Super Hyper Bowl

Sport for Its Own Sake Despite the Hype

It rumbles near. The playoffs have ended, and the “Event,” the “All” soon arrives, on February 1st, only the second time the Super Bowl has been played outside of January.

Why so late?

Hard to say. The NFL season expanded to sixteen games back in 1978, and the NFL added a “bye” week in the 1980s, thus expanding the season. Those might be partial reasons.

And, of course: There’s a two week delay this year between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.

More hype
Actually for years the NFL had a two-week delay before the Super Bowl, then it went to one week. I don’t know why it switched back to two weeks:

  • Some of my friends speculate that it’s scheduling difficulties;
  • one guy told me the NFL wants the game as close to February 1st as possible;
  • others say the extra week allows injured players to heal.

But I’m guessing the NFL wants the extra week of hype.

The hype surrounding the Super Bowl exceeds anything else in the sports world, except maybe the Olympics, and exceeds the hype for almost all non-sporting events as well, except U.S. Presidential elections, Senate votes for Supreme Court justices after 1973, and the American Idol finalist shows.

Does all that disgusting hype make me not want to watch it?


Super frivolity
I watch football for twenty weeks out of the year. I’m not going to miss its biggest show just because some people have a warped attraction to it. That’d be like skipping dinner because there are gluttons or not playing with children because there’s Michael Jackson.

Like food and playing with little ones, football is good.

What’s good about it? Its frivolity.

Sport and the spirit
This truth was first explained to me by Georgetown Professor James Schall in On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs. Schall explains that watching sports and contemplation are similar—they’re both things we do for their own sakes. When we engage in business and work, we do it for the benefits. Not so when we watch sports.

Sports also engages “our attention in something fascinating that is not ourselves.” The need to be pointed outside ourselves, C.S. Lewis often pointed out, is the crux of a healthy spiritual life.

For this reason, the joy people take in watching sporting events might be described as a spiritually natural thing. Perhaps it’s not surprising that people everywhere in the world enjoy sports.

Schall even goes so far to take the position that a good sporting event “is its own world and time.” That’s why it can absorb our attention so fully.

At root, goodness
Seen in this context, maybe the hype is understandable. The Super Bowl, in that spiritual sense, takes on a life—heck, a world—of its own.

And there’s no way I’m going to miss it. Taking an interest in something as frivolous as a football game is a good thing; taking a heightened interest in a key football game is even better.

Is all the hype an abuse? Yes.

But the hype remains the manifestation of a greater thing, just as the vulgar consumerism around Christmas still points toward the greatest thing.

And I never miss Christmas.