On the Super Bowl

I thought I’d share a reflection (not my own) on Super Bowl Sunday. I enjoy sports, but am overall quite skeptical of many aspects of professional sports. I am particularly not-so-enthusiastic about football probably in part because it is just so American: controlled violence, egotism at its height, self glorification, and ostentatious exhibitions of wealth in the form of millions of dollars on commercials. Football, and particularly the Super Bowl, is the closest modern example to the Gladiator fights of old. It’s painted a lot more colorfully, but the parallels are remarkable: thousands cram into an arena to watch a bunch of primarily black men nearly kill each other while the folks who arrange the carnage get wealthier. Sure, these days we pay our gladiators a lot more, but instead of being slaves to of Rome, they’re slaves to performance and wealth and glory. Many people enjoy football, but do we ever stop to analyze why we get so much enjoyment out of a rather violent sport?

I leave you with this beautiful prayer by Walter Bruggemann from his book Prayers for a Privileged People.

“Super Bowl Sunday”

The world of fast money,
and loud talk, and much hype is upon us.
We praise huge men whose names will linger only briefly.

We will eat and drink,
and gamble and laugh,
and cheer and hiss,
and marvel and then yawn.

We show up, most of us, for such a circus,
and such an indulgence.
Loud clashing bodies,
violence within rules,
and money and merchandise and music.

And you–today like every day–
you govern and watch and summon;
you glad when there is joy in the earth,
But you notice our liturgies of disregard and
our litanies of selves made too big,
our fascination with machismo power,
and lust for bodies and for big bucks.

And around you gather today, as every day,
elsewhere uninvited, but noticed acutely by you,
those disabled and gone feeble,
those alone and failed,
those uninvited and shamed.
And you whose gift is more than “super,”
overflowing, abundant, adequate, all sufficient.

The day of preoccupation with creature comforts writ large.
We pause to be mindful of our creatureliness,
our commonality with all that is small and vulnerable exposed,
your creatures called to obedience and praise.

Give us some distance from the noise,
some reserve about the loud success of the day,
that we may remember that our life consists
not in things we consume
but in neighbors we embrace.

Be our good neighbor that we may practice
your neighborly generosity all through our needy
neighborhood.

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