The Super Bowl is such an American phenomenon, mesmerizing a world taken in by the new religion of sports, that 230 countries and territories of the world will watch it on Sunday. I have no problem with people watching American football; it's just the embarrassing cultural junk that goes with it that has me worried.
Think of it. The entire world gets a three-hour window into American culture one Sunday a year, and what they see will determine in large part what they think of us.
We wonder why other nations despise America. I'm sure at the root of it there's more than a bit of jealousy for the bright and seductive material culture that we sport on a day like Super Sunday, but there also has to be some disdain if not contempt for what we display as our "way of life." The Super Bowl has its share of real funny advertisements (I'll grant you that), but these are punctuated by some of the most salacious commercials that corporate America can dredge up to sell lite beer, Doritos, hair color, Chevys, Pepsi, Pepsi and more Pepsi. When I was in seminary I went to a variety show at another national college where the guys joked that Americans are fed on a diet of coke and potato chips! Well, that's exactly what we tell them about ourselves on TV!
And are we really okay with admitting that US businesses are paying $2.6 million per 30-second spot this year? I'm sorry but that's just obscene. I don't even have to be an advocate of the plight of the world's poor to blush at that. Yeah, I know, it's the market, right?
Well, marketing is a game of images, and that's the image of bloated America that the rest of the impoverished world will see.
The greatest Super Bowl embarrassments, however, are turning out to be the half time shows. Quite frankly, I'm thinking of volunteering for the Super Bowl committee in charge of selecting next year's entertainment because I just can't take the national humiliation any more. Granted, they probably wouldn't be satisfied with the Gregorian chant that I would suggest, but anything – literally anything – is better than this year's androgynous little icon to American cultural decadence known as "Prince." As if Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" a few years ago wasn't bad enough — how will we live this one down?
The selection of Prince says a great deal about our culture. Sure, he's popular. Sure, he's sold over 100 million albums. But that's exactly the point. Does America like the master of perversion that much? This man is positively dangerous to souls. His albums have been variously titled Chaos and Disorder, Lovesexy, Crystal Ball, The Black Album, Dirty Mind, Camille (named after a French hermaphrodite), The Hot X-perience, The Undertaker, The Flesh, High — and that's just for beginners. Maybe he's turned over a new leaf since he abandoned Christianity and became a Jehovah's Witness in 2001, but weird is as weird does. Michael Jackson behaved himself at the 1993 "Heal the World" Super Bowl half time show too, but we all know how he ended.
To think that the Super Bowl has featured in its history such class acts as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt and even Up With People and the US Marine Corps Drill Team, I can't help but be mortified by images of the Prince of drivel beaming around the globe from our national game.
America has so much more to offer the world! What about the faithfulness of the 100,000 people who braved the cold to stand up in defense of innocent lives at the March for Life last week? What about bravery of the men and women who serve our country as firefighters, paramedics, police officers and soldiers risking their lives to serve others? The Super Bowl should show the true colors of the land of the free and the home of the brave and leave the cultural garbage out.