Today we will witness that annual American event, a distant progeny of the Roman Colosseum era, the Super Bowl. Coincidently each year the bowl is numbered in Roman numerals.
This over-the-top yearly demonstration of First World excess, with the incredible hoopla before and during the so-called game, lends itself to an exercise in social analysis.
As we know, the first step in the process of social analysis is a diagnosis of an event, a situation, a reality on any level of human life. There is no immediate judgement or suggested action in this reporting – “just the facts.”
Here, then, are data of Super Bowl LVII without commentary, which, it is hoped, will lead to the other two steps in a full social analysis where the specifics of a situation are judged and appropriate actions decided on.
(Full disclosure: the dollar statistics cited here are the best that can be determined as this is being written.)
Super Bowl LVII:
- Number of TV viewers based on the 2022 bowl attendance: 112.2 million.
- Stadium ticket prices: Average – $6,700; most expensive – $37,000; cheapest – $4,300; 50-yard line – $29,000.
- Estimated cost of the military jets flyover at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona: $450,000.
- Betting on the Super Bowl: $16 billion.
- TV coverage begins: 1:00 pm (ET)
- Game time: 6:30 pm (ET)
- Length: three hours and fifteen minutes, plus ½ hour half-time show.
- Time of actual game: on average, 11 minutes with each play taking between 4 and 12 seconds.
- Number of TV advertisements: between 80 and 100.
- Cost of each TV advertisement: $7 million for 30 seconds.
- Bonus for each winning player: $150,000; for each losing player: $75,000; for cheerleaders: reportedly, minimum wage.
This is what is called “the greatest football game on Earth.” (The game we call “soccer” is actually known as “football” everywhere else in the world.)
Decidedly, American “football” is a violent sport at every level where it is played. In the National Football League, the average weight of the contestants is 245 pounds with 500 of them weighing over 300. A physicist at the University of Nebraska has calculated the impact of two “medium-sized” players, who can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds, hitting helmet-to-helmet on a “routine” tackle. He concluded that the impact is the equivalent of a 16-pound bowling ball falling on each of them from a height of 12 feet.
A measure of the effects on the participants of such a spectacle is reported in an ongoing study at Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center. There they conduct research on degenerative brain disease in people with a history of concussions, in particular those who play American football. Their symptoms include degenerative memory loss, erratic behavior, marital problems, personality changes and Parkinson’s disease. Its most recent findings reveal that nearly 92 percent of ex-NFL players studied (345 of 376) suffered from some degree of CTE.
The estimated net worth of the National Football league is $91 billion. However, this week just three days before Super Bowl LVII, the Washington Post ran a three-page report entitled, “The NFL fights to avoid paying for disabled players’ care.” Much of the article relates in detail stories of disabled former players being denied compensation by the NFL, and at times only receiving help from the NFL after legal battles. The investigation revealed that “debilitated former NFL players continue to encounter a benefit plan, jointly managed by the league and the players’ union, that fights aggressively to deny claims…” There have been some 10,000 such claims since 2008.
This first step in the social analysis process leads to questions of judgement and action. Here, for example: what are the reasons for the enormous popularity of this particular game in our country? And significantly for people of faith and all people of good will: what is the morality of being even remotely a part of it?
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.