A Bowlful of Super Bowl Reality

It seems as if every advanced civilization has had the spectacle of sport as part of common society. The Romans had the Colosseum, where gladiators fought to their death. The Greeks were the originators of the Olympics. Here in America, we have football. The gridiron. The Sunday Gospel. Football, American football, is our sport. It is our game.

Every year, the American populace is treated to an amazing feat of human athleticism, brute force, and strength. The National Football League has had the distinct pleasure of hosting 47 Super Bowls and is now on its way to playing host to its 48th. By the time you would read this article, the actual game would have already passed.

I love the sport. I don’t follow football. I am more of a basketball fan and much prefer college football to the professional league. As beautiful as the game is, there are aspects of it that not many people consider.

Football seems to have the ability to unite but also to polarize. Rivalries have been forged on the field, rivalries that not only epitomize the spirit of the game between competing teams, but also  draw fans alike into momentary hatred of each other. That’s the essence of being a fan and rooting for your team while doing whatever you can to harass the other. The sport has the ability to create wondrous social function Sunday after Sunday.

As much as football is an opportunity for people to socialize, to cheer, to take a momentary escape from reality, that seems to be the biggest problem. It has become one of the grandest of distractions. The actual spirit of the game has been defiled.

I don’t know whether the National Football League is complicit in it, whether their marketers and their business plan calls for such, but the utter disregard for reality in the world because of this game is absolutely appalling. The game has been the topic of water cooler talk, of endless phone calls, sports sections on the news etc. The game draws so many viewers that ESPN literally becomes NFL Network No. 2.

One of the things people fail to realize is that the game has been rampantly commercialized. Companies spend millions, even billions of dollars to advertise, to make eye candy commercials that highlight the spirit of commercialism. These companies have the money to spend on advertising, yet can only pay their low-level employees minimum wage? Nobody seems to be making any mention of this.

A recent article highlighted how the Super Bowl was a hotspot for human sex trafficking. This has shown up in alternative news media for quite a long time. This seems to be quite the problem, yet nobody seems to take notice. The lack of respect for basic human rights is scary.

The Super Bowl is also an opportunity for the federal government to flex its proverbial muscle. Security is always an issue at such high profile events, yes, but do fans need to be subjected to TSA pat-downs as well as naked body scanners? There have also been reports of the deployment of hidden snipers in and around the stadium. When did the game become such a terrorist threat?

Most importantly, when did the game become more important than other pressing issues? Ben Bernanke’s exit from the Federal Reserve with a 391 percent increased balance sheet? Christian persecution in the Middle East? Half of the American population living paycheck to paycheck? President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address where he said he would work without Congress, violating the separation of powers? This is only a small fraction of the problems in the world, yet they seem to be less pressing than watching sport.

The game has been defiled. It has been used as a marketing ploy. It has been used as an opportunity to continue to rampantly push our spiraling consumerist culture. It has been used as a distraction to the more pressing issues of our day. When I think of the Super Bowl, what comes to mind is my dad. When I was a kid playing pee-wee basketball, he always reminded me that regardless of everything, basketball was just a game. The Super Bowl is great spectacle indeed, but let us not use it as an excuse to forget the more important things in life. Did I watch the game? Most likely not. Highlights? Probably.


David Vu is a fourth-year public health policy major. He can be reached at davidnv@uci.edu.