Living in Denver, with the Broncos going to the Super Bowl this year, I see lots of people dressed in the Broncos’ team colors, pages and pages of news coverage of the teams and their prospects, many parties being planned, and for a wealthy few, the anticipation of attending the game itself. At the risk of being asked what planet I come from, or being considered “un-American” because I am not going to watch the game (a fitness instructor in a class I attend actually said this), I’d like to explore some concerns behind the hoopla. When we look more closely at the Super Bowl, we see a waste of environmental resources, large amounts of consumers’ money spent on throwaway items, and a glorification of violence–all as part of an event priced so high that people of average income cannot even attend.
First of all, let’s look at the expense. According to ABC News, Super Bowl spending will top $15.5 billion for food, decor, and team apparel. In the buying of T-shirts, jackets, hats, scarves, gloves, pajamas, blankets, tote bags, glassware, banners, and countless other wearable and collectible items displaying the team colors, does anyone consider that it is wasteful of both the consumer’s money and the resources that go into making these items that will be worn or used only a very few times? I go back to the slogan: when you are considering buying something, instead of asking “Can I afford this?” ask “Can the planet afford this?” I even saw a tiny baby wearing a Broncos-themed outfit–her parents are already teaching her to consume frivolous, throwaway items that were probably shipped all the way from China.
Parties held to watch the game tend to feature lots of unhealthful food, such as chips and dip, beer, and an estimated 1.3 billion chicken wings. If 1.3 billion wings were laid end to end, we learn, they would stretch from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina to Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver almost 53 times. No mention is made, of course, of the intense animal suffering involved in obtaining these wings.
But it’s the home team–how can I not support them? It’s not the home team, in the sense of, say a high school team, where the players have grown up here and/or have local roots. Professional teams are corporations whose wealthy owners recruit the best players they can get from anywhere. These players would go wherever they are paid the most–it’s just business for them.
Business has also taken over the names of the stadiums where they play, now named after the highest bidding corporations; Denver’s, which used to be known as Mile Hi Stadium, is currently Sports Authority Field, before that Invesco Field.
While we’re talking about the players–how can we support a game that risks inflicting serious lifelong injury on them? Sure, they’re very well paid, but does that excuse what can happen when we send them out on the field? And if we want to support team sports, why do we as a society choose one that glorifies brute force and violence? We could instead increase support for high school and college teams, and for sports such as basketball, baseball, or tennis.
Then there’s the matter of actually attending the game. Ticket prices at face value have gone up in a “hockey-stick” curve. Fifteen years ago (2001) the inflation-adjusted average ticket price was $434. Ten years ago it was $736. In 2014 it was $1,250. And that’s just at face value; tickets obtained on the resale market can cost many thousands of dollars. Thus attending the Super Bowl is not really available to the masses; it’s a perk of the wealthy. In addition, the air travel necessary to get these ticket holders across the country to the big game involves greenhouse gas emissions at high altitudes, not planet-friendly at all.
Call me a curmudgeon, but count me out of participating in Super Bowl mania. There are too many things wrong with this picture.