, best practices in stealing treats from work, and The Pizza Dad Lifestyle. It was a good conversation, because Justin is one of America’s funniest podcast guests, but it was also an appropriate one—a little bit of what’s actually happening, some memories of funny things that happened in the wider world that is currently out of service, some speculation about strange things that could happen in the future, and some Funbag questions at the end.
Also this episode marks the return of The Mashup, under the Special Circumstances clause in the deal between Drew and everyone else that negotiated it out of existence months ago. Some of you will doubtless be happy about this, for reasons I cannot possibly imagine. For the rest of us, though, it is helpful even as it remains aesthetically inexcusable—it’s a reminder that something special is coming. That it’s so discordant fits the moment, but it’s a useful reminder all the same.
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