On the eve of World War I, the British foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, looked out of his office window in London and famously remarked to a friend: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our time.”
We know now how he felt. We were watching the Super Bowl in the annual American moment of frenzied sports worship and suddenly an eerie half-darkness descended on the stadium. More humiliating yet, the TV producers did not have enough spare beer commercials to fill in for the action.
A great gloom descended on the stadium and the land. America stood befuddled at home around the onion dip, or sat on the couch befuddled. All anybody knew was that something deeply, psychically disturbing had taken place.
Americans longed for answers. Meanwhile, the commentators longed for a statement from the National Football League, something to confirm officially that the lights had gone out, because they only had it unofficially and therefore were left doubly in the dark.
Future generations, learning of this generation-defining moment, will seek answers, too. They will ask: What were you doing, Daddy (or Mommy), when the great Super Bowl power outage occurred?
As the author of this column (Slogan: “Mirth for No Laughing Matters”), it is my sworn pundit duty to look at events and tease out their hidden meanings.
This is my sad conclusion: The precise moment when the 34 minutes of partial super eclipse occurred will be recognized one day as the exact tick of the clock when America became a Third World country.
The subject of American decline has become more disturbing lately, with each news cycle bringing up some new act of profound stupidity — another gun tragedy here, a denial of the obvious there, a politics of bitterness and dysfunction everywhere, a creaking infrastructure ignored, a celebrity’s minor mishap made into a Greek tragedy. But none of these has brought the attention-raising debacle of 34 minutes of darkness just as the world spotlight was focused upon the gilded scene.