January 30, 2014
The Super Bowl is bearing down on us.
Like it or not. It insists its presence into our consciousness. A week of media frenzy, pop star adulation, and commercial extravaganza is well underway. Nearly an afterthought, a football game will be tucked in at the end.
It wasn’t always this way.
The first few Super Bowls were exciting. They were focused. They were about football. There was little to detract from that. There were two leagues: the American football League, and the National Football League. The season meant something. Your won-lost record was significant. The playoffs were simpler and leaner, thus carried more weight.
We live now in a dumbed down age where a team who loses as many as it wins can be in the playoffs. It is even possible to have a losing record and gain admission! Consistent play is no longer an absolute requirement. Mediocrity is rewarded, which is a reflection of the general direction of our culture. That’s a huge discussion begging to be had.
Today extravaganza in the extreme enervates us all. The general theme of the week is football, sure, but there is a clutter of backstories, subplots, and shouting-until-they’re-hoarse analysts. The hype is so excessive as to be tacit testimony that the event lacks something.
Think about it.
Do things of supreme value need to be hyped? Personally, I find more enjoyment in watching the local high school football team fight through adversity and play for the love of the game. At that level, it’s all about football. The lack of distraction is refreshing. The singular focus is energizing. Sometimes those guys seem more mature than certain strutters on the national stage.
By comparison to the retina-searing, frenetically noisy computer-generated graphics, often having to do with supercharged, animated helmets and high decibel explosions, the game is almost boring.
Most games (even less than Super Bowl level) now must have a fireworks extravaganza bigger then the Fourth of July conflagrations we had growing up. Everything is overdone, yet only an inch deep. The hype far exceeds the event.
So, media overload is here once again. Stars and starlets will try to make a bigger-than-life impression. They may or may not try to avoid wardrobe malfunctions.
There will be intricate analyses, to the point of silliness, of each team. The famous commercials beckon. (Even though we have recently learned that 80% of those commercials make no difference in the sale of the item advertised, I’m sure most will be seduced into watching this year’s crop of sometimes admittedly creative and humorous offerings.) The Super Bowl is primarily a media event, but so far they still do find time to slip the game in there before we move on to the next cultural orgy.
The questions in my mind are: Why the bloat? What is the attraction? What is missing in our lives that we need the bombastic, carnival-huckster hoopla surrounding an athletic contest? A game?
I can’t figure it all out, but it is certain that worship is at the foundation. We worship the football stars.
We worship the entertainment stars and starlets. We worship technology and media. We worship trivia. And an embarrassing number of players worship themselves. (Kudos to those who earnestly seek to live out their faith in the midst of the circus.)
If the Super Bowl is not a worship event for a huge congregation, then I cannot think of anything that is. The adulation reaches the skies. There is a lot of vicarious heroism going on. We want to be like the people we see running back-and-forth on the screen. In fact, the term “we” is often used.
“We won!” “We did it!”
Well, half the people on the field of play did.
There is the key word. It’s play! Men are paid unimaginable amounts of money to play. I agree: at that level there is a lot of work involved to be ready to play. Still, it’s a game. Yet people pray for their teams to win. We seem to lose our identity in a bunch of sweaty behemoths. We seem to stake our momentary happiness on them fulfilling our dreams. We have mistaken play for a field of mighty and courageous battle.
God Almighty may have more important things on His mind.
I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the Super Bowl is one of the biggest venues of the year, anywhere, for sex trafficking. Could there be a more disgusting, wretched attachment to this event than that?
Can you remember who played in the Super Bowl three years ago? I thought not. That’s all drowned long ago in the subsequent frenzies, and the one coming up will help bury it more deeply under the pile of cultural trivia.
So who’s playing? I think I might tune in.
Then again . . .