Like many Americans, I enjoy a good football game. While not particularly a professional football fan, I do follow the Kansas City Chiefs. (As many of you know, the Chiefs played in the very first Super Bowl, which was on Jan. 15, 1967.) I watched at least some of almost all the Chiefs games in their rather mediocre 2014 season.
Next Sunday I am going to be preaching for the first time in many months, so I am looking forward to doing that. As one of the lectionary Scripture passages is from 1 Corinthians 8, I decided to preach about idolatry, past and present.
Upon realizing that February 1 is Super Bowl Sunday, I began to reflect upon the idolatrous characteristics of the Super Bowl. In searching the Internet, I found that I am not the first to have such thoughts.
Thus, I may not watch any of the Super Bowl—mainly because with all of the hype it seems to border on being idolatrous.
New USAmerican "Golden Calf"?
Consider the cost of attending the Super Bowl. Five days ago I checked to see what it would cost to purchase a ticket. The most expensive one, and there was only one at this price, was $115,000!
Most were much cheaper: I found 64 tickets priced from $10,000 to $13,500. The cheapest tickets, and there were 226 of them left, were $2,491.35. That is the price for just one football game! And even the parking costs more than $100.
In addition, millions are spent for the television advertisements: it is reported that a 30-second TV ad during the Super Bowl costs $4,500,000—not to mention the cost of making the ads.
In addition to those exorbitant prices, the football “idols” make outlandish salaries. For this past season, the top twenty players in the NFL made salaries of from $14,000,000 to $22,000,000. Some made more than $1,000,000 a game!
Tom Brady, the quarterback for the New England Patriots who will be playing in the Super Bowl, isn’t even in the top 20. But he, and others, makes a great sum of money from endorsements.
Of course, there are other idolatrous segments of American society, such as is seen in the world of entertainment and advertisement. For example, Tom Brady’s wife is Gisele Bundchen, a model.
According to this August 2014 article on Forbes.com, since 2002 Gisele has made more money than any other model in the world. “At 34, she is still sitting pretty at the top of the world’s highest-paid models list, pulling in an estimated $47 million before taxes and fees in the last 12 months.”
The article goes on to say, “Bundchen also made about $16 million more than quarterback husband Tom Brady’s $31.3 million annual paycheck.”
Actually, Super Bowl is just one part of the extensive hedonistic idolatry of this country with such excessive emphasis placed on pleasure and consumption, spurred on by millionaire models and multi-million-dollar Super Bowl ads.
In a Jan. 22 online article in Christianity Today, Kutter Callaway of Fuller Theological Seminary says, “The NFL is, in a real sense, our civic religion. It has Sunday worship services, mid-week Thursday celebrations, patron saints (Hall of Famers), and a liturgical calendar that begins with the NFL draft (in April) and ends with the Super Bowl (in February).”
But rather than confronting Super Bowl idolatry, many churches buy into the hype and have watch parties and other activities embracing it. Pastors.com even suggests making Super Bowl day “Football Sunday.”
There is a legitimate place for athletic contests, even championship football games. But let’s not make an idol of them!