Sunday, February 12, 2023


If, as is often alleged, football is modern America's authentic cultural religion, then perhaps the Super Bowl and the whole complex of social events and celebrations surrounding "Super Bowl Sunday" serve as contemporary American culture's re-appropriation of something like Christmas and Easter (or, to borrow from the words of one acquaintance, if Thanksgiving is Christmas's anticipation, the Super Bowl is Christmas's culmination). It is, in any case, one of the high points, if not the highpoint, of our contemporary cultural calendar.

Full disclosure: personally I dislike football. It may be no accident that football has become the national "sport" of a society so increasingly defined by rage. Football is, I believe, a gratuitously violent, gruesome gladiatorial spectacle that damages its participants, corrupts our culture, and degrades what we still unaccountably call "higher education." Its violence and danger were very vividly displayed just a few weeks ago when a Buffalo Bills player went into cardiac arrest after tackling an opponent. Thankfully, the player's life was saved by rapid, high-quality, expensive medical intervention, but none of that should obscure the violently dangerous and potentially fatal character of America's most popular "sport." (All of that was, of course, cleverly and successfully obscured in the way the media and everyone else quickly pivoted to treating the almost tragedy primarily as a heartwarming human interest story.)

That said, while I dislike football and will likely pay little or no attention to the actual "game," I will happily attend the local Super Bowl party - not just for the pizza, and chicken wings, and guacamole (all good enough reasons), but for the community experience and in appreciation of the communal value of lavish spectacle which makes such community experience possible. Would that as a culture we still had lavish spectacles of a more uplifting sort!

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