Why I Hate the Super Bowl
Years ago, when I was living in Silicon Valley, I spent Saturday night at a friend’s house and drove home on Sunday. The freeway was empty -- spookily, worryingly empty. I began to wonder if the Rapture had happened, or if there had been a nuclear war. The next day, I learned why the freeway was a desert. Everyone in California had been watching the Super Bowl.
I have never understood why anyone cares about professional sports. I must have been seven or eight when my father shocked me by explaining that not everyone who plays for the New York Yankees is from New York. “What?” I remember thinking. “They let people from Boston or Chicago play with the Yankees? The whole thing is a fraud.” Why do New Yorkers care about a bunch of strangers who are going to defect to some other team if they get a better offer?
Nothing is so colossally, magnificently unimportant as professional sports. Unless you have money on the game, whether the Bumble Bees beat the Polar Bears has real-world consequences that can be measured to a value of precisely, exactly, irrefutably zero. Win or lose, nothing changes. No one has been fed or clothed, nothing has been produced, no problem solved -- it’s a gigantic waste of time. And yet the happiness of millions hangs in the balance. There are fully grown adults who seem to care more about a game than the results of a biopsy.
College sports can mean something. The team represents a school, and athletes are friends and classmates -- except when the players are basically professionals who have to take make-believe classes to get a degree, and go to their own separate gyms and dining halls. I was a good deal older than seven or eight when I learned something else shocking: a coach can make more money than the college president. At the University of Alabama, the football coach makes $7.3 million a year; the president makes $535,000, or less than one thirteenth the coach’s salary. Winning football games is much more important than running the university.
I’m not completely against spectator sports; just meaningless spectator sports. People on high school teams and minor-sports college teams are real students who represent their schools. People watching a high school game care about the school and probably know some of the players; winning or losing means something when there is a genuine connection to the team. National teams make sense for the same reason, except in cases like the French national soccer team that looks more Senegalese than French.
So why do we pay grown men to play children’s games? Why do people bother with professional sports? Some fans say they admire the skill of the players; I admire jugglers and acrobats. A lot of men say it’s sublimated warfare. Since men don’t get to work off excess testosterone by raiding enemy tribes anymore, they watch overpaid louts smash each other instead. How pitiful is that? You don’t satisfy your appetite for steak by watching someone else eat one. If a man really wants the thrill of combat he should get on the field himself. That’s what amateur leagues and masters competitions are for.
Sports are a great way to fill an empty mind. People who can’t name the last 10 presidents can proudly tell you who won the last 10 Super Bowls. And sports make boobs into experts; people with no discernible opinion on anything else can tell you why it was a mistake to trade away the second-string quarterback. The more a man knows about professional sports the more I wonder about his judgment. The more a woman knows about professional sports the more I wonder if she’s a woman.
But there’s something deeper at work. Before I was a family man, a friend talked me into going to a bikini contest. The girls pranced out one by one, fully clothed, and stripped down to bikinis -- some of them quite modest. That was pleasant enough, but the men set up a terrible din. They bellowed like bulls and screamed like banshees at every new bit of anatomy that came into view.
This set me to musing. What an exercise in power the evening must have been for the girls. They reduced a whole roomful of men to howling idiocy just by wriggling around. Even at my dreamboat best, I never had that effect on women.
And I was struck that the men in the room sounded just like sports fans. They even shouted the same thing -- “Go, go, go, go!” -- as the girls pulled off their clothes. I don’t claim to understand it, but judging from the primitive noises, sports must reach as deeply into the male psyche as sex.
Of all American professional games, the Super Bowl is the most expensive, the most hysterical, and possibly the most vulgar. People actually think that part of the fun is being able to talk about the commercials the next day. The commercials! The Super Bowl is certainly the most pretentious game in American sports. The pre-game and half-time shows are as gussied up with patriotic bunting as a political convention. The promoters and commentators act as if it’s our patriotic duty to watch their silly game.
But maybe they’re right. Super Bowl Sunday might as well be a national holiday. Americans celebrate it almost as earnestly as Christmas or Thanksgiving, and with a lot more gusto than Memorial Day or Presidents’ Day.
When is the nation more united than at the kickoff? Blacks and whites are sucked together down the Super Bowl’s red gullet. It’s an orgy of red-white-and-blue meaninglessness so powerful it could even turn Somalis and Guatemalans into Americans. Nothing else can.
So go ahead and join the crowd in front of the TV set on February first. When you get up four hours later asks yourself if you don’t feel soiled. I’ll be at the Smithsonian, and I’ll have the place to myself.
Jared Taylor is the editor of AmRen.com