Why Our National Superbowl TV Party Has Become the Last Supper for the US Empire
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.
If you are still passionately following football or, worse, allowing your kid to play, you may just be an old-fashioned imperialist running dog. Not that all football fans are bloodthirsty hounds feeding off the crippled hindquarters of the dying animal of empire. Some are in a vain search for a crucible of manhood that no longer exists. Others are in pursuit of a ticket out of a dead-end life.
Whatever your reason, this is the Super Bowl to watch, even if you are among those who have made an effort to disregard the game since high school jocks shouldered you in the halls.
This is the Big One. Maybe the Last Big One. Never before have so many loose strands of an unraveling empire come together in a single event accessible to those who mourn or cheer America.
Let’s start with the conceit that this game is the only super thing we have left. Super power, super economy, super you-name-it… gone. You can beat the Bushes for that, but we’re all out of super -- except for the Super Bowl. That celebration of an all-American $9 billion industry (estimated because the National Football League has never opened its books), not to mention millions more in subsidiary and dependent businesses, offers us a national holiday that has arguably superseded Thanksgiving (thanks for what?) and Christmas (electronic excess and obsolescence).
Even little Everytrader has a shot here. Without insider connections, you undoubtedly have a far better shot at winning a football wager than gambling in the stock market.
The Big Four
Here are the four biggest reasons to watch this Super Bowl.
1. It’s Not Soccer
American exceptionalism is alive and thriving on Super Bowl Sunday. National Football League franchises are overwhelmingly owned, managed, and manned by American citizens. Neither immigration nor foreign capital has made a perceptible dent in the game. And you and I have proudly subsidized all this. American taxpayers have built many NFL stadiums. Most American universities, with their government grants, have sports schools attached; those multi-million-dollar athletic departments (despite claims, they are rarely profitable) train the players and one of academia’s latest revenue-producing innovations -- sports management departments -- train the front-office personnel.
American football is barely played outside the country. Call it a failure of colonialism (as baseball and basketball might), but it’s really a tribute to good old-fashioned protectionism. Those other major sports, even ice hockey, are increasingly being taken over by Latin American, Asian, or Eastern European guest workers. Pro football remains a native game.
The “futbol” that most of the rest of the world plays is a game that American male athletes and sports fans have never found compelling. Why? What’s not to like? The so-called “beautiful game” is exactly that, and the past several generations of American school-age girls and boys were lucky to have recreational soccer programs. But there was no room on the sports “shelf” for a game so poorly suited to commercial TV interruption and American domination.
(It’s not as if soccer is in any way effete. Its fans are famously thuggish. In fact, currently, the nationalistic Russian mobs who roam cities beating up people who do not look Slavic have taken to calling themselves “Soccer fans.”)
2. No Dogs Were Harmed in the Making of It
The controversy over allowing Michael Vick back into the select company of other NFL felons -- reportedly about one-fifth of the playing population -- faded after the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback showed contrition, spoke to schoolchildren, proved to be one of the most electrifying performers in the game, and then lost early in the play-offs, avoiding the embarrassment of PETA demonstrating at the Super Bowl.