All that’s wrong on display in #SuperBowl

The stars have come out in force from the songs being sung, the TV shows being pitched, the old timers reliving gridiron glory, the perpetual comebacks of Brittany Spears, Brett Farve and Lindsey Lohan and oh yeah, the players in pursuit of football excellence.

Billions are being spent to put on a single event called the Super Bowl. Do you think Vince Lombardi ever imagined this?

I love football, still, somehow. Yet, I find myself less and less interested in actually watching it.  If you just take a step back it seems so … empty. For more than thirty years I’ve watched the Super Bowl and never imagined blogging during it because frankly it… bores me. I just can’t buy into it all anymore, especially now that “it” means so much than an athletic event.

It’s not revolutionary to say the powerhouse NFL has had a terrible year that helped a lot of us take that step back and re-assess. The nauseating domestic violence shed light on cover-ups and spin as if politicians were running the sport. The Aaron Hernandez murder trial has also begun this year offering a needed reminder of the trappings of excess the NFL nurtures. The still lingering impact of the Javon Belcher and Junior Seau suicides demand more serious consideration about the impact of football on the brain. The hubris of coaches who think they are entitled to unfettered, unaccountable, limitless fawning so they can work their “genius” has grown more nauseating than “celebrity chefs.”

From now on call me “writer.” Yes, writer, like Yes Coach! Yes Chef! As if these professions are somehow more noble than say teacher or firefighter or landscaper or farmer. From now on at the growers market I’ll say “Yes Farmer!” whenever ordering greens.

Once the game finally kicked off and the ferocity of the sport was juxtaposed with the glittery pageantry, I couldn’t help feeling just a bit like the District 1 residents watching The Hunger Games. Aren’t we all just a little bit too engrossed by culture’s egoism and bedazzling idiocy ?

Just for a little perspective, which was so decidedly lacking during all that is #superbowl hype (seriously, Deflategate? This is worth a special investigation? Could we instead investigate a do-nothing Congress that is still trying to vote on Affordable Health Care that was passed by Congress, validated by the Supreme Court and endorsed during a presidential election? Bedazzling idiocy.), let’s consider another carnival of excess in a super power culture that would go to any lengths for its entertainment.

Back in the fifth century when Rome was hitting its beginning of the end, it thrilled its citizens with bloody, destructive combat that made our football look tame by comparison (thought, perhaps in the long run, just as deadly). The gladiators and their blood sport ruled the hearts and minds of the Romans, until a monk came to the #superbowl of that era and saw it all for what it really was: a bloodbath or carnal excess.

From the historian of the day, Theodoret of Cyrus (Cyrrhus in Syria), The Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter XXVI: Of Honorius the Emperor and Telemachus the monk.

“Honorius, who inherited the empire of Europe, put a stop to the gladitorial combats which had long been held at Rome.  The occasion of his doing so arose from the following circumstance.  A certain man of the name of Telemachus had embraced the ascetic life.  He had set out from the East and for this reason had repaired to Rome.  There, when the abominable spectacle was being exhibited, he went himself into the stadium, and stepping down into the arena, endeavoured to stop the men who were wielding their weapons against one another.  The spectators of the slaughter were indignant, and inspired by the triad fury of the demon who delights in those bloody deeds, stoned the peacemaker to death.

When the admirable emperor was informed of this he numbered Telemachus in the number of victorius martyrs, and put an end to that impious spectacle.”

I suspect if someone tried to stop our #superbowl like Telemachus they’d receive similar hate and scorn.

I’m a hypocrite of course. The game sucked me in. As a San Francisco 49er fan, I felt my emotions rise as the arrogant Seahawks started taunting in the 3rd quarter. I couldn’t believe it when the Patriots again seemed doomed to lose in a David Tyree revisited Twilight Zone. And I genuinely cheered when the Patriots won, high-fiving the bride. I too still get caught up in it. I just wonder more now why I do.

To be clear I’m not saying there is no room for sport or fun or even occasional excess, it’s more how woefully out of balance this seems, which is pretty much how our entire culture seems. We have no idea what matters any more, but for me a truly hoof-to-head approach to my life needs far less sport, far less fandom and far more people, service, God and wisdom. Call it my #superbowl resolution this year. No judgement for those who disagree, but it’s the resolve for balance I want to pursue for my own health and wholeness.

How interesting that needed perspective came this morning from a sarcastic sportswriter of all people who tweeted:

I’ve already seen “214 days until season starts again” tweets, and I am reminded how desperately forlorn we are as a nation.

“Desperately forlon.” Couldn’t have said it better.

Nor could one of the commercials during the #superbowl built on the theme off Muhammad Ali’s “how great I am” rant so perfectly appealed to the mood of the day. Isn’t that what our entire culture is trying to say… and sell?

The question is why are we buying it?


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