A wise man -- probably Plato; possibly the guy who came up with the beer cozy -- once noted that necessity is the mother of invention. Which brings us to the day after the Super Bowl.
And, of course, the Indianapolis school system.
Five years ago, the Indianapolis Colts were playing in the NFL's championship game, our annual mid-winter celebration of unashamed gluttony, unabashed consumerism and ritualized avocado slaughter. Plus football. Anyway, the morning following the game presented a problem: Some of the city's school bus drivers called in sick. Actually, a whole bunch of them did, so many that the entire school system had to cancel classes, leaving students and parents in the lurch. As such, when the Colts again reached the Super Bowl three years later, both public and private education officials took bold, decisive action. Did the right thing. The only sensible thing, really.
They delayed the start of classes by two hours -- and in doing so, came one step closer to creating an entire day off.
America should finish the job.
Fact: Super Bowl Sunday is the country's best-known, best-loved, most widely observed unofficial national holiday. (Sorry, Halloween, but little kids and sexy pirates do not a broad demographic swath make. Even though sexy pirates are awesome). Also fact: The Monday following the big game should be an official national holiday. A honest-to-goodness, guilt-free and -- this last part is kind of important -- paid day of leisure. And not just for schoolchildren. For everyone. Public and private employees. Wall Street and Main Street. Even the President. It's the right thing to do. The patriotic thing to do. After all, we're already one nation under Roger Goodell, with friendly, non-threatening in-game player portraits and halftime entertainment for all. Unconvinced? Consider: More Americans watched the 2008 New England-New York contest than voted in that year's presidential election, which means those iconic Shepard Fairey posters of Barack Obama were almost as inspiring as an Eli Manning Fathead.
Look, Super Bowl Sunday means partying. Glorious excess. It's the Fourth of July without the fireworks, New Year's Eve without the romantic desperation, Thanksgiving without the tryptophan and unsettling family quarrels. It means stuffing our faces, guzzling booze, watching way too much television and driving home way too early, the better to drag our frazzled, overtired selves to the office the next morning. And for what? To talk about the big-budget commercials and argue about the big-time plays and wash down ibuprofen with coffee and generally carry on the greatest charade of Kabuki-shaming, go-through-the-motions fake working this side of the accountability-free dead week between Christmas and New Year's?
No. No. A thousand times no. We can do better. Be honest with ourselves. Give our hyper-productive workforce a much-needed, well-deserved break, an opportunity to stay up late and sleep in later, ensuring that Rob Gronkowski does not have all the postgame fun. We can make things official and create a holiday, commemorating our love of football the same way we've commemorated our fiery passion for organized labor and the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln coincidentally falling in the same month as Groundhog Day. In fact, I already have a lofty, self-important, Congress-pleasing name for our newest excuse to sell mattresses at a steep discount: National Restoration and Recovery Day.
Or, as greeting card companies will undoubtedly call it, Hangover Monday.
"It could totally work as a holiday," says Sandra Miller-Louden, a freelance greeting card writer and coach. "After Christmas and New Year's, what's the next big thing that everyone participates in? Valentine's Day? St. Patrick's Day parades? Easter? The next big bash is Fourth of July. It's a viable occasion."
Miller-Louden is from Ohio. Years ago, she met with Bernie Kosar. The former Cleveland Browns quarterback was trying to start a football greeting card company. Samples were printed. Birthdays with a pigskin theme. The concept failed to take off. Still, Miller-Louden believes the day after the Super Bowl could succeed, becoming downright card-worthy.
"I'm picturing a card with goalposts with streamers hanging over them," she says. "No words on the outside. The person has to pick up the card to see what's inside, where it's like, 'congrats, you're not the only one hung over today!'"
Exactly. Hangover Monday. A holiday of, for and by the people. Indeed, the people part is essential: while it often seems like Hallmark and other card manufacturers have the power to create new holidays -- read: Nurses Day, Grandparents Day, Sweetest Day -- out of whole cloth, the truth is that the company less a drum major than a bandwagon jumper. "We don't lead the charge," says Hallmark spokesperson Kristi Ernsting. "We just try to stay in step with what people are doing, responding to consumer demand." Demand is key. In America, holidays don't fall from the sky. They're adopted because the public asks for them. Because people don't simply take the office closing at 4:30 for an answer.
A primer on how things work: By law, the President can declare a public holiday and ask the nation to observe it appropriately. But businesses and citizens are free to ignore the suggestion, same as they're free to ignore Oval Office Final Four picks. (Choke-eriffic Kansas for two straight years? Really?) So just having the commander-in-chief endorse Hangover Monday -- excuse me, National Restoration and Recovery Day -- won't be enough. Congress can create federal holidays, but state and local governments aren't required to observe them; likewise, states can create their own holidays that don't bind federal employees. Private employers aren't required to observe holidays at all, though many close on days such as Memorial Day and Christmas.
As such, the road from another day, another dollar to !Yo Soy Fiesta! is long and arduous. Take Thanksgiving. Originally started as an informal Pilgrim celebration. Washington -- the man, not the city -- issued a "feast day" proclamation in November of 1789. Subsequent presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson declined to issue similar proclamations, citing the separation of church and state. Many individual states celebrated Thanksgiving, but did so on different days. It wasn't until 1863 that Lincoln -- the man, not the town car -- standardized the holiday with a proclamation of his own, and that only came after a determined, 20-year letter-writing campaign to federal and state lawmakers by fashion magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale.
The lesson? In the here and now, Hangover Monday more than amorphous popular approval. It needs a dedicated, K Street-style lobbying campaign, both in statehouses and on Capitol Hill. Top-down and bottom-up. Republican consultant David Johnson worked on Bob Dole's 1988 presidential campaign. He's been involved in numerous races across the country. The first step toward legitimizing Hangover Monday, he says, is finding an appropriate public advocate. A figurehead for the cause. Someone the public respects. A leader the business, political and media words all take seriously. "A Warren Buffett, not a Donald Trump," Johnson says. "When this idea comes out, it's going to be the butt of late-night comedians' jokes. But if you have someone with gravitas putting their name on this, it can have legs after the laughter stops."
Tim Tebow, come on down! And bring Oprah and Clint Eastwood while you're at it.
Next comes Congress and state legislatures. Which means getting perpetually feuding Republicans and Democrats on board. Which in turn means framing the holiday in a way that neither party can afford to oppose it, nor score short-term political points by making the other side look like: (a) overreaching jerks; (b) obstructionist yahoos. Hmmm. Tough task. What do the two sides agree on, besides corporate campaign contributions? Jobs. Everyone likes jobs. So try this: put Tebow, Oprah and Eastwood in front of a red, white and blue bunting-lined Hallmark production center in Topeka, Kansas. Cue the stump speech: A National Restoration and Recovery Day will create American jobs, right here in America's heartland!
"Actually, it's hard to say if a new holiday would create jobs," says Ernsting, the Hallmark spokesperson. "We produce over 20,000 kinds of greeting cards and have a lot of capacity. If it was just Super Bowl Monday cards, we’d probably just work it into our normal production."
Oh. OK. Let's try a different tack: Hangover Monday can be a shopping day, akin to a mini-Black Friday. A midwinter boost for our consumer spending-driven economy. China used to have a May Day. The country now has a May week, the better to encourage citizens to spend money. "Didn't [President] George W. Bush say that what we could do for our country after 9-11 was to go shop?" says Johnson. "You could argue that this is a way to support private enterprise and have an economic stimulus without giving Wall Street a bailout. At the same time, you could also make the case that a new national holiday is one less day of red tape and federal bureaucracy, that every day Washington is shut down is a good day for America. For Republicans, this is a twofer."
And for Democrats? Simple. Forget jobs. Think votes. What politician wants to be seen as anti-football? "Look at who the NFL's main audience is," Johnson says. "White males. Ages 20 to 50. Predominantly white. Now, who are Democrats having the hardest time appealing to? What better way to appeal to that demographic than supporting this holiday?"
Two years ago, author Timothy Lavin proposed a Super Bowl Monday holiday in The Atlantic. He also suggested that the day be devoted to amateur athletics -- "volunteering to help Special Olympics kids, playing in community basketball and flag-football tournaments, and competing in charitable 5ks and triathlons." Right concept. Wrong execution. For one, excessive beer and cheese dip consumption is more likely to fuel global warming via natural methane gas emissions than a winning time in a next-day triathlon; more to the point ... flag football? Seriously? That said, Lavin was on to something: Popular movements need intellectual rationales. Justification that sounds as though it came from a think tank. Cutting taxes on billionaires? Sounds like the little guy is getting shafted. But Lafferian supply-side economics? Sounds fancy. Smart. Plausible. And that makes all the difference.
From a liberal perspective, Hangover Monday is a matter of simple economic fairness. A gift to the 99 Percent. According to a 2007 study by the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, the United States is the only advanced economy in the entire world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation or holiday time. As a result, 1 in 4 American private sector employees don’t receive a single paid off day; moreover, the average number of paid vacation and holidays provided to private sector employees, 15, wouldn’t even meet the minimum number of days required by law in 19 other wealthy nations. "It's a reflection of having an unequal country that is not particularly friendly to workers," says economist John Schmitt, who co-authored the study. "There are 20-25 other countries in the world with approximately the same standard of living, and they manage to provide workers with a baseline that is far above what we have."
Schmitt adds that while a paucity of paid vacation theoretically saves corporate America money, it also carries hidden costs. Think sick days. Harried, unhappy employees. People dragging through the workweek. "Look at the widespread anxiety we have, the time bind people find themselves in," he says. "As wages have stagnated over the last 30 years and incomes have decelerated, families have increased the hours they work, typically by having more women in the workforce. They used to be doing a lot of unpaid work on the house, childcare, elder care, food preparation. Well, all those things still need to be done. That creates a huge time bind. A new holiday could help with productivity being higher when workers are on the job. And with retention. There is potentially a big payoff."
All of the above might rankle conservatives -- in part because mandatory holidays come from the heavy hand of the no-good government; in part because more time off would make the United States look more like -- gasp! -- Europe. Well, unless we reframe the issue. Unless we make Hangover Monday a matter of red-blooded, all-American competition, akin to the Apollo program and the Olympics. In the great holiday race, we trail Europe. Even France is kicking our butts! Voila! Problem solved. Nobody likes losing to France. Moreover, Super Bowl Monday is a concept that certain powerful industries can get behind. Like retailers. Food and beverage associations. Automakers. "Who advertises heavily during the Super Bowl?" Johnson says. "The auto industry. Mondays are traditionally their worst days for sales. What better way to boost that?"
Then there's tourism. Three-day weekends mean travel. Family visits. Flights and hotel rooms. Escapes to somewhere warm. Three years ago, Rep. Alan Grayson (above) introduced the Paid Vacation Act, a bill that would mandate up to two weeks of paid vacation. Grayson's Congressional district happens to include Orlando, the country's theme-park capital. This is not a coincidence. Currently, Eli Manning is named Super Bowl MVP and goes to Disney World the next day; in a Hangover Monday future, the big game's most valuable player shows up to find the rest of us already there. Spending money. So count the Disney corporation among the holiday's likely proponents.
And count Las Vegas casinos, too, since a long weekend would only extend what already stands as one of Sin City's biggest cash cows. The latter support matters: If casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson can single-handedly keep Newt Gingrich's presidential bid alive through massive Super PAC cash infusions, just imagine what he could do for the Hangover Monday lobbying effort. "To get this passed, you're probably talking $20-40 million when all is said and done," Johnson says. "Maybe more. You can use the Internet and social networking to raise money, but a Vegas billionaire would definitely help."
Of course, the mere suggestion of a new holiday is bound to meet resistance and inspire counterarguments: America has too many holidays as is. (Already debunked). Football isn’t important enough. (Ahem. Remember those ballot box versus television ratings numbers? And besides: Arbor Day). A day of unfettered leisure will hurt the nation’s productivity. There's more to life than productivity. Like, for example, living. A 2006 German study found that in provinces with more public holidays, social ties were stronger during normal weekdays and weekends. In essence, extra time off brought people together. And isn’t a little unity exactly what our polarized nation needs? More to the point, American productivity already takes a Super Bowl-related hit: one study estimates that as many as 1.5 million people skip work on the day after the game, while an additional 4.4 million show up late.
Those figures don't surprise Lonnie Giamela, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who specializes in labor and employment. "Outside of the days after a holiday, the most abused workplace attendance days are the days after someone’s birthday or the Super Bowl," he says. "That's been my experience as well. You hear the excuses. Traffic jams. Early morning PTA meetings. I had to take my dog to the vet. I forgot to set my alarm clock. It happens all the time."
And once people straggle into the office, they're hardly model worker bees. In one study of pre-Super Bowl work habits, roughly 60 percent of respondents said they spent at least 30 minutes taking about and betting on the game. "All that comes to fruition on Monday," Giamela says. "Look at how people are affected the day after Christmas. In studies and discussions with my clients, there’s a lack of productivity. The Super Bowl is the same way. Everyone comes in talking about the commercials, about Tom Brady and Eli Manning. And I'm sure the city with the losing team will have a bunch of people whose attitude is not ideal come Monday morning."
Understand: Giamela isn't exactly a labor advocate. He typically represents employers. Still, he's sympathetic to the idea of Hangover Monday. He has been there himself. A few years ago, he went to Vegas to watch the Super Bowl with friends and then caught a 5:30 a.m. flight back to Los Angeles the next morning. He was in his office by 9:00. "I was as productive as I could be," he says. "But it was just like someone would feel after taking a long redeye flight and going straight to work."
"The grande chai tea latte was a venti that day."
America, we can do better. It's our patriotic duty. When the NFL considered an expanded 18-game regular season, the league also pondered moving the Super Bowl to Presidents' Day weekend. But why cannibalize an existing holiday? February is an absolute drag, January sans the new car smell, a cold, dreary month that needs all the help it can get. Starting with a National Recovery and Restoration Day. Hangover Monday. The time has come. It's long overdue. Football fans of the world, unite. We have nothing to lose but our venti cups. And the terrible, insistent blare of our alarm clocks.
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