Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Lure of the Spectacle


Last year, 111 million people gathered around a glowing screen to watch grown men thrash and mutilate each other for a couple of hours. This year, the projection is down to 103 million. I guess some 8 million folks figured they might do something better with their time.

There is every reason in the world for me not to watch the Super Bowl. Well, at least three. As follows: 

1)   I don’t follow football and just found out today who is playing. And it’s not San Francisco. If the New Orleans Saints were playing—and they should have been—I think I’d be more excited. But between Boston and L.A., I just don’t care.

2)    The NFL team owners decided that anyone “taking a knee” during the National Anthem would be fined and punished. It is not only anti-American (remember freedom of speech?), but according to many sources, illegal. 

3)   A 30-second ad for beer or Pepsi or what-have-you during the Super Bowl costs some 5 million dollars. 30 seconds. At my salary, that money could fund some 20 high-quality music programs in schools for five years that could change the lives of several thousand children. And that’s just one 30-second ad. Add them all up and you can see how topsy-turvy our priorities are in this country. 

So there are the three good reasons not to watch it.

And yet, I might.  Here’s three reasons why:

1)   12 years ago, I watched the Super Bowl in a hospital room with my Dad who was trying to recover from heart surgery. Don’t remember much about the game, but it was a father-son kind of thing to do and had a certain sweetness. I remember making him promise we’d watch it together again the next year and he ended up breaking that promise. So sometimes I watch it on his behalf.

2)   I love watching basketball and prefer everything about the game— including the high ethics and appeal of the players on the Warriors. But I did play “sandlot” football as a kid and have enjoyed watching the battle for territory and some sublime aesthetic moments with long passes, interceptions, runs through the gaps in the defense.

3)   It’s a rainy indoor day in San Francisco, just the kind made for staying indoors and feeling part of some mass spectacle so you can trade a few stories around the water-cooler the next day. 

So I’ll probably tune in. But my protest will be playing Bach, Bird or Brubeck on the piano every time an ad comes on. And during the half-time. Maybe write a postcard to my Congressperson. Take that, NFL!!!! 

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