ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–Prior to Super Bowl VI between Dallas and Miami in 1972, Cowboys’ running back Duane Thomas was asked by a reporter what it felt like to be playing in the ultimate football game. Thomas replied, “If it’s the ultimate, why are they going to play it again next year?”
In a simple sentence Thomas forced football fanatics and pop culture junkies at least to consider keeping some perspective on the annual “super” event. However, it seems his comments have been wholly ignored by society at large.
The Super Bowl began rather inauspiciously on Jan. 15, 1967. The game was part of an agreement between the well-established National Football League and its new rival, the American Football League.
The terms of the agreement included a game that would pit each league’s champion in an “AFL-NFL World Championship Game.” In 1970 the two leagues finally merged.
The first world championship contest took place between the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs. Not quite 62,000 fans gathered in Los Angeles’ 100,000-seat Memorial Coliseum, and an estimated 60-million watched the game on television.
Ticket prices for the Green Bay-Kansas City match-up ranged from $6 to $12 and a one-minute television commercial sold for $75,000 to $85,000. Halftime entertainment at the “AFL-NFL World Championship” consisted of performances by the marching bands from the University of Michigan and the University of Arizona as well as an appearance by trumpeter Al Hirt.
For the record, the Packers defeated the Chiefs 35-10.
Fast Forward to Super Bowl XLI –- the Chicago Bears will take on the Indianapolis Colts in Miami. The crowd will fill all 76,500 seats of Dolphin Stadium. The face values for tickets to this year’s game are $600 to $700. However, many of those in attendance will have shelled out three to five times the face value.
Advertisers will spend $2.6 million for a 30-second spot. Singer Billy Joel will perform the National Anthem and rocker Prince will provide halftime entertainment. An estimated 140 million will watch the game via television and many of will do so from Super Bowl parties.
The consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. estimates that U.S. companies could suffer lost wages of approximately $820 million as Americans focus on the Super Bowl. The unproductive time will include chatting about the game, planning parties, organizing betting pools and researching big-screen TVs.
What caused the Super Bowl to go from a football game that many ignored, to the behemoth event that now captivates America’s attention?
One contributing factor is America’s obsession with entertainment; make no mistake about it, professional football is entertainment. There is no other reason to justify the presence of scantily clad, gyrating “cheer” leaders. I ask you, what value do they add to the actual game?
The Super Bowl is hyper-hyped as crowning achievement in professional sports. In fact, in many fans’ minds a player’s career cannot be considered a success unless he triumphs in the “ultimate game.”
However, one of the main reasons for the Super Bowl’s success lies in the fact that so many Americans live without a sense of purpose. In a life that is void of meaning or purpose, only experience holds any real significance.
A person that has no meaning or purpose motivating his or her life seeks to find fulfillment in experiences. So a big event, like the Super Bowl, becomes an opportunity to share a moment, something significant that will add value or a sense of meaning to life.
Sports provide a wonderful outlet for those drifting through life without purpose. There is always the next game or the next season to which to look forward. Some even live vicariously through their favorite players. After this year’s Super Bowl many fans will boast, “We won,” when the only effort they expended was to walk to the refrigerator for a snack.
On Monday the “ultimate game” will be talked about and individual plays will be rehashed. However, the only lives that will be richer for experience are the players that participated and the Miami businesses that benefited from Super Bowl spending.
The day after the Super Bowl many will have shared an experience, they will have enjoyed a game, engaged in a gaudy distraction, but few lives will have been changed.
The Super Bowl is, after all, only a football game.
I agree with Duane Thomas — if the Super Bowl is so ultimate, why will it be played again next year? And when it is played next year, how many actually will be able to recall this year’s ultimate experience?
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears Fridays in Baptist Press, is editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, online at www.baptistmessage.com.