It’s Super Bowl Sunday! Roman Ritual, American Style
The Undercurrents of Fake Patriotism and Imperial Rhetoric
By Dr. Robert P. Abele
February 02, 2014
As we prepare to celebrate the true American National Holiday, known as the Super Bowl, there are a few things that it might behoove us to keep in mind as we watch the gods of the gridiron inflict their violence on one another. (For full disclosure, I must admit that I am a sports fan, but a fan who is critical of the sports culture. Dave Zirin has written extensively from this point of view as well. See his book Bad Sports for a good example of writing from this point of view.)
1) Nationalism. Inflected with heavy emotion, the war-whooping national anthem is the call to Sunday Super Bowl worship, and the 100-yard American flag stretched out over the field is meant to remind us not only that the “USA is the best nation on earth,” but more importantly that our pastime of national violence and our arrogance at “being the best in the world” is being channeled directly into our politics: “USA! USA!” That is what all this faux patriotism is doing in a football game.
2) Militarism. Notice those military jets flying overhead during the national anthem? Notice the heavy military presence within the general playing arena area during football games? Such militarism is readily taken in by the networks that broadcast the games, and dutifully celebrated by announcers for the game. Camera shots are frequently framed so as to include the man or woman in uniform who “just happens” to be in the end zone or behind the players’ bench when a play is made there.
3) Capitalism. The celebration of football games now includes a mandatory celebration of the capitalist individualist who owns the team, singing his praises. Aside from the Green Bay Packers, which is owned by the citizens of Green Bay, no one group owns any one team: only individuals do, and for their own profit alone. Thus, there is no true community representation in the game at all, except the geographical accident that some people for each team happens to live within the artificial boundaries of the city in which the millionaire’s team plays.