Did you watch the Super Bowl? (Updated)

And if so, with whom did you watch it?

My family and I joined the rest of our Adult Bible Fellowship for our annual Souper Bowl Party. This has become a central tradition among our group of church friends: a Super Bowl watching party combined with a soup & chili cook-off. We have a few families in our group with houses large enough to host everyone comfortably, along with finished basements where the many, many kids can gather. We’re still waiting for Cincinnati’s turn, but our group includes a couple of Purdue grads who were very happy with this year’s outcome. At least it wasn’t the Steelers. 🙂

The Super Bowl is a powerful cultural liturgy in the United States, part of the “military-entertainment complex” that James K. A. Smith describes in Desiring the Kingdom. Here, he explicates the National Anthem ritual:

The sounds of the anthem are usually accompanied by big, dramatic sights of the flag: a star-spangled banner the size of a football field is unfurled across the field by a small army of young people…And almost always, the concluding crescendo of the anthem — announcing that this is the “land of the free” and the “home of the brave” — is accompanied by a flyover frm military aircraft… (105-106)

A dead-on description of Carrie Underwood’s performance, no?

Meanwhile, in his Christianity Today cover story “Sports Fanatics,” Shirl James Hoffman questions whether our obsession with sports isn’t something diabolical:

On one level, Christians’ attraction to sports is easily understood. Sports are fun and exciting; when played well and in healthy contexts, they can be constructive leisure pursuits that enrich our lives. But organized sports, played at almost every level, too often bring out the worst in us. With astonishing frequency the reputation of higher education is sullied by players’, coaches’, and alumni’s crimes and indiscretions. Recruiting scandals, under-the-table payoffs, and academic cheating—all perpetrated in the name of athletic excellence—have become such regular features on the sports pages that we have come to accept them as the cost of a Saturday afternoon’s entertainment.

It’s worth reading the whole article, as well as Scot McKnight’s brief response. Hoffman’s new book, Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports, delves into this issue in more depth.

Still, there are some good things that came out of the Super Bowl. Our church class has used it over the years to create a community-forming tradition, adapting the NFL’s big game into our own “cultural liturgy.” Last night, amid all of the ads objectifying women and belittling men, there was the small island of normality formed by Pam and Tim Tebow’s ad for Focus on the Family:

The ad was controversial, mainly because Focus on the Family is controversial. NOW strongly criticized the ad before it ran, but Andy Crouch asked an interesting question (via Twitter):

Was there any Super Bowl ad other than Focus’s that featured a realistic, admirable woman in a central role?

Did you watch the Super Bowl? What did you think of the ads, the hype, the combination with Christianity?

(BTW, lots of people asked, rhetorically, what NOW thought of all of the ads featuring objectified women. Well, you don’t need to ask rhetorically, because you can watch an awesomely titled video from NOW, Jockocracy Sexism Watch with Gloria Steinem, to get the straight scoop. I haven’t watched myself, so I can’t vouch for it except for the ridiculously awesome title.)

Update: I almost forgot another relevant resource.  Blog commenter Mike Austin edited Football and Philosophy: Going Deep, a collection of essays exploring, well, football and philosophy. Mike also publishes the Philosophy of Sports blog. His post last Friday: Religion and Football.

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Micheal Hickerson

The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.

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One Comment

  • Thomas B. Grosh IV commented on February 8, 2010 Reply

    Well said Mike.

    Due to the weekend being full with other proposed activities (which were canceled by the snow storm), I wasn’t part of a Super Bowl Party. As such, I watched the first half with Facebook friends. Now if ‘da Stillers were in the Super Bowl, my 10 year old twins would have joined me with their Terrible Towels (along with some more Facebook friends). My wife had no interest in the teams, the game, the commercials, or the half time show. After the kids had settled in bed around the end of the first half, my wife and I turned to finishing Office Season 2 (due back in the library today/Monday). While watching the Office, I tracked the game via ESPN and Facebook updates. After finishing off the last 3 episodes, I caught the last five minutes of the game. What an interception followed by an incredible deluge of status updates/comments.

    If we were still in Pittsburgh, our family would have been involved in a Graduate & Faculty Ministry party similar (in some ways) to the one you describe. Our whole family love such opportunities to eat, chat, and mix with students, faculty, spouses, and kids. It was a bonus to explain/comment upon American football and culture/commercials to Americans and internationals unfamiliar with it. Such conversations are vital to watching the game and taking in ‘the whole event’ which at times can be quite disturbing. Hoffman’s and McKnight’s words are worth consideration, with the comments to McKnight’s post of greatest value. I remember McKnight talking about All of life being in Christ Jesus, incarnating the love of God, love of neighbor, love of self, love of creation … No doubt this should even be in the world of game, both physical and video. This is a place to make culture and if not, I’ve softened to alternative culture such as Upward Sports in which our twins cheer-lead for football and the Church basketball league of which I am a part. But it is hard to maintain discipline in parallel cultures which draw inspiration from the larger culture.

    I took time to review various commercials which I missed and it’s amazing how much they’ve changed through the years. I don’t feel a desire to go back or to stay in the present, may we be culture makers! Along these lines the Focus on the Family Commercial was an excellent set-up for “more of the story” available at Focus on the Family. May Timmy (and his family) continue to walk in Christ and be a good role model. … more later as time permits and other comments stimulate 😉

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