April 18, 2015
Four Reasons to Watch the Super Bowl
Posted on Feb 2, 2012
By Robert Lipsyte, TomDispatch
This piece originally appeared at TomDispatch.
Most Americans won’t need a justification to watch Sunday’s game, but if you’re a TomDispatch.com reader you might think, even in passing, that celebrating the holiest day of violence, consumerism, and class warfare on your couch is a betrayal of your values or a waste of your time. You might even imagine that it would be better to take a hike, read a book, or meditate.
Not this Sunday, buster. It’s an election season. You need to watch this game to fully understand how jobs, religion, leadership, and healthcare dominate every American contest.
1. Joe Hill will be playing: Where else will be you be able to watch more than 100 young men, most of them African-American, working for high wages in a totally unionized shop? True, their jobs are dangerous (more on that later) and relatively short-term (typically three or four years), but they are also high profile. They can lead to TV gigs, even political office. Buffalo Bills quarterback Jack Kemp became a Republican congressman and vice-presidential candidate. The former New England Patriots running back and ESPN analyst Craig James is currently running for the Republican nomination for Senator from Texas, although to less than universal acclaim.
Fans tend to fixate on the money and glamour of the football job, so that when this past season was threatened by labor-management strife, it was easy for National Football League lackeys to frame the confrontation as “millionaires versus billionaires” so the rest of us thousandaires wouldn’t stand with the workers against the bosses.
Square, Site wide
Even with a progressive attitude, watching the Super Bowl, which seems to float on rivers of oil—think car ads—and beer, is not exactly like holding a OWS-style general assembly in the red zone. Nevertheless, it’s a terrific visual of the American class divide. In their skyboxes, usually in jacket and tie, eating, drinking, and high-fiving—or scowling—are the one-percenters who own the team, which is usually not their only source of income.
Below them, on the field, are their employees (many of them temporary one-percenters, given the median league salary of at least $560,000), using up the capital of their bodies. If you want to root for the Patriots or the Giants, fine. I’ll be rooting for the working class.
2. Tim Tebow will not be playing: Thank God. The season’s most hyped player—the NFL published its first magazine last month with Tebow on the cover—has the looks, personality, and backstory of the clean-living, principled, athletic role model we’ve been told we need to help raise our children. Born in the Philippines to Baptist missionaries who refused to abort him despite his mother’s illness, Tebow led the University of Florida to two national championships and became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, college football’s top individual prize. He also refused to be considered for Playboy’s annual all-American team because the magazine’s values conflicted with his Christian beliefs.
Tebow was a star attraction of the 2010 Super Bowl—in which he didn’t play. (He was still in college.) He appeared in a commercial for Focus on the Family in which he tackled his mother. The ad generated intense controversy because of the group’s stand against abortion and same sex marriage. Neither issue was explicitly mentioned in the commercial, which marked the first time CBS had broken its rule against ads from advocacy groups.
This past season, as a Denver Bronco rookie quarterback, Tebow carried his team to the division playoffs despite his shortcomings as a passer and field tactician. As the saying goes, all he could do was win. He was tough, determined, inspirational, and a fine runner. Although he was careful to note that God did not care who won, he prayed publicly so incessantly it was celebrated and mocked as Tebowing.
While his aggressive evangelism turned off some people, no one could deny his confidence and fierce competitiveness on the field, and his humility and niceness off it. Also, he was white (as are most fans, coaches, and team executives) in a predominately black sport, a declared virgin in a world where the macho, and sometimes felonious, “playas” get an inordinate amount of attention and criticism. So why was there so much gasbagging about his evangelical faith? Why was he called “polarizing”?
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