A $uper Super Bowl

04/10/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Stanley Bing Fortune columnist and best-selling author of business books

I just flew back from Miami, and boy, are my arms tired. But seriously. I loved the Super Bowl. The weather was great. The food was terrific. The mood was extraordinary, mostly due to the joyous, friendly, tipsy presence of the Who Dat Nation. At times it seemed like there were 100 Saints fans for every Colts fan. Maybe it was the proximity of Miami to the Big Easy. Maybe it was just the overwhelming feeling that it was time for New Orleans to have some good news. But even people from Indianapolis were saying "Who Dat?" to each other.

A word about "Who Dat?" For those who have been living in a cave in Waziristan, this is the greeting that Saints fans offer each other upon sighting of any sign of mutual fandom, like the wearing of a Fleur de Lis or the painting of one's body black and gold.

The great thing about "Who Dat?" is that if one is offered the salutation, one is absolutely, positively required to return it. It functions, in a very interesting way, like a Pavolovian response mechanism to those who are part of the gestalt. So, for instance, if you see two people wearing the colors engaged in a serious conversation about something totally and obviously peripheral, and you offer them a polite "Who Dat?"... they must respond. If you see someone tying their shoe and you walk by with a perfunctory "Who Dat?"... they must reply with an immediate "Who Dat?" It became kind of a fun parlor game, to walk up Collins Avenue and make people say "Who Dat?" or an occasional "Who Dat who say Who Dat?" like you were a doctor tapping on a patient's knee with a little rubber hammer.

It turns out that the whole "Who Dat" thing dates to the 19th Century, like much of the city that invented it. Those who are interested in the phenomenon as an anthropological phenomenon may read a very interesting article in wikipedia about it here.

The best thing about the Who Dat Nation is how nice they all are. I've been to a lot of conventions, some of them in New Orleans, but also in Houston, Miami, Dallas and of course, Vegas, and this Super Bowl was, without question, the most pleasant gathering of happy drunkards I have ever attended. Some people get annoying or mean when they've been sopping up alcohol and shrimp for three consecutive days. Not this bunch. This was simply a gathering of excited, happy people bobbling around like kids saying "Who Dat?" to each other until game time.

The game, of course, was historically excellent. It was exciting up to the very last minute, which was awesome news for the NFL, the broadcasting industry which rotates showing the spectacle each year, and most of all for Madison Avenue, which poured a lot of money into the broadcast and was awarded for its confidence by the best ratings in more than 20 years, up 10% from the year before.

While that is news, there was also the added comfort of hearing the same wonderful catchphrases encapsule this totally unique event. Here are only some of the well-polished phrases that come to mind this morning after, toasty chestnuts that may be used year after year to describe totally discrete events:

  • It was clear that both teams came to play;
  • Nobody left their A-game at home;
  • To go home victorious they had to play to win;
  • ... because, as we all know, it's a game of inches...
  • ... and the game is won and lost on the line.
  • The winning team had to mix up the playbook, move the ball down the field one down at a time, and punch through the red zone, but most of all...
  • To win, you gotta play all... four... quarters.

In the end, the Super Bowl is not just an emotional exercise or a great sports event. It's an economic phenomenon like no other, where people exchange money for products and services like no other. The size and ferocity of the financial exchange is a bit hard to fathom. Why is a beer suddenly worth $10? A tee-shirt for $33? A ticket for $6000? Is it because one is sitting in the same space with Angelina and Brad, Adam Sandler and Jennifer Lopez? Attending an event being watched by more than 100 million people at that moment?

Or is it something more mysterious still? On the way out of the stadium, scruffy guys were paying $30-$50 for tickets to the event, which was now over, these tickets therefore worth absolutely nothing to those who had purchased them. I guess, in the end, things are worth what people will pay for them. Yet one more reason to distrust economics as a science, I think.