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Super Bowl Sunday: Why I’m Sitting This One Out

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Personally, I am so excited for Sunday night. Because DOWNTON ABBEY, YO! Contrary to what feels like the vast majority of America’s television viewers, I will not be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday. I have never liked football and am blessed enough to have married a man who doesn’t particularly care for it either. But more than that, I believe strongly that the NFL–in this past year especially–exemplifies an ‘American way’ that personally, I’d prefer to see change. 

What don’t I like about the Super Bowl–particularly as a parent? I have nothing against cold cuts or chips and dip or beer (and as a pregnant person, I really miss beer). Believe it or not, I don’t even have anything against fun. Coming out as being anti-Super Bowl, I’ve found, tends to make people dismiss you as a ‘party pooper’ or ‘strident.’ I have no interest in being dismissed as either, but will just say that my dislike for the event boils down to two basic things (three, if you count the fact that I don’t even like the game!).

1. Glorification of Athletes 

While I’m no sports fan, I do realize that it takes a lot of hard work and effort to become a professional athlete. That being said, I’m offended at the way that our society places athletes on pedestals higher than people who make much more significant and meaningful contributions to society–teachers and doctors, to name just two that leap to mind. I hate that football players are paid exorbitant sums of money, while we struggle collectively to find funds to combat childhood cancers or homelessness. To me, Super Bowl Sunday exemplifies priorities that I do not share.

A friend of mine, who prefers to remain anonymous, said it best in an email to me: “Being married to a doctor and having a mother-in-law who’s a New York City school principal, I have a different understanding of who the real rocks in our society are.  While sports professionals may be extremely talented and play under immense pressure, I think society puts too strong an emphasis on them being up there with gods.

Yes, there are some doers and I don’t want to discredit all the amazing charity work that those people do…. There are so many children who see these people and want their lives…. Ideally, I would rather my kids look to the real heroes in our society.”

I don’t want to contribute to glorifying these people by venerating this coming Sunday. I don’t want to contribute monetarily to their riches. And I do feel that my time and money can be much better spent–yes, particularly as a parent–in different places.

2. The NFL’s bad history with domestic violence

If you’re not aware of the NFL’s sketchy dealings with domestic violence cases among its players, you should definitely read this recent NY Times synopsis of the situation. To quote: “Players charged with domestic violence routinely received considerably lighter punishments than players accused of other offenses, like drug use or drunken driving. Often, they were not punished at all.”

Yes, it is the legal system’s responsibility to prosecute and punish domestic violence. But all too often, the NFL has been aware of infractions against women by its players and either ignored them or attempted to actively cover them up in the name of “letting the players play the game.” There are too many examples of players for whom this is an issue to name them by name, sadly–and too few people who care enough about domestic violence to let this minor issue get in the way of their chips and dip on Superbowl Sunday.

As a mother of girls, I don’t want them growing up to feel that their safety is worth less than a sport. And as a mother of boys, I want them to understand that violence against women is never, ever okay. I  believe that the institution of the NFL has deliberately closed its eyes to domestic violence within its ranks, and moreover, I don’t think many people–including football fans–would disagree.

But does that mean assuming a degree of complicity if you don’t take a stand against it and if you buy into it? I believe that it does: that’s how it self-perpetuates, by well-meaning people turning a blind eye in the name of fun.

So you love the Super Bowl and want to take time with family and friends to watch it? I respect your choice. Just take a few moments to think about why you’ve made it.

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