The late humorist Art Buchwald wrote a syndicated newspaper column for decades. Each year on Thanksgiving Day, the papers would run his column Le Jour de Merci Donnant, written in a fractured French. I do not claim to be an Art Buchwald but I have decided to take up the tradition of a yearly column repeat with my Super Bowl piece, entitled “Super Bowl 50 - Wretched Excess”. Given the current political situation, the article takes on added meaning. I have no idea where this 51st “game” will take place this year but I heard that Lady Gaga will be hanging or performing (pick which) from the rafters at half-time. There is a metaphor there someplace, I think.
“Two years ago I wrote an article on this site explaining my rationale for not having watched the Super Bowl. The piece was entitled: Panem et Circenses - Why I Did Not Watch “The Super Bowl”. I borrowed the Latin phrase, translated as “bread and circuses”, from the Roman satirist, Juvenal, who spoke of the phenomenon of keeping the people entertained and well fed rather than have them participate in activities to ensure their own freedom and future.
And so it will go this Sunday when people gather to watch the gladiatorial spectacle (the circus) while drinking and eating (the
bread) as the nation hangs on the precipice of yet another economic collapse and an election, with the exception of perhaps one candidate, bought lock, stock and barrel by the monied interests. The poor and homeless will be rounded up so as not to offend the sensibilities of those who pay thousands of dollars to attend the match. The government, as shill and enforcer, clears the way for the corporate giants that back the “game” to operate in an environment cleansed of everyday reality and devoid of social consciousness.
Two years ago I wrote. “The pre-game hype for any year’s Super Bowl is a well planned effort to milk every dime from the fans whose notion that the teams care about the city they purport to represent is pure fiction. Proceeds from sales of memorabilia fly out of the city to corporate coffers of the millionaire and billionaire club and franchise owners. People who buy this junk become unwitting walking advertisements for the rich, whom they will never see and to whose homes they will never be invited. A vast transfer of wealth from those who can least afford it to those who fly in corporate jets and live in gated communities far from the hoi polloi whose money they have in effect stolen. These sports tycoons operate from a playbook that rivals those of state lotteries and other schemes to separate the citizens from their money and give practically nothing in return.”
I continued, “Professional and even college sports have morphed into a circus of corporate greed and the fleecing of the public. Outrageous ticket prices, demands for subsidies to build stadiums and outlandish salaries are the norm for today. Games are primarily a background for advertising which can be found on just about every square foot of sports venues, on uniforms, and then again, if you have not had enough, during commercial “breaks” (this is a misnomer since the entire process is one advertizing binge). Home team loyalty is a joke, with players going to the highest bidder. Cities are threatened with the loss of a professional team if the locals do not come through with tax breaks, bond levies and other goodies for the corporate bosses and players, most of whom were not born in, and do not even live in, the city for which they “play.”
When I explained to my wife that the mayor of San Francisco was removing the homeless from the streets in anticipation of the game she said to me, “Why don’t they just offer the homeless free tickets for the game?” There is some strange logic behind her suggestion. The mayor would have indeed succeeded in getting those wretched poor off the streets for a while.”