Somehow I didn’t get the sports gene — making me a rather atypical American male who doesn’t give a crap about the Super Bowl.
I’d rather read, listen to music, or go bird-watching for some superb owls than watch a bunch of testosterone-laden athletes give each other Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in order to offer an opportunity for America’s richest advertisers to hawk their wares in between plays.
I know that as a hetero male with no interest in sports, I am in the extreme minority in this country, and many people would find it difficult to relate to me accordingly.
I certainly know that the position I am about to espouse will not be a popular one.
I will state it proudly anyway:
The Super Bowl represents everything that’s wrong with American culture and with American politics in particular.
American football, like any team sport, is based on a divisive, us-vs.-them mentality that pits two groups and their supporters in opposition.
And unlike the sport referred to as football in the rest of the world (it’s called soccer here), no ties or draws are allowed, meaning that only one possible victor is possible in the competition.
In that regard, it’s pretty much exactly like politics — although we rarely witness losers of crucial games go on extended rants claiming that the game was “rigged” and refusing to accept the results.
It’s a sport of winners and losers, mirroring the outcomes of our capitalist economy on its participants.
While many an imagining of utopia envisions a cooperative, competition-free society where everyone looks after their neighbors and values their well-being as much as their own, the reality of human selfishness and the complex tribalism of our planet’s inhabitants means conflict is inevitable.
Does this mean that passionate obsession with team sports must be as well?
The divisiveness and violence inherent in the Super Bowl are indeed representative of some of the worst aspects of American culture, but the commercialization of the event is equally emblematic of our society.
Only the most lucrative enterprises can afford to pony up for a Super Bowl ad, reflecting the economic inequality between wealthy and poverty-stricken families.
Moreover, the ads that these flush corporations run reinforce the notion that money can buy happiness and success.
And how many players, coaches, and fans will invoke their deity today, praying for victory or cursing their misfortune, in a transactional form of spirituality devoid of the golden rule?
Another thing: while politics may be just as competitive a team sport as football, at least the Democrats and Republicans have added a few females to their teams, unlike the NFL.
With the fracturing of the media landscape brought on by the nearly infinite choices now available on the internet, the Super Bowl is one of the last live media events that can attract the type of mass viewing audience that regularly helped shape a common culture back in the days when viewing was restricted to three major TV networks.
It’s a shame that the only nearly universally-viewed programming that exists today is a violent exhibition of conflict, aggression, and extreme jingoism.
If only the one TV broadcast that attracts the biggest audience encouraged cooperation, instead of competition.
Still, it’s foolish not to expect the Super Bowl to reflect the reality of American culture.
But one can dream, can’t they
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Editor’s note: This is an opinion column that solely reflects the opinions of the author.