Just as in the case of the Roman gladiatorial games, where images of the gods were always paraded into the arena, in this ritualistic ceremony we pay homage to our own favorite deities, those devoted to nationalism, self-indulgence and the glorification of violence.
Chief among these is the money god Mammon. With a projected number 112 million viewers worldwide, and with Superbowl parties everywhere--celebrated with multiple cases of beer and the consumption of more food than on any US holiday except Thanksgiving--it represents an orgy of American consumerism. And for those obsessed enough to actually attend the game, the current average price for this year’s tickets is nearly $6,500, the highest ever. According to Allen St. John, author of the best seller “The Billion Dollar Game: Behind the Scenes at the Biggest Day in American Sport, Super Bowl Sunday,” somewhere between 250 and 400 million dollars is pumped into the local economy, and “in total, the big game’s economic footprint is estimated to be larger than the GDP of 25 nations.”
The game itself is designed to provide for an optimal number of commercials, some 45 minutes worth in all, and for which sponsors will dole out over $130,000 per second of of air time. Yes, that’s per second, with each half-minute spot going for a cool $4 million.
Then there are the ever present gods and goddesses like Eros, Aphrodite and Venus. Our national obsession with sex blends seamlessly with our addiction to highly competitive and aggressive sports. Not surprisingly, this year’s half-time entertainment features Katy Perry, not exactly the role model you would choose for your daughters and granddaughters. But even more troubling, according to Jerome Elam, in a January 17, 2012 , Washington Times piece, the annual Super Bowl weekend is considered to be the largest sex trafficking event in the United States, if not in the world. In dimly lit rooms, he says, pimps and johns will buy and sell child and teen prostitutes as part of this reprehensible crime. According to some reports, the 2010 Super Bowl brought an estimated 10,000 prostitutes to Miami, and in 2011, there were 133 prostitution-related arrests in Dallas.
Not only is there this kind of potential for harm, but this massive investment of energy, time and resources seems like such an exorbitant waste. And for what?
Football, which should be just a game engaged in for fun, has evolved into an organized way of having grown men brutalize each other in front of large crowds for the sake of obscene profits. In the process, far too many of these overpaid but under protected players, not totally unlike gladiators of old, end up paying a terrible toll in brain injuries and other health related costs, and even in premature deaths.
Not that play is a bad thing, and spending some time watching skilled athletes perform can be legitimate entertainment. But this is far too grim an exercise to be considered recreational, and we’d be far better off actually participating in some athletic activities ourselves rather than being glued to commercialized entertainment while munching on chips and guacamole.
Having aired my complaints, I must confess that I have enough obsessions and vices of my own that should keep me from pointing even one self-righteous finger in anyone else's direction, but I do sometimes just feel the need to just get this off my chest.
There, I feel better already.
Here's last year's post on the subject: Annual Celebration Promoting 'Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy'
As always, your feedback is welcome.