Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why I'm Sick of Superbowl Insanity

At the risk of offending almost everyone, allow me to be blunt. I’m fed up with all of the hype associated with Superbowl Sunday. It’s become a marriage of some of the worst of our national idolatries, a national holiday ritual that feels increasingly insane and obscene.

In the case of Roman gladiatorial contests, images of the gods were always paraded into the arena. In today’s annual nationalistic religious observance, we likewise pay homage to our favorite deities, such as those devoted to nationalism, self-indulgence and the glorification of violence.

Chief among these is the money god Mammon. With over 100 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. As expected, sales of large, flat screen TV’s for home viewers have been phenomenal. And for those obsessed enough to actually attend the game, the average price for this year’s tickets is just under $4000, the highest ever in spite of economically distressed times.

This yearly event appears to be recession-proof. 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 $100,000 per second of air time. Yes, that’s per second, with each half-minute spot going for a cool $3.5 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 Madonna, an icon symbolic of some of the worst of our culture’s deplorable moral values. 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.

To his credit, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has successfully influenced lawmakers in his state to toughen human trafficking laws in anticipation of an influx of hundreds of young women brought in from everywhere for this weekend.

Not only is there this kind of potential for harm, all of this massive investment of energy, time and resources is, in my opinion, 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 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, of course, 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 just watching commercialized entertainment while munching on potato 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 did feel the need to just get this off my chest.

I feel better already.

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