When did the Super Bowl become a political football?
The Super Bowl began as a fantastic expression of the highest achievements of American sports and an inspiration for young people to strive in fair and stubborn competition. Since when did it become a platform for entertainers and businesses to become a political platform for their personal partisan agendas? When did the Super Bowl become a political football?
By Ray Hanania
I remember the excitement of the first Super Bowl in January 1967 better than I remember the record blizzard that slammed Chicago that year and put snow fall on the map.
Everyone was talking about the sports event being the Mount Olympus of sports at a time when sports was considered a profession that inspired young people to strive to the highest levels of their own talents, and to engage in respectful competition.
The first Super Bowl was a powerful game that showcased the best in athletics at the time, a contest of talent between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
The pastor of my church, Pastor Roy Ryden, gave a memorable liturgy during that Sunday’s services that ended early because he acknowledged that many of the young people and families in the congregation of Bethany Lutheran Church, 92nd and Jeffery Avenue in Chicago, were anxious to get out to go home and watch the game.
Today, it’s almost as if the football game that the Super Bowl is supposed to showcase has become second stage to a bigger expectation about which scandal-plagued entertainer is going to lift their pathetic careers out of the dust or engage int he most outrageous act to increase audience and sell products that symbolize everything except a moral lifestyle.
Who picked Lady Gaga to be this year’s entertainer? Who cares if the founder of Budweiser was an immigrant to America born in Germany? Why do I have to worry about what political message is going to be thrown at us during the National Anthem, during the expensive commercials or during what has now become a major part of the Super Bowl the half-time entertainment?
The Super Bowl used to be an inspiration for young people to strive to greatness. Sports and athletics were often mediums in which young people could discover the meaning of teamwork and engage in a healthy competition that would follow them as they moved on to their everyday life careers.
How did we allow a great sporting event to be bastardized into a political forum for the most outrageous personal statements.
What does Lady Gaga know about politics? Seriously, is she a role model for young people today? She is an entertainer who does what all entertainers do, perform in public and do it in such an outrageous way they can attract bigger audiences and generate more money for themselves.
And isn’t that was really has corrupted the Super Bowl? The money?
You can’t just blame the entertainers for screwing up the Super Bowl. It was the NFL that allowed it to be turned into a commercialized commodity to generate millions in profits. Look at the salaries of the football players. Not just them, but in Baseball and Basketball. Players are paid millions to play. It’s disgusting.
The focus on individual perseverance and talent has been co-opted by some corporate robber baron who thinks having a half-naked lady gyrating on a stage is going to juice up the audience and thereby increase the value of broadcast advertising.
Well, that’s a sickness that has been with us for centuries. Wasn’t it the gyrating “hootchie cootchie” dancers at the World Columbian Exposition in 1893 who hijacked the Biblical seductive and alluring performance of Salome, who danced for King Herod in exchange for the head of Jewish prophet John the Baptist whose teachings set the stage for Christianity?
Many people thought the performance of Beyonce at the 2016 half-time show was an attack on America’s Police, blamed for the actions of a few who have been showcased because of alleged brutality against minorities in crime-plagued cities like Chicago where the killing of a young person is ignored unless that young person is shot dead by an officer in uniform.
And who are these entertainers to define the boundaries of our morality?
Why don’t they take on real issues like feeding the poor, providing shelter for the homeless who stand at street corners more today than ever before begging for change? How about encouraging children to read more and to turn off the Boob Tube and the YouTube? How about teaching young people to respect others, or to teach society to respect the aged and elderly? Or, maybe, how about we just teach kids that a day spent in a school classroom getting an education is worth more than dropping out of school and hanging out at a street corner?
This isn’t the sour grapes of an extremely disappointed Chicago Bears’ Fan. I know the Bears suck. They always have, even though two times in their history they made it to the Super Bowl in 1986 (Super Bowl XX) and 2007 (Super Bowl XLI). (And what is it with Roman Numerals to describe the chronology of the game. Super Bowl 20 and Super Bowl 41. Enough of this digging back to the corruption of Caligula already.)
Honestly, I am tired of it. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s the only time my wife allows me to eat Doritos and enjoy a brew — I drink real beer, like Corona or Coors, never that gasoline engine lubricant they call Budweiser — I’d probably skip the whole Super Bowl thing and find a good movie from the 1940s.
But I know the next day and the week to follow, the media will be consumed by what did Lady Gaga do? How did she smack down President Donald Trump and turn back history to showcase her friend Hillary Clinton? Or, the big question of all Super Bowl questions, who had the most outrageous Super Bowl Ad, one promoting erectile dysfunction, sex, booze, cars, cell phones and sex?
I don’t give a shit any more! Oh, did my using that four-letter word offend your sense of dignity? Your sense of dignity has been stripped away long before you read this column.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author, and former CHicago City Hall reporter (1976-92). Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)