The Super Bowl has started as I write this, and for the 45th consecutive year, “I’m not going to watch it. I’ll just have to miss it.”
And this has nothing to do with Colin Kaepernick and the kneeling football players during the national anthm.
The last time I suffered through the overhyped spectacle of hubris in its entirety was in January 1973. The game was between the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins. I was so offended by the pre-game media tripe about how coach George Allen eats ice cream for breakfast and by singer Andy Williams releasing the pigeons in the halftime show that I vowed never to watch again.
I modified my vow to “unless the Detroit Lions are in it.” To which virtually everyone I know has replied, “Then you’ll never see the Super Bowl again.”
Though I’ve been a huge sports fan over my lifetime and even a sports editor of a daily newspaper, I’ve had an aversion to the Super Bowl for a long time. I confess there were a couple of occasions in the 45 years where I was at someone’s house, where they had it on. I would walk out and into another room.
I was so disgusted with the hype and money that in 1977 I wrote a column “I Hate the Super Bowl” to explain my objections. I believe I said then that if it was just the game and nothing else, I wouldn’t mind. But there’s money to be made, and suckers to be had.
Since then, a new phenomenon has been added, one that convinces me that our so-called civilization is “going there in a handbasket.” I hear tell that many people tune into America’s Greatest Spectacle just to watch the advertisements.
Marketers and advertisers truly have completed their dominance of our culture by getting so many of us to say we enjoy advertisements. It has become virtually impossible to escape marketing and advertising in simply going about our everyday lives. We are bombarded by ads on TV, billboards, while pumping gasoline, while surfing the Internet. We’re too often interrupted at home by telemarketers.
We rightfully complain about ads, especially when there are so many we have to endure while just trying to get the news. We have become a nation of spectators serving as easy pickings for hucksters.
It’s been said by some historians that the ancient Roman Empire actually fell because the people were distracted by “Bread and Circuses.” The Super Bowl serves as the best modern example of just that. But it has a lot of company — “American Idol,” “Dancing with the Stars,” the Academy and Emmy awards shows, the summer and winter Olympic games, virtually all prime time network television programs, the vast majority of Facebook, video games, gambling casinos, March Madness… and the list goes on for a long time.
This is not to say we shouldn’t be able to unwind and have a little bit of fun now and then. It is to say that other than toiling in jobs most of us despise, we hunger for and engage in an inordinate amount of silly and volatile pleasures during our precious free time.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. a couple of decades ago remarked that 21st century America is the best entertained and least informed society in history. After examining the results of the 2016 election, I can’t argue with him.
One of my greatest fears, even at times nightmares, is that we’re all having a great time at a party, getting intoxicated, playing games and amusing ourselves to death while all around us the world is crashing and burning. That was the point of the great musical, “Cabaret.”
What I’ve been seeing lately provides me little in the way of assurance or comfort. I suspect earth will survive man’s assaults, but humans will find a way to wipe out the species and take many others with them. There’s a good chance that a thousand years from now, no exploring aliens will even know we existed.