A good friend of mine, originally from Burma, flew to New Orleans on a recent Sunday for a three-day conference. She had never been to New Orleans, has only been on one other plane (the one that brought her to the U.S. from Thailand), and has never seen an American football game in her life. Needless to say, she was completely surprised to arrive in the early evening to a city full of people shouting, “Who Dat?! Who Dat?!”
It was absolutely hilarious when she called me to tell me about it. “These people are in the street yelling, ‘Who Dat? Who Dat?’ What does that mean? They all seem crazy.”
The Super Bowl has, in a matter of four decades, become larger than life. Nearly a third of the U.S. population watched the New Orleans Saints win on February 7, and millions of others around the world joined them. An advertisement marathon, the game has become a pinnacle of capitalistic energy, as millions of dollars and thousands of hours of “creative genius” are spent by corporations to make the most memorable 30 second or one minute spot between possessions.
As a mid-level football fan — I enjoy football and root for the hometown Minnesota Vikings — I’ve found myself turning away from this championship of all championships, primarily because of its endless appeals to my wallet, my stomach, and base-level emotions.
Stillman Brown over at the One City Blog has an interesting post about the Super Bowl. Among his thoughts are these:
I suppose what bothers me, killjoy that I am, is that there isn’t a national event that draws 106.5 million Americans together on a single evening to counter-balance the Super Bowl. There is no Day of National Reflection About Who We Are and Where We’re Headed. There is no venue for measured, searching national dialogue. And without it, the Super Bowl is what we’ve got. This is it. This – Monster.com and Bud Light and Toyota apologies for stuck accelerator pedals — this is us. And we celebrate the very shallowness of the experience as we hurtle towards a precipice created by exactly this kind of over-consumption. Is this who we want to be? Can we afford this kind of attitude?
In some ways, I agree with him. The way in which the Super Bowl brings people together doesn’t necessarily lead people to deeper relationships with their friends and family. I do think it can, like any other event; however, TV watching is probably the last thing I think of when I think of quality relationship building activities.
And I certainly agree with him that the consumption train is heading over the cliff, and probably already has a few cars dangling in mid-air.
But I really wonder if any one-day event, no matter how profound in content or form, would make any sort of dent in the materialism that seems to be killing us?
When you think about it, we already have holidays in the U.S. that are supposed to be about deep reflection and core human values. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Memorial Day come quickly to mind. And surely, each of these impacts some people some of the time in some beneficial ways. Yet, like anything else, these are one-offs and those benefits often fade as the time goes by, and/or the energy of the particular day is hard to sustain when life demands return.
Part of the problem with us humans, especially ones used to speed and convenience, is that we tend to believe that there are quick and easy solutions to long-standing, damaging patterns. Look at how our governments work, how politicians pander to the voters with short-term fixes, while continuing to line the pockets of the wealthy and blaming anyone and everyone for the country’s failures. Corporations, for the most part, are no different, opting for quick profits for their shareholders and top executives over long-term visions that might take a generation to unfold.
Stillman Brown speaks of the Super Bowl as a “hungry ghost situation on a massive scale” and I’d have to agree. I say this as a more-than-casual fan who knows many of the players on many of the teams by name and stats. The wall-to-wall, week-long coverage and advertisement wagon attached to it, as well as the game itself, are loaded with unfulfilled desires. Longings to be successful, or connected in some way to success. Longings for relationship and community, especially when it comes to “fitting in” and group membership. Longings for happiness, as well as longings to escape everyday sufferings. For some, the Super Bowl even offers an avenue to release unfilled aggressions, dreams of battlefield glory, and other such unsavory feelings and ideas.
For those who have suffered so greatly from the damage done by Hurricane Katrina, winning this game offered them a moment to have fun — to experience football-hometown-loose — and to feel like their home might be getting closer to being whole again. It’s kind of a placebo effect if you ask me — even if winning that game brings in money for the city — but if my hometown team had finally won the Super Bowl (we’re still waiting), and there had been such destruction in my city as happened in New Orleans, I’d be whooping it up too!
It would be foolish to blame the Super Bowl or any single event for all of this. It’s an easy object, almost ready-made to be projected on by all kinds of people. Life is full of these kinds of objects, and our mind is only too happy to grab onto them if we let it.
There aren’t any easy solutions to either the collective swamp of consumerism and greed, or the individual grasping onto things that ultimately can’t sustain us. The best thing we can do, on a regular basis, is to take a good look in whatever mirror we use, and ask the question “Who dat? Who dat?” until a shift in consciousness comes.
“Who Dat?” www.pennlive.com. All rights reserved.
“Post Hurricane Katrina” Ely Online @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. All rights reserved.