Food. Money. And sports. Three things the quintessential American can’t seem to live without. Make the food junky, beefy, cheesy, chippy, and dipppy, and serve it with beer. Use the money to bet on a favored team, purchase an overpriced jersey imprinted with the name of a man you’ve never met, or, for the diehard fans, give an arm and both legs for a ticket to a game priced so high you could alternatively buy one, two, or three brand new Macintosh laptops, or even a place ticket to the foreign destination on your choice. Make that sport football and make that game the Super Bowl and now you’ve entered into a realm beyond all reason, rhyme and rationality.
Now, before I delve further, I would like to here insert my value and appreciation for sports on a recreational level. I think that playing a sport as a child is a positive outlet for movement and exercise that provides team-building and friendship connections as children are taught the value of practice and determination, how to cope with losing and how to be humble when winning. Sports can be a great way for youth to stay active and out of trouble. Sports can also be entertaining for those on the other side of the sideline. Games can be fun events to attend and can provide a sense of community for those involved and invested in a certain team. But there comes a point where all the good slips out of importance and innate competitive nature brings out the bad, the ugly and the unreasonable.
What gets me is how completely crazy people get over a sport. Even without a direct connection to a team, fans fight and bicker nastily even with people they consider a friend. People even go so far as to start riots, causing violence and hurting innocent people, completely ruining what could be good fun. After the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, Canucks fans broke out in violent riots across Vancouver, flipping and burning cars essentially lighting the city on fire, as mentioned in this Sports Illustrated article. This kind of behavior is very common in relation to sporting events, and can commonly be attributed to drunken, impassioned fans getting carried away in the emotion of the massive crowd via cheering, booing, yelling, and so on. After the 2012 Super Bowl, a riot broke out on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst after the New England Patriots lost to the New York Giants, in which no one was hurt though 14 were arrested, according to this Huffington Post article. In a Bleacher Report article after the riot, a featured columnist made a point I find hard to dispute, saying, “There is no reason to resort to public damage over a game played by millionaires that are, for all intents and purposes, strangers.”
Then comes the economics of it all. Aside from the fact that football players are given one of the heftiest salaries around (get the facts here from USA Today), averaging over $1 million per player, per team, per year, the Super Bowl itself is a multi-million dollar production (for just one singular game). To put on such a grandiose spectacular once a year, taking into account the halftime show (from the set to the technicians to the high-profile artists), the cost of a television commercial during the game and the price of the tickets for fans is no low-budget affair. The halftime show, which alone costs millions to stage and employ, is oddly one of the most anticipated events of the year, even for those generally apathetic to the game or the two competing teams.
Each year, something racy just so happens to occur, pulling more viewers the next year anticipating another wardrobe malfunction (see Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake 2004 halftime fiasco) or something else provocative or shocking. This year, over 111 million viewers (see this Reuters article) tuned in to see what they would get with performances from Madonna, Nikci Minaj and M.I.A., the latter of whom pulled her middle finger out after making what could have been construed as threatening, if someone were to read too far into the pop-performance. And that may have been the highlight (besides witnessing how unbelievably young Madonna looks for her age – is she frozen in time? Always a mystery she will be) of, yet again, a not so wonderful spectacle. Big moves and high-ticket tricks and visuals do not always compensate for the quality (or lack there of) in performance.
The much-anticipated commercials is another source of viewer attention, even for those perhaps indifferent to what happens on the field, this year averaged $3.5 million for a 30 second time slot, though many sources cite great underwhelm from the viewers, according to this ESPN article. How is that worth it then? How is all of this money spent justified and accepted? I can’t swallow it. Not when there are so many other facets in our society getting economically stiffed on salaries and funding, which a fraction of just one NFL player’s annual income or the price of one second of commercial time during the Super Bowl could remedy.
I get that the game is something a lot of (probably) perfectly nice people look forward to, and I can understand the excitement to an extent. In fact, when the Saints made it to Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, I myself, not even a football fan, followed their success and rooted for what many would consider my “home team.” It was interesting and great for New Orleans, who had suffered a huge morale blow in the years following Katrina. So like I said, I can sympathize with the fun of it for fans. But at the end of the day, the monetary aspect and the unruly behavior and attitudes of the masses just makes it all too much.