February 1, 2009
We at the ATM blog tirelessly searched the Smithsonian collections and turned up a sweet treat for our readers. Check out Terry Bradshaw’s uniform at left. (As quarterback in the 1970s, Bradshaw drove the Pittsburgh Steelers to an unprecedented four Super Bowl Championships. His uniform resides, but currently isn’t on view, at the National Museum of American History).
Ah, the mighty Steelers with 14 wins and 4 losses this season stand poised to make pig iron of the Arizona Cardinals (12 wins, 7 losses) on Sunday. The contest should freeze out those of us whose teams fell by the wayside (poor Ravens) (Ed. — Cry me a river. Go Skins!), but somehow, perhaps just to have fun at the party, we manage to find a team to cheer. I’m likely a Steelers fan; my mother’s people actually made the steel in Pennsylvania, even though my midwestern-based father recalls the era when the Cardinals played in Chicago.
We checked in with the director of American History Brent Glass for a careful read on this phenomenon. Having lived 15 years in Pennsylvania, the New York-born Glass will cheer for the Steelers.
“The Super Bowl itself,” he says, “has become almost a secular national holiday with prodigious amounts of guacamole, beer, and chips being consumed and enormous amounts of media coverage before, during, and after the game. Everything is magnified—the half-time show, the commercials, the statistics—and everyone has an opinion.”
Glass, who prefers basketball to football, probably isn’t as lost as I am watching a football game (baseball is my sport). But football is our culture and as an American, I’ve got to play along. Glass agrees that football is uniquely American. “I must admit,” says Glass, “that football has become the most popular spectator sport in America, especially since the advent of televised sports in the 1950s”
All sports, he adds, “are a mirror of our society.”
“We can link major trends or turning points in American history to an event or an athlete. Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King and yes, Terry Bradshaw all reflect individual excellence as well as larger social, political, and cultural issues of their times.”
Well, here’s a parting thought. What about the half-time show? Isn’t it time the Boss sent one of his guitars to the Smithsonian?
Bruce, if you need my help making the right connections. Call me! I’m a huge fan!
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.