Looking Beyond the X’s and O’s

Football has always meant more to me than a game involving a pigskin, roaring fans and peppy cheerleaders.

Football is a key ingredient to my family’s makeup, as it has brought us together every Sunday since I can remember. There is nothing better than spending afternoons in front of the television rooting for the New York Giants with my parents and brother.

My brother, Clay, played football at the collegiate level, completing 15 years of X’s and O’s after his senior season at Hampden-Sydney College. From pregame tailgates to celebratory wins, my family gathered together almost every weekend during the fall to cheer him on since he began playing in Little League.

Football has taught me many life lessons; I have learned about healthy competition, fluid teamwork and effective leadership because I have dedicated myself to watching the game.

Looking beyond the sport of football itself, though, I have also grown to love and appreciate the Super Bowl. Every February, my parents host a Super Bowl party, inviting all of our close friends to our home for a night of food, family and football. We come together for a common purpose, and even though that main purpose is to watch a game, it serves as a time for fellowship and appreciation as well.

The National Football League donates millions of dollars to charities in host cities every year. Photo courtesy of nfl.com.

In a way that is similar to the Christmas season, the Super Bowl brings people together to celebrate. This is not to say Christ’s birth and the New York Giants hold the same level of importance, but the social principles centered on both celebrations are comparable.

During the holiday season, we are encouraged to give to others. Whether our gifts are in the form of volunteering or presents, we are reminded that it is important to give back. Similarly, the National Football League (NFL) utilizes the Super Bowl to provide assistance to and rally support for those in need. According to Kathy Babiak and Richard Wolfe, authors of the article, “More Than Just a Game? Corporate Social Responsibility and Super Bowl XL,” the outreach initiatives delivered in conjunction with the Super Bowl are equally as important as the game itself.

Increasingly, organizing committees, nonprofit organizations, and local governments in cities that host the game use the event as a catalyst to address pressing social issues (Kott, 2005). The opportunities that a mega-event such as the Super Bowl affords a community for hosting the game in terms of economic, social, and political benefits are considerable.

By donating millions of dollars to social projects, the NFL beautifully represents the meaning of giving back. Babiak and Wolfe explain, “The NFL estimates that Super Bowl-related charity events in Detroit raised $8 million (in 2006) … Over 200 of the state’s nonprofit organizations expect to benefit from this money.”

Though some view the Super Bowl as a mere game, a social construction made purely for commercial and financial benefit, to me, the NFL championship signifies camaraderie and a humanitarian attitude. Yes, the Super Bowl continually attracts the most viewers every year in comparison to all other televised events. Sure, it consistently generates more revenue than any other sporting event in the United States. But, it also creates a venue for work beyond that of economic success, aggressive rivalry and football. It generates societal support and celebration. Because this mega-event brings us together, even if only for three hours, it is a source of happiness for all to enjoy.

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