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Four Reasons to Watch the Super Bowl

Posted on Feb 2, 2012
clevercupcakes (CC-BY)

By Robert Lipsyte, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

Tebow is too true to be good. His religious principles may eventually even get in the way of money-making. Playing for a higher team, he is a threat to owners who can’t buy him off (although he has plenty of commercial endorsements, thank you—and Republican presidential contenders are lining up).

He may also disrupt the fantasies of fans.

Dan Levy, writing in, put it well: “Because his faith is so prevalent and because his beliefs have become so much of who he is on and off the field, it’s nearly impossible to separate the two. Can you blindly root for Tim Tebow on the football field without, in turn, tacitly rooting for him in life? And does rooting for him in life—even if that simply means rooting for the underdog to succeed—include implicit approval of his beliefs? Are Broncos fans able to parse the player from the man, the quarterback from the evangelist?”

If he were playing Sunday, it undoubtedly wouldn’t be the Super Bowl, but the Tebowl.


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3. JoePa will be there: Once held up as the gold standard of college football coaching, now as the hero of a classical tragedy, the late Joe Paterno will be represented on Sunday by three players and his successor as head coach at Penn State. They will be reminders of what Paterno really represented beneath the iconic image.

The three players, almost a thousand pounds worth of them, are Jimmy Kennedy, a 302-pound defensive tackle, and Kareem McKenzie, a 330-pound tackle—both Giants—and Rich Ohrenberger, a 300-pound guard for the Patriots, who is on injured reserve. Boston College with six players in the Super Bowl and Rutgers with five lead this year’s honors list of colleges that serve as NFL minor league feeder teams, but Penn State has been a perennial supplier of meat on the hoof. No wonder the school has been dubbed Linebacker U.

Paterno became head coach in 1966, the year before the first Super Bowl. At least one player he coached has been in every one of the 46 Super Bowls.  He produced several hundred pro players. At the start of this past season, there were 36 Nittany Lions on NFL rosters.

In other words, Penn State was a football factory as well as a research university, which made Paterno the Geppetto of those over-sized puppets, even while he was touted as a classics scholar (he identified with Aeneas) and a philanthropist—he donated $4 million to Penn State. (How does a coach get that kind of dough?)

His successor will be Bill O’Brien, the current Patriots offensive coordinator. Though he graduated from Brown, as did Paterno, O’Brien has no connection to the Penn State program, which has angered some people, reassured others. A number of former players have threatened to sever their ties with the university because the school went “outside the family” for a new coach, an act seen as a total repudiation of the Paterno era. Others felt that a rigorous cleansing was necessary. After all, Paterno had apparently known for almost 10 years that Jerry Sandusky, once his main assistant and presumed heir, was an alleged child molester. Paterno tossed the matter upstairs and continued to devote his attention to Aeneas and linebackers, while Sandusky allegedly raped more little boys.

Paterno’s powers of concentration or expedience or denial were extraordinary enough, it seems, to qualify for presidential nomination. In his last interview, he implied that he probably couldn’t fully process the tale he was told about Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the football team’s shower-room because he knew nothing about male-on-male rape.

4. You can occupy the Super Bowl: One of the Penn State trustees who voted to fire Paterno, Kenneth C. Frazier, said this:  “[E]very adult has a responsibility for every other child in our community. We have a responsibility for ensuring that we can take every effort that’s within our power not only to prevent further harm to that child but to every other child.”

Frazier, of course, was referring to the lack of leadership—the lack of humanity—at Penn State that allowed fealty to an institution and the power it offers to trump individual responsibility. It was an it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-child sort of statement.  It’s worth keeping in mind as you watch the Super Bowl, because the subject Frazier raised goes far beyond the charges against Sandusky or the lack of leadership Paterno and others exhibited in the case. It includes our neglect, denial, and often encouragement of all the blows to the head that every football player—from peewee to pro—routinely suffers.

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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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