Sanctity and Super Bowls

On one Sunday night each year, Americans becomes paralyzed with delight. Citizens of all stripes sit rapt in front of their televisions. It is certainly not the nightly news that grabs their attention.   News is superseded by “super news” in lieu of the weird blend of patriotism, aggression, and excess wealth that is the Super Bowl. Indeed, last Sunday’s matchoff between the Patriots and the Giants seemed more like an elaborate pagan ritual than a mere sporting event.

If an outsider were to look at the first five minutes of the Super Bowl’s broadcast, he or she would probably come to the conclusion that this Sunday night represents a holy occasion for Americans. From all appearances, it has become something of a sacred, civic tradition. There is the solemn singing of God Bless America and the national anthem by America’s most popular vocalists. This year, their voices were interspersed with closeups of the solemn faces of the athletes themselves and footage of the American troops in Afghanistan. It seems odd that a sporting event elicits more patriotism than a thousand State of the Union addresses combined.

Then, there’s the game itself. To break it down quite succinctly, Americans focus their attention on watching Herculean men throw a ball and ram into each other. Their actions are repeated for three and a half hours. A non-sports lover like myself tends to be struck by the fruitlessness of their behavior. Why even throw the ball if someone is simply going to tackle you? If the endless back and forth of the Super Bowl could be compared to politics, one could draw the conclusion that Congress may actually accomplish more than these football teams.

No pagan ritual is complete without spirited entertainment. That came in the form of Madonna’s unfortunate half-time show. The famous singer’s performance was bizarre in its level of over-the-topness and mixed messages. Almost as if it helped me write this article, Madonna ascended the stage dressed as a blond Cleopatra, complete with a bevy of well-sculpted young men attired as gladiators. From this homage to pagandom, she moved on to strutting her stuff as a cheerleader and ending with a strangely religious undertone and a message of world peace.

Not to be outdone, the pricy Superbowl did its fair share in providing America with conflicting themes. Some segments were merely strange, like Hyundai’s vampire advertisement. Others were disappointing, like Danika Patrick’s racy Go Daddy spots and the seductive Teleflora features. Although Americans of all ages and both genders watch the show, the ads seemed mainly to focus on the appetites of men in the form of flashy cars, beer, and scantily clad women.

Next year’s Superbowl will doubtlessly rival this years in its juxtaposition of patriotism and depravity. By the way, the Giants won.

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Sanctity and Super Bowls