Monday, January 31, 2011

Super Bowl Week

This week gears up into the major hoopla that is known as the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl has become the quintessential American spectacle in all things related to sports, culture, media, and advertising. It is truly an interesting phenomemon to watch.

I would argue that nothing else brainwashes unites the American people together quite like the Super Bowl.  The World Series does not any longer do that, though I think at one time it could be argued that the World Series did. Religion does not do that. Network TV programming does not do it. Politics does not do it (Compare voting rates or national TV ratings for election coverage for something like the State of the Union address with Super Bowl ratings, if you don't believe me on that one). The Super Bowl is just a cultural phenomenon.

Last year, we did not have cable TV (and we still don't); so, for kicks, I was listening to the Super Bowl broadcast on the BBC Sports radio broadcast from Europe. (It is amazing what you can listen to on the internet.) I could tell the BBC announcers did not understand American football to save their lives. They kept using European sports terms like 'scrum,' (aka a tackle/pile up) 'penalty kick,' (I think they meant a punt, but they were using that term for extra points as well) and 'yellow card' (I think they meant a penalty flag.) It was truly hilarious. My point being that the Super Bowl is such a massive cultural phenomenon that America cannot contain it within its own borders. Even places like Europe which generally tend to loathe American sports, particularly football, were broadcasting the Super Bowl.

Sometimes I joke that American football has become the true American religion. I know in the Episcopal church, you can forget about having the annual parish meeting on Super Bowl Sunday if you want a quorum to show up. Some churches have Super Bowl parties, which in itself is fine, but I often wonder exactly what God thinks of the Church actively catering to and glorifying a game that breaks the commandment on honoring the Sabbath.

I do like the game of football, though the massive corruption of Division I NCAA football has soured me on the college game. The NFL is a for profit enterprise, and that is also a reason I have never gone whole hog into watching the NFL. But, in the NFL's defense, it is a professional organization. Unlike the NCAA which is just as much about money but is in complete denial that money runs the game, at least the NFL is perfectly honest about that fact. I also don't like watching many NFL games because the tactics and offensive/defensive schemes are so technical that it is hard for me to follow with the very limited camera angles you always get in TV broadcasts. (The camera is always looking down the line of scrimmage on the snap, and you can never see the full field properly. That's okay in the college game because the set-ups are not nearly as technical, and the informed viewer can usually guess what coverage is being played on defense or how the wide receivers are lining up. This always drives me bananas in the Pro game, however, because unless you are a line coach, that angle is virtually worthless is trying to analyze the overall schemes.)

This idea of Sabbath is one of the reasons why I have never gotten into being a big fan of the NFL. I do watch a game here and there, particularly in the playoffs. I do also keep up with scores and who wins and loses. But for the most part, the NFL has never been a major sports interest of mine mainly because all professional games are played on Sunday. Granted, I may be a relic of an earlier era when players, particularly baseball players, would not play on Sundays (or Saturday Sabbaths in the case of Jewish players like Sandy Koufax.)

But, the idea of not playing on a Sabbath as a way of honoring a Sabbath is completely foreign to the post-modern American sports culture. I remember back in the South in my youth even into the early '90's that it was largely against the law, or at least culturally taboo, do play sports on Sunday. I remember the town softball field would be locked up all day Sunday and not open to the public. Nowadays, organizations like middle school soccer leagues have no qualms about scheduling games on Sunday mornings. In a culture that is over saturated with "stuff to do," I suppose that is the logical end game (pun intended).

We do all sorts of logical mental gymnastics to self-justify. "Well, its in the afternoon, so we still went to church on Sunday morning," or "Well, its a leisure activity and not really work," or "Well, that's just the way it is in a secular society." The list of self justifications go on and on.

However, in terms of the NFL, it is in fact work for those players. They get paid. That's their job. That's how they make their living, hence the term professional. And as noted before, the NFL is a for profit enterprise. (Look at the cost of a 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl if you doubt this.) I guess the question I am asking is what do we mean by Honoring the Sabbath and Keeping it Holy as an American church in the 21st Century?

I don't have a good answer myself to this. Any thoughts?


Mamame said...

I'd ask a few questions:

First, where in the Bible is it said that Sunday is the Sabbath?

Second, where is the church told to observe a Sabbath?

Third, where in the Bible is the world told to observe the Sabbath?

Bottom line is that we can't support from the Scriptures that we're to have a day of the week with no work anymore and especially that it applies to the whole world. What about pastors who have to work on Sunday? My husband is a pastor and he has to work - so his "day of rest" tends to be on Saturday - but oftentimes that is not even a day off because of pastoral duties. I also work on Sunday with my work at church. So what do we do?

So, enjoy watching the Superbowl if that's what you enjoy. I personally love to go to the Superbowl parties that are in the area because it's a great way to connect with other people - saved and unsaved. It's also the best excuse ever to enjoy some chips and dip and other yummy foods!

The Archer of the Forest said...

So, by your logic, does then mean that Christians are to write off the 10 Commandments? What of Jesus saying, "Be perfect under the Law as I am perfect?" Are not the 10 Commandments part of the Law?

Kim said...

Just want to say: I live in Wisconsin and I don't care about football.

So I'll be in church. And then I'm going to have a quiet day at home avoiding chips and dips and little hot dogs swimming in the crock pot.
No football. Resistance is NOT futile.

Peace and grace to you all!

JD Ballard said...

Stanley Hauerwas (of Duke Divinity School) has some good thoughts on this phenomenon in his book "Resident Aliens." Check it out if you get a chance. Dr. Hauerwas is an Episcopal communicant at the Church of the Holy Family in Durham, NC.

The Archer of the Forest said...

I don't care for Hauerwas' methodology. He's too much into the "Christ against Culture" mode for my taste.