Last Thoughts on the Super Bowl
by David Glenn Cox
So there I was about to watch the Super Bowl, I had a plate of nachos in front of me and a two liter soft drink. I was about to participate in the American ritual that the Super Bowl has become. It’s been two years since I’d watched the game and fourteen months since I’d watched any TV to speak of. There was a time in my life when the TV was always on. You can’t really appreciate TV until you turn it off and then come back to it, because for most of us the TV had been turned on for us since we were small children.
We grow up with it, we accept it as a normal course of events. We become conditioned to it and blind to its subtleties and numb to its eccentricities. From Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers we accept watching TV as a normal daily course of American living.
I read this morning that Super Bowl XLV set records for viewers, I won’t watch again, I found it crass and tinny. The camera was sponsored by Budweiser, hell, everything was sponsored by someone. It was Capitalist Christmas in all of its raging camp and bubble gum trappings. The stadium with its stage lighting and giant tacky TV screens, overpriced sky boxes and art decked hallways donated by the owners family. It is a glittering steel and glass monument to public – private partnerships, $1.15 billion in construction costs subsidized by higher taxes on the working folks who can’t afford a ticket to the game anyway.
Fox broadcasting did its normal whiz bang job and I honestly think that Fox could make porn boring. The announcers, Joe Buck and Troy Aikeman it seems were both trained at the Tim McCarver school for the inane. It seemed their whole purpose was to distort the game and to annoy the viewers. Why Troy Aikeman wasted all those years in the NFL when he had the god given ability to read minds is beyond me. All night, Aikeman explained to the viewers what the players on the field were thinking during particular plays. Buck pattered out scenario’s where player X was a rookie and the team management didn’t know for sure what his capabilities might be. I shook my head in astonishment, management recruited, signed and paid this player hundreds of thousands of dollars but didn’t know his capabilities?
It was myth making, gushing hero worship right out of a Marvel Comic book. Captain America plays football. Green Bay’s star defensive back is injured and the narrative becomes, can Green Bay recover from this disastrous turn of events? What a relief this must be to the Steelers, I’m only guessing here, but I had a gut feeling that Green Bay might have one or two quality players left on the bench. This was an attempt by the broadcast crew to create a story whether there was a story there or not. They weren’t reporting a story but creating a story.
You can’t be trusted to just watch they game, it must be explained to you. You must be coddled and fed a steady diet of pabulum and never under any circumstances are the announcers allowed to remain quiet for more than a few seconds.
The TV commercials aired during the Super Bowl have become as important a part of the ritual as the game itself. I sat waiting to be dazzled by Madison Avenue and can only assume that Madison Avenue hired copywriters without knowing what their capabilities were. In the Mike Judge film, “Idiocracy” America, in the future has become a nation of mindless idiots. In the film, the number one American TV program is titled “Ow, My Balls” where the main character suffers nut busting accident after accident. The public can’t get enough of it and I thought a lot about that film the other night. In the Pepsi X commercial the nerd being picked on pushes a button and cans of Pepsi fly out of the cooler to hit his tormentors in the … you guessed it, the nuts. “Ow, My Balls!” Then there was an animated Dairy Queen commercial where a cave man trades a rock for fire. After the caveman accepts the rock in the exchange he throws it at the other caveman and hits him in the head and takes the torch back. Oh, the comedy! Oh, the hilarity! “Ow, My Balls!”
Then there was a commercial with Richard Lewis as a …lumberjack? But the funny part was when Roseanne Bar is hit by a big log! “Ow, My Balls!” How do they do it? Who manages to think up this imaginative comedy?
Then came the half time show, more glitz with a light show, the Black Eyed Peas drop like paratroopers on to the stage. Then as a they perform their big corporate radio hit former Guns and Roses guitar player Slash, emerges from under the stage. Sure! That works, hard rock and hard pap, then Usher drops from the sky. It was a hodgepodge full of glitz and glam, zing and zam. Guaranteed to be a non-offensive spectacle, a mixture of this and that jumbled into a hat thrown out on the fifty yard line complete with black light show.
As I watched the third quarter I began to wonder what was going on. Green Bay is penalized for a face mask violation that wasn’t a face mask violation, giving Pittsburgh the ball on the fifty yard line. Then Green Bay is penalized again for unsportsmanlike conduct when Pittsburgh players tried to push a Green Bay player into a live ball. Keep in mind that I don’t care who wins and by this time I was wishing it was all ready over. Then on a third down play Green Bay completes a pass that was then stripped away and fallen on by another Green Bay player. The referee declares the pass incomplete even though the pass was caught and the runner had changed direction with it.
It all just seemed as if someone was trying to keep the game close.
AP- “In fact, the most-watched single play of the game was Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s final incomplete pass to Mike Wallace with about a minute to go, according to measurements by TiVo Inc., the digital video recorder maker. When that pass hit the ground, it clinched the game for Green Bay.
Besides, I tend to be suspicious any time George W. Bush is in the room. I wonder and have no way of knowing what the advertising revenue was for the second half of the game? Are those advertisements in the second half discounted? Are they even further discounted in the event of a blowout? While I’m asking questions, if American Idol is the number one program in America, why must Fox advertise it during almost every commercial break?
AP- “People were much less likely to stop the game to repeat the ads in the second half, when the football action was compelling, Maitra said. No beer ads made TiVo’s top 10 rated ads for the game.”
Then with the game over, Roger Staubach walked the gauntlet of Green Bay players while he held the Lombardi trophy. It was then, that it occurred to me why I wasn’t enjoying the game. Why I couldn’t enjoy his climbing up on a platform made to look like a giant silver football, because I didn’t belong there. Two years of homelessness and three years of unemployment have stripped me of what many American’s call, “culture”.
This game was all about consumerism and product endorsements, big money and the hard sell. I didn’t belong here, it’s been years since I bought a product that I didn’t need for basic survival. I don’t live in that world anymore and what’s more,I don’t want to. It isn’t a question of intellect, it is a question of peace. After watching two hours of television I was irritated, not entertained. I was annoyed by the bad actors, stupid premises and nerve jangling sounds effects.
Television isn’t the real world it is it’s own world, it is soap operas, pro-wrestling, unreality shows, Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN. It is the hard sell, it is “Idiocracy.”
“People want to be happy, isn’t that right? Haven’t you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren’t they? Don’t we keep them moving, don’t we give them fun? That’s all we live for, isn’t it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these.”
“If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war.”
Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451