Super Bowl 50 - Wretched Excess

By On
• In Bellingham,

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.

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Feb 06, 2016

There is also the terrible physical consequences of “playing” these high impact, gladiator sports; for one - brain damaged football players.  Chris Nowinski is one of the leaders in exposing the extent to which brain injuries affect players, young and old.  More on Nowinski and his work here: http://chrisnowinski.com/

Read More...

John Servais

Feb 06, 2016

Yes, the poor will be displaced for a few days - probably fed and given crumbs - and yes, football causes a lot of injuries and can be sort of equated with ancient gladiator games.  Except those folks attended so as to watch injury and death while we prefer to not see injuries, but rather beautiful broken field running, the perfect pass play, or the fast defensive clampdown.  Me thinks you make much of little. 

I want to take the opportunity your rant provides to contrast it with my post of the day before - about biased perceptions of black and white players.  Indeed, some have suggested to me that I made much of little with the post, suggesting it was a stretch. 

Yet if we look at how we as a country have impoverished blacks and how we use our local and national governments to murder our black young men, then perhaps it is a much bigger issue than your concern about a few overgrown guys who find lucrative employment running into each other.  The football players are over 21 and have a choice.  The young black men are mostly under 21 and have no choice and little chance of living to adulthood or avoiding false imprisonment. 

I’ll enjoy the football game tomorrow.  It is a great matchup.  But then, I grew up in Green Bay.  Perhaps if I came from somewhere else then I would have long ago put football aside. Other sports are more elegant and less destructive.  But I’m hard wired for football.  Tony Canadeo lived across the street from us.  In the 1940s, I remember the neighbors all on their front lawns applauding as Tony would drive home after a game.  I had many experiences - some incredible - with the Packers as a young news photographer for the daily newspaper.  I got to be on the sidelines watching Lombardi manage victories. Hard to shake a fondness for football after that.

I hope no player is injured tomorrow.  And I know that the cruel practice of hiding the homeless during sports events is not so much a reflection on sports as it is on our white male dominated society.  And I hope no young black man is murdered by the police somewhere in our country tomorrow.  I think the chances are better that no football player will be seriously injured.

Read More...

Dick Conoboy

Feb 08, 2016

And the Super Bowl was true to form. Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant! Excerpt:

“From the fighter jets soaring overhead to the armed troops patrolling Levi Stadium, Super Bowl 50 was a highly militarized event, its 70,000 spectators and millions of television viewers subject to a showcase of war propaganda and heavy security crackdown. To much fanfare, the Armed Forces Chorus, comprised of 50 men and women from the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force, kicked off the massive sports event by singing “America the Beautiful” from the field. CBS’ broadcast of the song cut away to footage of uniformed troops standing at attention, with text on the screen reading, “United States Forces Afghanistan.” The clip was a nod to a brutal war and occupation, now stretching into its 15th year, as top generals press for an even slower withdrawal

And this:  “The heavy-handed display follows revelations that some NFL teams have long been accepting payment from the Department of Defense to honor and celebrate the military and its service members.
Some were open about their profiteering aims. Military weaponry was also displayed off the field on Sunday, when the arms giant Northrop Grumman released a 30-second television advertisement for a terrifying and futuristic fighter jet complete with lasers.” http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/might-american-empire-was-full-display-super-bowl-50-bizarre-war-spectacle

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Feb 11, 2016

I’m pretty much with Dick on this one. 

Let’s face it, ‘sapiens’ is just one more chimp, so we basically delight in “our” (which as Dick points out is a actually a fiction for fans) tribal warriors knock heads with The Horrible Other Tribe.  Drive ‘em out! Blood? Yay! Guts? Even better! Plus (sorta) food and drink? Hoo-eee! And retty much zero chance of spectators getting a concussion or broken limb during the mayhem.

I think our human tribe(s) longs for Big Social Community Ritual celebrations, and for that, football is pretty much the only game in America these days. Inevitable. Sure there are beautiful, exciting plays in football - but you don’t see volleyball with equally beautiful teamwork, athletic finesse, drama of victory and defeat, etc bringing in 50 million fans etc and all those tax dollars donated to team owners for (temporary) stadiums. What’s the difference? Blood & violence.

Read More...