Sometimes, people come so close to hitting the mark but miss big.
Mark Dice, conspiracy theorist and Alex Jones acolyte, would like people to boycott the Super Bowl on Sunday and “read a book.” On the surface, I both understand and to an extent, completely agree. Before unweildy mobs of football fans show up at my door hurling beer and chicken wings, let me add that I don’t exactly hate football or sports – but I also don’t enjoy them.
I’m not going to debate the merits or faults of Dice’s theories or those of Alex Jones. Drinking the pitcher of Kool-Aid they offer or writing off everything either has ever said without question are equally ridiculous. In his little rant though, Dice does bring up an important point, even if he’s too self congratulating to notice: “When we have a society that knows and cares more about sports than they do about events that actually affect their lives, I think that’s a problem…”
The problem is not one specifically limited to sports, but as an example, the Superbowl may shine the brightest. Americans love spectacle, passive entertainment and orgies of consumption. We’ve based most of our economy on this trilogy and allowed it to become our primary method of engaging our political system. 1
The “debate” that follows Dice’s initial statement works to solidify our love of style over substance. The sportscaster scoffs at the idea that a society more interested in the results of a game than its imprint on the world might have its priorities out of line. 2 He first deflects by pointing out he’ll be spending time with his family – but adds “the only yelling I’m going to do is probably at my wife when I need another sandwich.” Game related cheers and jeers aside, that’s probably true – and it’s likely the millions of conversations that will happen by folks surrounding televisions will be nearly 100% game related or food and beverage related. He later points out the merits of football as a way of educating his children in basic math, which unfortunately highlights the absymal state of education in America. Another newscaster comments on the economic boon the Superbowl will be with millions ordering pizzas – another fine example of a limping economy based on consumption rather than creation. 3
Though we definitely can act it, most Americans aren’t stupid, even football proves that. It takes a decent amount of brainpower to remember statistics, history, game strategy and betting strategy. Unfortunately, it’s so much misappropriated focus. We’ll spend countless hours, dollars and energy on this one game, then we’ll spend the same on March Madness, the World Series, the Stanley Cup and varried playoffs. In between, we’ll throw an equal amount of time and talent into Hallmark holidays and celebrity awards shows.
Whether sports fans or not, Americans need to wake up. When the closest we come to political discourse is attempting to prove birther myths and death panel falicies, when economic innovation amounts to another fast food franchise, when security amounts to fear of breast implant bombs and foreign policy amounts to adjusting laws to justify torture, we’ve got a problem. When we spend more time dreaming up new advertisements and campaign slogans, we’ve got a problem. When “family time” amounts to little more than circling around a television to watch other people do something athletic, we’ve got a problem.
Hopefully, we won’t be too hungover Monday to get to work on it. 4
1 Noam Chomsky pointed out “People…have no hesitation in criticizing the coaches, the judgments of the people running the shows, etc. In contrast, when discussing matters of concern to human lives — their own and others — people tend to defer to ‘experts,’ though for the most part the expert knowledge is no more beyond them than how the local professional sports team should play their next game.” While you’re at it, read this as well.
2 Dice does no better in this debate – he would rather the masses show interest in only *his* brand of ideas – rather than an interest in self reflection.
3 It’s also worth noting that the sportscaster points out what a great event this is for the people of New Orleans. While I have no question that it’s very honorable and uplifiting for New Orleanseans to have their team in the Superbowl, it’s more than shameful the majority of America will pay more attention to the team than they have to a city still decimated and trying to rebuild from a disaster that occurred more than four years ago.
4 In order to avoid accusations of being a sanctimonious intellectual or bratty hipster, for the record, I have never watched an entire Superbowl all the way through and this year won’t be any different. I won’t however, be doing anything intellectual or cool. Superbowl Sunday will be like any other Sunday for me, so I’ll probably spend it playing video games, watching cartoons and drinking cheap wine or moderatly priced beer, depending what I can afford to piss away.