Did you watch the Super Bowl? (Updated)

And if so, with whom did you watch it?

My family and I joined the rest of our Adult Bible Fellowship for our annual Souper Bowl Party. This has become a central tradition among our group of church friends: a Super Bowl watching party combined with a soup & chili cook-off. We have a few families in our group with houses large enough to host everyone comfortably, along with finished basements where the many, many kids can gather. We’re still waiting for Cincinnati’s turn, but our group includes a couple of Purdue grads who were very happy with this year’s outcome. At least it wasn’t the Steelers. 🙂

The Super Bowl is a powerful cultural liturgy in the United States, part of the “military-entertainment complex” that James K. A. Smith describes in Desiring the Kingdom. Here, he explicates the National Anthem ritual:

The sounds of the anthem are usually accompanied by big, dramatic sights of the flag: a star-spangled banner the size of a football field is unfurled across the field by a small army of young people…And almost always, the concluding crescendo of the anthem — announcing that this is the “land of the free” and the “home of the brave” — is accompanied by a flyover frm military aircraft… (105-106)

A dead-on description of Carrie Underwood’s performance, no?

Meanwhile, in his Christianity Today cover story “Sports Fanatics,” Shirl James Hoffman questions whether our obsession with sports isn’t something diabolical:

On one level, Christians’ attraction to sports is easily understood. Sports are fun and exciting; when played well and in healthy contexts, they can be constructive leisure pursuits that enrich our lives. But organized sports, played at almost every level, too often bring out the worst in us. With astonishing frequency the reputation of higher education is sullied by players’, coaches’, and alumni’s crimes and indiscretions. Recruiting scandals, under-the-table payoffs, and academic cheating—all perpetrated in the name of athletic excellence—have become such regular features on the sports pages that we have come to accept them as the cost of a Saturday afternoon’s entertainment.

It’s worth reading the whole article, as well as Scot McKnight’s brief response. Hoffman’s new book, Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports, delves into this issue in more depth.

Still, there are some good things that came out of the Super Bowl. Our church class has used it over the years to create a community-forming tradition, adapting the NFL’s big game into our own “cultural liturgy.” Last night, amid all of the ads objectifying women and belittling men, there was the small island of normality formed by Pam and Tim Tebow’s ad for Focus on the Family:

The ad was controversial, mainly because Focus on the Family is controversial. NOW strongly criticized the ad before it ran, but Andy Crouch asked an interesting question (via Twitter):

Was there any Super Bowl ad other than Focus’s that featured a realistic, admirable woman in a central role?

Did you watch the Super Bowl? What did you think of the ads, the hype, the combination with Christianity?

(BTW, lots of people asked, rhetorically, what NOW thought of all of the ads featuring objectified women. Well, you don’t need to ask rhetorically, because you can watch an awesomely titled video from NOW, Jockocracy Sexism Watch with Gloria Steinem, to get the straight scoop. I haven’t watched myself, so I can’t vouch for it except for the ridiculously awesome title.)

Update: I almost forgot another relevant resource.  Blog commenter Mike Austin edited Football and Philosophy: Going Deep, a collection of essays exploring, well, football and philosophy. Mike also publishes the Philosophy of Sports blog. His post last Friday: Religion and Football.

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