As I reflected this past week on future posts for this website, in the midst of Impeachment hearings, the Coronavirus, and a number of other important issues, I felt an inner nudge to focus on the Super Bowl.
At first thought, I wondered what is spiritual about the biggest sporting event in the United States.
My reflection quickly led me to some very real challenges:
- The excessive amount of money spent on commercials, tickets, players and management, and the overall NFL business, wondering how that money could be used differently if our priorities shifted. (Remember, this game occurs at a time when close to 40 million people live in poverty).
- The brutality of the game with the related health risks for most of the players that will have their moment in the sun tomorrow, as well as the serious. and sometimes deadly consequences for past athletes who built the NFL.
- The NFL’s recent history with controversy, including domestic abuse and violence by its stars, and polarized national issues connected to the still relevant debate of protesting during the National Anthem.
- The racial logos, names, and fan in-game traditions that continue discrimination and racism.
- The horrific reality that the Super Bowl, every year, is a hotbed for human trafficking. Read more here about this year’s game in Miami.
- The nearly $7 billion dollars that will be gambled by an anticipated 26 Americans on this main event
- The excessive amount of food and alcohol that is consumed over the pre-game and four quarters and its impact on our health and finances.
An in-depth look at any of these issues, among others, and it will be difficult to swallow that cold one tomorrow night.
If the game is accompanied by all of this injustice- why watch?
Why invest your time and money into something that after reading the above list feels irresponsible and dangerous.
Besides the debatable economic boost for host cities , and the fandom of the Chiefs (I know!), 49ers, and those who love the game, why is it worth it?
I am not sure it is- or it can be- in consideration of the above issues. However, in seeking a spiritual insight into the Super Bowl, I land on three possible explanations that are all connected and worth even more reflection.
The first is the spirituality of community. In the midst of our busy lives, the opportunity to come together with friends and family provides a sense of belonging that we need as human beings.
The second is our need for tradition. Read more here for a contemporary sociological and psychological take.
I admit that over the past week, I too reflected on past years, even memories from a very young age, when I watched this game with my dad, friends, and family. Like the holidays and other cultural events, these days carry lasting emotions that flow from our hearts to our minds.
The third is the spirituality of advocacy and becoming change agents. Believing God is in all things, even in the midst of a loaded game that leads to insurmountable injustices, there is a pressing invitation for us to respond.
How can we respond to the injustices of economic inequality, health care, violence, racism, and bias, human trafficking and addictions? While they are highlighted on Super Sunday, they are not limited to just one day.
As we enter an election year, we can raise these issues to lead to change in policy and laws. We can better engage with our community, as well as underrepresented communities, to listen and learn so we can respond to the hurt and to the needs.
Finally, if we are on the fortunate and blessed side of tomorrow, how can we live in the moment while also feeling inspired to change the world.
At a time when we are divided, hurting, and clearly filled with injustices and disturbing priorities, we can individually and then collectively change the narrative of the ignored storylines and realities that accompany the not so Super Bowl.