Ties that bind? Think Super Bowl Sunday.

So, now it’s up to the Super Bowl: Can a dozen 320-pound linemen, a few thousand tailgate parties, and 17 million barrels of sour cream dip do what Thanksgiving, the December holidays, and New Year’s Eve failed to accomplish? Can they pull this despairing, shopping-challenged, savings-starved nation up by its bootstraps and yank us from the precipice of economic meltdown?

If they do, it will be a Cinderella story up there with last season’s New York Giants. It will be the sort of last-minute, come-from-behind miracle that for an all-too-brief half-decade was the stock-in-trade of Tom Brady. Remember Tom Brady? These days he is known best as Gisele Bundchen’s gimpy paparazzi partner. That’s how much the world has changed since he was flirting with perfection — versus supermodels — as 2007 slid into 2008.

And now it’s 2009 and another Super Bowl is but seven days away. One week. That’s not a lot of time to plan your Super Bowl Extravaganza (mere Super Bowl “parties” won’t cut it this year), your own personal halftime show wardrobe malfunctions. How quickly does time pass? It was at the Super Bowl halftime show five years ago that Janet Jackson shocked the world by proving once and for all that she wasn’t Michael.

In any case, as the economy continues to stagger into the new year, next Sunday may be our last chance to give it the jumpstart it so desperately needs. It just might be our patriotic duty to race to the supermarkets and sub shops and party stores and sporting goods outlets and mass merchandisers and delis and beverage warehouses and … consume. Drink beer. Eat nachos. Swim in veritable vats of dip. In fact, to violate the rules of fine etiquette and take our chips and — Dare I say it? — double-dip. Double-dip with abandon and party like there’s no tomorrow. Fiddle while Rome burns (or, to be scrupulously accurate, fiddle while Rome has a foreclosure sign put on the lawn of one out of every six homes).

I am, of course, kidding. Sort of. The solution to the disaster that once was an inequitable but functioning economic system isn’t scarfing down cheese dip until our arteries explode or making casseroles out of frozen string beans, French fried onion rings and canned mushroom soup. The answer isn’t taking the remnants of our 401(k)s and buying all the jarred guacamole and light beer we can find at Price Chopper and Shaw’s.

But the darnedest, strangest, and most unexpected thing happened to me last January. My whole extended family had converged upon my father in South Florida for his 80th birthday party and the weekend festivities coincided with the NFC Championship game between the Giants and the Packers. The Sunday after the party, more than a dozen of us were crowded around the television set at my aunt’s Fort Lauderdale home, eating — yes — sour cream dips and chips and rooting like madmen and women for the boys in blue. It was the first time that so many of us had been together in the same place in years and I can’t remember ever having more fun in front of a television set. I hadn’t been to a football party since 1987 and last year I finally got it. I finally understood why people have Super Bowl parties. Apparently, Cheez Whiz and bean dip really do encourage companionship and connection. Evidently, watching strangers in helmets really does breed fellowship.

So, a Super Bowl party alone may not salvage the sinking ship, USS America. But there is something to be said for camaraderie. We have a lot of problems before us and we are going to have to work together to solve them. A little team-building on Super Bowl Sunday may not be a bad place to reconnect with family and friends.

Bring on the guac!

(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on January 25, 2009.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.