Super Bowl XLVII was more than a week ago. I know the number because it corresponds with my age. I was thirty-two when I attended Super Bowl XXXII and thirty-five when I attended Super Bowl XXXV. I came into possession of tickets to the big game because my dad was an NFL official and he called the action on the gridiron… twice. Years ago I wrote a poem for him for Christmas. It began:
Have you seen the men
who man the field, and hurl flags of gold?
With nerves of steel,
dare penalize Montana, Boomer and Bo.
I also made him a Nativity that I called “Joe and the Three Wise Refs” Joseph was number 16, Mary a cheerleader, baby Jesus a football, and yes the trio of astute observers all signaled touchdown.
Hello, my name is DeAnn Olsen and I am a football fan.
The Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos matched up in 1998 in San Diego. My sisters and I did the Macarena with a cardboard cutout of Terry Bradshaw while wearing cheese heads. I rode in the elevator at the hotel with Magic Johnson. I wanted to let him know that I was there in 1979 in SLC when he won the championship, but I just stared. I just stared at Jewel, who sang the National Anthem that year, not believing she was an actual celebrity because she was wearing pants and not a gown. I just stared at Gayle Sayers, a leading character of the viewed once a year, tear-inducing flic, “Brian’s Song.” I thought I had arrived. I was a walking billboard for collecting NFL paraphernalia. T-shirt, jacket, hat, pins, pendant, stickers, flags. Hell, we even came home with true to scale embossed solid chocolate football centerpieces from the après events.
But, on the way to the game, we noticed, amid the brightly branded attendees making their way to Qualcomm Stadium a barefoot savior-looking fellow, head bowed, holding a sign quietly questioning the superness of the Super Bowl. What?
QUESTION YOUR OBSESSION WITH VIOLENCE
Greed, Fear, & Pain.
Imagine the hilarity. The laughter broke out. When John Elway was hit so hard that he went spinning around like a helicopter I high-fived my comrades and a chorus of “Question your Obsession with Violence” was sarcastically shouted.
This year the San Fransisco Forty-Niners and the Baltimore Ravens matched up in New Orleans. Before the game started the Sandy Hook Elementary Choir, those that survived the bloody massacre, entered the arena and sang a heartfelt, “God Bless America” along with Jennifer Hudson, a superstar herself, left singing singly after her family was shot down one quiet evening. Then Ray Lewis takes to the field, his signature dance performed to the roar of the masses,* his twisted Christian glory given to God. This man may have murdered two. His plea-bargain settlement swan-song played out on the biggest stage in sports. A sport that leaves blank spaces of magnificent trauma etched in grown mens’ brains because they are hit too hard and too often. A sport that for all its brilliance and strategy and even beauty, is proving to be an expedited yellow-brick road to a premature demise.
I just stared at the television. The announcers spewing their soulless spittle, meaningless statistics, and acting easily entertained by the sound of their own voices, laughing at their own jokes. Then the lights went out. I thought this surely has dwindled into dystopian American society playing out in a “Hunger Games” extravaganza. We certainly celebrate our survivors of violence. “Dodge the bullet” become a star. Out wit, out deceive, out manipulate your neighbor become a star with a bank account. What about the thrivers and thinkers, the creators and caretakers? The day-to-day doers? Where do they fit into what is becoming an almost literal battle to the death?
Ravens won. It was close… next year the same confetti will fall on the winner and the MVP will head to Disneyland. Same old. Same old. I’ll probably still bring out my commemorative seat cushions, and blood diamond pendant, and critique the advertising that for all its millions of production costs will be forgotten a few days later. Its uncanny the staying power of one silent sign carried by a barefoot activist with head bowed, but I think it’s time to, “Question your obsession with violence.”
*the video linked to above is of the welcome home in the Raven’s stadium. I find it disturbing… the flames and fireworks, the hero worship, and mostly the song accompanying it.