Superbowl or Superb Owl? It’s a Twin Peaks Kind of Day for Me

On Sunday, I watched the Superbowl like everyone else. I enjoy the sense of tradition, the camaraderie of sharing this experience with all of America, and I can’t get enough seven-layer bean dip. Growing up in the south, football was like a second religion. My parents dressed me up in team colors, colored my face with war paint, and dragged me to the game. In high school, I sat in the stands with the marching band and wondered why no one ever cheered for us quite like they did for the pigskin players. Football is part of Americana, and football players are held up as true-blue heroes – modern day gladiators. The obsession over football begins in high school. Football gives a school (and a community) a chance to come together and show pride in their town.  You cheer the wins and mourn the losses. And a small town like Twin Peaks is no exception.

The two football heroes in Twin Peaks are Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) and Mike “Snake” Nelson (Gary Hershberger). Bobby is captain of the high school football team who dates the homecoming queen, Laura Palmer. Mike is his teammate and best friend, who dates Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle). On the surface, these two boys are the heroes of Twin Peaks. But Mike’s nickname, “Snake,” should give you a clue that these guys are not the heroes that they seem.

Even more interesting, during the last USC panel, Mark Frost confirmed that Bobby and Mike are both doppelgängers of the one-armed man, Mike, and the evil-spirit, Bob. Doppelgängers are shadow, ghostly counterparts of living people. In the Twin Peaks universe, they figure prominently in the mythology. Every person has an evil shadow self who resides in the Black Lodge. A mirror is constantly used as a symbol of the double self. The opening scene of the Pilot (“Northwest Passage”) reveals Josie Packard (Joan Chen) gazing at herself in a mirror. Even the last image of the series involves a mirror and a doppelgänger. There are doubles everywhere. And, heck, the show is called “Twin Peaks” for goodness sake.

Beneath the surface of the small-town football heroes, shades of something more sinister are lurking. Bobby and Mike are involved in serious drug dealing with Leo Johnson (Eric Da Re). Who can forget the scene in episode 1.3 (“Zen or the Skill to Catch a Killer”) when Leo holds Bobby and Mike at gunpoint and then throws the football pass of a lifetime at them as they scurry away? Bobby and Mike also plan to attack James Hurley (James Marshall) after they discover he was dating Laura and is now seeing Donna Hayward. Football, drugs and drama. It certainly reminds me of high school.

Perhaps this reflects Mark Frost’s own ambivalence toward the culture of football. I follow Mark Frost on Twitter (@mfrost11), and he tweets about sports quite a bit. On Sunday, Frost tweeted that he loved football and had played it himself, but that he would not let his son play football because of the high rate of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), a degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive injuries to the head. On his twitter account he wrote, the “National Institutes of Health autopsied brains of 34 deceased NFL players: 33 were diagnosed with CTE. #notsofunfootballfact.” Football is dangerous. It’s violent. And, we love it.

So, why does this high school love of football stay with us all our lives? I recently read a New York Magazine article titled, “Why you truly never leave high school.” Read it here. According to the article, there is evidence that we are able to recall the memories of our adolescence years more than any other time period in our lives.

And so we go from small town high school football to the biggest game of the year, the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday is exciting and I enjoyed the game, but I kept thinking about how, if you move the letter “b” to “Super,” you get the phrase “Superb Owl.” I was not the Twin Peaks fan who coined the phrase “Superb Owl,” but it seems fitting to think of owls with the upcoming USC Twin Peaks Retrospective this Saturday, Feb. 10! Speaking of owls – last week’s Twin Peaks panel confirmed that the shadow crossing the red curtains in the iconic Red Room scene in episode 1.3 (“Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer”) was intended to be an owl.

During the less riveting moments of the Superbowl, I imagined owls fluttering across the giant TV screen. When the Superdome lost power, I pretended to be immersed in the blackout at the Miss Twin Peaks Contest during season 2. Was Windom Earle going to kidnap Beyoncé and whisk her away to the Black Lodge? Were the owls watching? Was this football game ever going to end?

The Superbowl is over, but the Superb Owl is watching, so stay tuned for next week’s blog about the Feb. 10 USC panel, which includes Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Robert Engels, Jill Rogosheske Engels, Gary Hershberger, Peggy Lipton, Johanna Ray, and Charlotte Stewart.


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