The Super Bowl rendered the usually crowded freeways of Phoenix, Arizona, as quiet as I-29 during a blizzard.
Even Christmas can't command such a complete shutdown of the American automobile as the Super Bowl.
Driving up and down the silent streets on Super Bowl Sunday, the license plates on parked cars showed up in clusters.
On Arroyo Avenue, we have a Super Bowl party of people from Washington State.
Next door are a bunch of North Dakotans, gathered inside around a warm television celebrating our most sacred national holiday.
On the next street sit a half-dozen pickups from Iowa, pig manure still clinging to the mud flaps.
Even some Texans take refuge in Arizona's warmth. And next door, a party of rural northern Californians gained boisterous steam after the game was settled and the final commercial ran.
The highlight of the broadcast for the nomadic agrarians came when the booming voice of the late Paul Harvey echoed through the decades in a tribute to farmers sponsored by Dodge trucks.
Although the game itself was no slouch, it is a peculiarity of the Super Bowl national holiday that most people tune in for the commercials.
The question after game is rarely, “what might have happened if Jim Harbaugh had pulled his right-hander in the eighth inning?” as it might be after a World Series.
No, the question is “Which was your favorite commercial?” or, for the inveterately competitive: “Who had the best commercial?”
The consensus among farm people formed quickly: Dodge Ram's decision to combine the golden vocal pipes of the late Paul Harvey with gauzy images of idealized farm scenes won the day.
Ah, Paul Harvey. Characterized as a “conservative radio commentator” by those in the business, Harvey came from a time when minimal standards of decency and dignity still applied in the news entertainment business.
“Conservative commentator” meant something different in Harvey's day.
He didn't much like hippies, and he didn't like President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, but Paul Harvey didn't scream in rage, bang on the table, march on Washington DC, or try to foment revolution.
Instead, Paul Harvey's voice was the calm sound of a dear old midwestern Dad who confidently hoped that the country would someday come to its senses and get a job and a haircut.
His conventional, middle-America opinions were clear, but Paul Harvey's real trademark was not his politics, but his reassuring, resonant voice, his pauses, his idiosyncratic phrasing, as well as his shameless willingness to weave his sponsors into his commentary as if their miraculous products were the real news.
Listen, folks, my oh my, goodness sakes alive, if you haven't tried the rich whole wheat goodness of Shredded Wheat, you are missing out on… the breakfast experience of a… lifetime!
And, by the way, unemployment figures are in and more people are working. I said: more…people…are…working.
For a Future Farmers of America convention at which he spoke in 1978, the grandiloquent Paul Harvey delivered a little homily entitled, “So God Created a Farmer.”
The thesis of Harvey's homily neatly fit the myth to which we in farm country still subscribe.
On the Eighth Day, after creating the firmament and taking a Sunday nap, God created the sturdy folks who get up before dawn and milk cows so the rest of us will have something to pour on our Shredded Wheat Monday morning.
Yes, on the eighth day God created the farmer.
Fountains of virtue all, farmers only take a break from feeding their donkeys to attend church, bring pies to the fair, save an injured bird or shoot a gol-darn coyote who's pesterin the chickens.
It was an act of genius for Dodge to appropriate a great American storyteller to foist our farming myth on the decadent American masses watching the Superbowl.
The majority of the people watching the ad must have wondered if any of those farmers had time to watch the Superbowl, given the probability that a cow needed hernia surgery out on the back 40 at that very moment.
Some Americans might have felt pangs of guilt for sitting on their duffs watching Beyonce while virtuous farmers lugged bushels of grain to the Shredded Wheat factory so America could have breakfast tomorrow morning.
We won't let them in on the reality.
It is more likely that an America's farmer sold his or her soybeans to the Japanese last October, jumped in their Dodge pickup and went to Arizona.
Cows? They get milked in factories. Wheat? Went out on the unit train in December.
Forget getting up before dawn, we have to get up in time to pick up chips, salsa and beer and get over to the Nelsons in Mesa before kick-off. ¥¥