The propagandistic Kevin Costner movie inadvertently highlights just how much pro football doesn’t live up to its own ideals.
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Heading into Sunday’s Broncos-Seahawks Super Bowl, much of the chatter focused on the cold conditions. The fears about the weather, though, turned out to be unfounded, and Super Bowl XLVIII was to happen on an unusually mild evening in the swamps of Jersey. Peyton Manning, who famously struggles in the cold, got near-perfect playing conditions. The night seemed ripe for a classic battle between Denver’s devastating offense and Seattle’s brutalizing defense.
But, not so much. Seattle’s defense was fast, mean, and seemed to be everywhere. They blew up screens. They tipped balls in the air and ripped them to the ground, creating four fumbles and recovering two. They got in Manning’s face and danced all over the Denver backfield.
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Perusing the metaphorical tomes of modern civilization, we can already speak to some of the Great Questions—the ones that might define our era. “How do we balance security and liberty?” captivates our public discussions. Scientists struggle to resolve “Is light a wave or a particle?”
Yet one question mesmerizes us above all the rest. It can never truly be solved, we must admit. Our best epistemological hope is to resolve it from year-to-year. It is, of course:
What time is the Super Bowl?
But how did this enigma come to dominate our era? The history—only now becoming visible—is as follows.
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On Sunday evening, the 48th Super Bowl will kick off, and millions of Americans will tune in—the Super Bowl has been the most-watched television broadcast for 20 of the last 20 years. Americans need not view the controlled violence of the professional football as a guilty pleasure: The president says it’s okay to watch NFL games.
“These guys, they know what they’re doing. They know what they are buying into,” in terms of risk, the president told David Remnick of The New Yorker.
Obama is correct—there is no reason not to enjoy the Super Bowl. I’ll be at the game, and anticipate having a great time. I like Seattle by a field goal.
But Remnick and Obama spoke only of the NFL. Most attention to football focuses on its professional level, where “they know what they’re doing” is a common theme. For instance, a few days after the president’s remarks were published, Mike Florio, a football analyst for NBC, denounced “incessant hand wringing” about football’s neurological harm—the players are highly paid “grown men.”
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The Northwestern University football team’s petition to unionize raises thorny questions—but it’s a radical first step in making athletes’ voices heard in decisions that affect them.
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High-school cheerleaders rule the halls, commanding the admiration of every dweeb, dork, and quarterback. But as salaried adults, cheerleaders are at the bottom of the pyramid.
This week, current and former Raiderettes—the cheer squad for the Oakland Raiders—filed suit in the Alameda County Superior Court, claiming that the football team “withholds all pay from the Raiderettes until after the season is completed, does not pay for all hours worked and forces the cheerleaders to pay many of their own business expenses,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.
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As a citizen of Seattle, I’ve been aware of Richard Sherman for some time. I knew he was one of the best corners in football and had come from Compton to Stanford to the NFL. I knew he was a strategic trash-talker who goaded opposing receivers into committing costly penalties. I knew he was capable of an aggressive, boastful flamboyance that is at odds with “Seattle nice”—and that’s therefore deeply appealing to noisy Seahawk partisans seeking release from everyday sublimation.
What I didn’t know was that Richard Sherman was also ready to represent the nation. He contains at once three narratives that the great organizer Marshall Ganz says are key to social transformation: a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now.
In all the reverberating sound and fury since Sherman’s postgame interview, Sherman’s been derided as a loudmouth by people who once considered that a badge of honor. He’s been called many ugly racist names, and was depicted literally as the alien other (that is, the creature from Alien) on Twitter.
But let’s face it. Richard Sherman is as all-American as all-American gets.
Read more. [Image: Elaine Thompson/AP]
It would seem, at first glance, that the NFL has done something "asinine" in its planning for Super Bowl XLVIII. For the first time ever, the game will be played in a cold-weather city, in an open-air venue—MetLife stadium in the Meadowlands—and by putting the Super Bowl in the New York-New Jersey metro, some say, the league may have turned their biggest event into the world’s biggest mess.
Last year’s Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco, called the decision stupid. Terry Bradshaw hates the idea. Columnists from CBS and ESPN have objected as well. But while bad weather would be a nightmare for people traveling to the game, and while it might make for a nasty afternoon inside the stadium, a Super Bowl in bad weather would be a delight for everyone else—a gloriously gritty, sloppy spectacle of old-school football.
Read more. [Image: Julio Cortez/AP]