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Four Reasons to Watch the Super Bowl

Posted on Feb 2, 2012
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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 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.


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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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By bpawk, February 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment

If only people would apply this much energy and fussing into their own lives and how they future will be for themselves and children instead of mindless energy into rich ball players who don’t give a hoot about them, the world would be a better place.

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By brigitta, February 5, 2012 at 5:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In response to Flickford: I am a working class person and I have little or no interest in football. Some conservatives like to throw all working class people into this category of beer-drinking sports fan. While my bosses will be watching, my co-workers and I probably will not.

Some conservatives also like to dismiss as ‘politically correct’ anything that points out the apparent classism and racism in our culture. ‘Politically correct’ language/behavior usually refers to that which is phrased or done in a way that avoids offending certain groups. The writer of the article has obviously not been successful in this regard. I also find little that is boastful or morally superior about the tone of the article. He seems to point out some troubling realities football players face.

I do wonder if your accusation and dismissing of the article as ‘politically correct’- as lacking something genuine - is not an attempt to gain the moral high ground with a supposed anti-elitist straight talk. Is your post a vainglorious attempt at moral superiority?

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By Annie Meo, February 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

CTE, (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), according to some articles I have seen,
may start with repetitive brain trauma connected to insults to a child’s brain when
playing organized football as young as 5 years old. Those insults continue and
become more damaging as the children grow and get into more aggressive “play”.
By the time they are finished playing college football those players who play
positions which cause them to have repetitive head injuries are at high risk for
CTE, as are boxers. At this time, so far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no
care provided by the football leagues to provide funding for treatment, and
retraining for these injured athletes.
If more people were aware of this devastating consequence of these dangerous
“sports”, perhaps boxing and football and other “games” that cause CTE would be
less popular.

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By Flickford, February 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment

Progressives seem to like to stand up for working people and yet vilify what they
love - sports, nascar, etc. How disgustingly patronizing and elitist can you get?
Despite having to endure the over-hyped commercialization of the whole sport,
the pervasive military presence - I love watching my favorite football team the New
York Giants play. To me it’s not even a guilty pleasure, it’s just a great pleasure.
It’s probably my last connection to the Great American Scheme but I can’t help it. I
played football in high school and I got a lot more out of it than just having an
outlet for pent-up youthful male violence. It’s silly to have to put the whole crazy
spectacle into a politically correct frame to be able to enjoy the game, it’s a vain-
glorious exercise in moral superiority.

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By paternophile, February 2, 2012 at 8:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The hands-down stupidest article ever published on this site. Why isn’t this on Sports Illustrated instead? Oh yeh, even they wouldn’t try to excuse Joe Paterno and his pet pedophile as this pathetic article tries to do.

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By greg_2, February 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm Link to this comment

Joe Hill?

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead,”
“I never died,” says he.
“I never died,” says he.

“In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,
Him standing by my bed,
“They framed you on a murder charge,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead.”

“The copper bosses killed you, Joe,
They shot you, Joe,” says I.
“Takes more than guns to kill a man,”
Says Joe, “I didn’t die,”
Says Joe, “I didn’t die.”

And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Says Joe, “What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize,
Went on to organize.”

“Joe Hill ain’t dead,” he says to me,
“Joe Hill ain’t never died.
Where working men are out on strike
Joe Hill is at their side,
Joe Hill is at their side.”

From San Diego up to Maine,
In every mine and mill -
Where working men defend their rights
It’s there you’ll find Joe Hill.
It’s there you’ll find Joe Hill.

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”,
“I never died,” says he.
“I never died,” says he.

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By SharonMI, February 2, 2012 at 11:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This article reminded me how curious I was when the TWENTY-EIGHT year old hockey enforcer Derek Boogaard died last May from an overdose of painkillers and alchohol…did he have CTE or not? I looked for months with no news. Well, results are in as of Dec…yep.

I hope these guys haven’t died in vain.

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By SharonMI, February 2, 2012 at 11:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you, thank you for writing about the glorification of concussions. The depression and dementia due to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy doesn’t only affect the victim and his family….one former athlete (football or hockey I don’t remember) attacked a fast-food worker in his paranoia, and in front of his daughter he was so out of control. Suicide is not uncommon (Dave Duerson for one).

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