Sunday, February 4, 2018

On Not Watching the Super Bowl or (Much of) the Olympics

While I have no desire to put a damper anyone’s enjoyment of today’s Super Bowl or this month’s Olympic Games, let me share with you some reasons why I won’t be watching the Super Bowl or much of the Olympics.
What’s Wrong with the Super Bowl?
In January 2015, I posted an article titled “Super Bowl Idolatry.” I don’t need to repeat what I wrote then, although I would be happy for you to read (or re-read) that here. I still think about the same as I did three years ago—although now I am having serious thoughts about not watching any NFL games next season. 
One major reason for giving up watching football is the “violence” that is part of the game. In the first half of their last game of the season, it was painful to see Travis Kelce, the Kansas City Chiefs’ star tight end, get up wobbly and helped off the field after a hard hit caused his second concussion in three months.
So, in addition to my objection to the over-hyped, over-commercialized, “idolatrous” nature of the Super Bowl, also because of the violent nature of the game that injuries skillful athletes such as Kelce, who is just one of many, I will not be watching again this year.
What’s Wrong with the Olympics?
But what's wrong with the Olympics, whose participants are amateurs rather than over-paid professionals? Well, I’ve written some about that before, too, and I invite you to read “Questioning the Olympics,” the article I posted (here) on Feb. 15, 2010.
Added to the misgivings I had then, there is now the sordid story of the sexual abuse of U.S. Olympic female gymnasts by the team physician. More than 150 women accused the doctor of sexual abuse, but he was not sentenced until this year although charges against him go back to 1997.
And then there is the Tonya Harding story. I haven’t seen the new movie about her, but I do remember the sordid events involving her prior to the 1994 Winter Olympics. It seems that she was psychologically abused by her mother, partly to get her into the Olympics.
The pressure on (especially?) girls to get into the Olympics and to win a medal is so strong that psychological abuse is largely overlooked, and even the response to sexual abuse has been shamefully slow.
Isn’t North Korea’s Participation Good?
One of the noteworthy aspects of this month’s Olympic Games is the participation of North Korea. For athletes from both North and South Korea to march in together under one flag and for the Korean women’s ice hockey team to have players from both countries is remarkable and perhaps a sign of hope. But maybe not.
I would like to be as positive about this as the college student who wrote “The Olympic Truce: Giving peace a chance,” a Jan. 31 piece posted on the website of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Sadly, I think that North Korea’s “Olympics rapprochement” is likely to be a “global scam,” as explained in this Jan. 24 article on The American Conservative website.
As you regular readers know, I don’t usually cite TAC (or agree with most of their articles), but I’m afraid the author may be right in this case: Kim’s action is likely “a ruse . . . designed to give North Korea more time to get to the only thing it really does want: a nuclear weapon.”

So, sadly, these are some of the reasons I won’t be watching the Super Bowl today or (much of) the Olympics this month. 


  1. Sporting competition used to be a good medium for multi-national engagement. Politics enters the fray too often. Just play by the rules.

    Super Bowl? Not so super anymore. Why watch. It seems that with most sports, high school and minor league are where one gets the fun of good competition. In the spirit of international competition, I much prefer Rugby or Austalian football, or maybe Cricket. FIFA has gone the way of the NFL and NCAA - not worth it anymore. Maybe the Olympics have too.

    In the spirit of international football, we may watch Invictus again this evening, and enjoy a bowl of popcorn. Bokke Bokke Bokke!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Tim. And, I agree, watching "Invictus" was probably a good choice of something to watch other than the Super Bowl.

      But I didn't know (remember?) what "Bokke" means. When I looked it up on Google Translator, it said it was Afrikaans for "bucks." I thought that was a lot of what the Super Bowl was about: Bucks, Bucks, Bucks!

    2. Smiles. There are several animals referred to as "Bucks", including the team moniker "Springboks". There are also Bushbucks, Waterbucks... The Springbok is the second fastest animal after the Cheetah. It is similar to the Gerenuk where I grew up, although the latter has a rather long neck. I still come to tears watching the SAA 747 fly over the stadium with "Good Luck Bokke" printed boldly under the wings - the SA answer to the NZ Haka.

      The Boks' semi-final game against England was in a rain storm. We all need to pray daily for Cape Town.

      PS - I was able to watch the Super Bowl's tribute to farmers and ranchers by Dodge Ram today - although "bucks", it was a good tribute.

  2. I don`t know if I agree with your opinion on this Leroy, like I do on most subjects you Blog?
    I realize us Christians are in this world but not of this world, but we are told by our Bible to maintain until we are in our Real home.
    We need to keep up to date on what`s going on in the world so we can at least converse with those we are Witnessing&Evangelising to; otherwise we stand to loose Credibility with them.
    I know you will have a Good response to my opinion and I see No harm in viewing sports events, and especially the Olympics that bring people from All over the world Together.
    Blessings to All,
    John(Tim) Carr

    1. I am going to reply to my previous statements and did Not watch the half-time program or the comercials and Only parts of the game. I spend most Sundays doing my Bible study and taking care of my Dear Donna Sue, who has Alzheimer`s for those who may Not know-she is a fulltime job.
      I did listen to the awards presentation, after the game and I think you would agree with me that Millions of people heard from both the winning coach&MVP; the firt thing out of their mouths was we owe All this to our Lord JESUS CHRIST and SAVIOUR.
      I think this should make up for Any of you, along with Leroy, who feel Christians should Not watch the Super Bowl OR the Olymipcs.
      This is my opinion.
      Blessings to you All,
      John(Tim) Carr

    2. Thanks, John Tim, for posting your comments and then your comments about your comments.

      As you know well, I don't expect everyone to agree with me, and I am not surprised that you disagre with what I wrote about the Super Bowl and the Olympics. I know you have a big sportsman and sports fan all your life, and that's OK. (I wish I had been as good in sports as you were.)

      After June and I watched a good movie from about the same time the Super Bowl started, I followed the end of the game on Yahoo Sports, not watching the game but a running account of the plays. It was a good and exciting game, and I am happy that those who watched the game got to see a good one. -- I say this partly to say that I think I can talk with whomever I need to about the game without having spent 3.5 hours watching it.

      Regarding the Olympics, there is certainly the good international aspect to it that you mentioned. But, as I wrote in my Feb. 2010 article, it seems to me that it fosters nationalism probably more than it does internationalism.

      When we watched the Olympics in Japan, as we did many times, about all the events we were able to see were ones in which Japanese athletes had a major part. But after coming back to the U.S., most of what is telecast here is of the U.S. athletes. That is certainly understandable, but it is also quite "nationalistic," it seems to me.

    3. Concerning your comments on your comments: I think you are to be commended for not watching the commercials or half-time show as especially the commercials, and all the interest they stir up, is one of the reasons I don't like the Super Bowl.

      I did not see any of the awards presentation, but Thinking Friend Nolan Carrier in South Missouri wrote me an email in which he said, in part, "I understand Philadelphia has had a spiritual awakening among the players. I like that. The coach just thanked God in a genuine and appropriate way." This is what you were referring to, I assume.

      In my reply to Nolan, who was one of my students at Southwest Baptist University in 1972 (!), I wrote, "How does a coach thank God appropriately for his team winning the Super Bowl?" By the coach or players saying, "We owe all this to our Lord Jesus Christ and Savior," are they implying that it was God's will that they won the game and that God was on their side and helped them rather than Brady and the Patriots. Was God behind Brady's fumble at the end of the game that iced it for the Eagles? Surely not -- but why else would they say it is all because of Jesus?

    4. I got that they were Giving GOD the credit for just being where they were in life and realized that GOD is Not a respecter of persons and didn`t favor them over the other team.
      They were humble and Not arrogant, and their ststements would make hopefully Anyone to get a Good impression of them as representatives for GOD.
      I Think it was a GOD thing.
      Kind Regards,

    5. Thanks for continuing the conversation, John Tim, and for helping me to learn more about the Eagles.

      Thinking Friend Nolan, whom I mentioned above, also gave more good information about the Eagles:

      "Doug Pederson in the head coach of the Eagles. 2013-2015 he was the offensive coach of the K.C. Chiefs. Ten years ago he was coaching in a private Baptist High School. He is strong FCA leader.

      "The Eagles hold chapel every week and in the past several weeks several players have made commitments to Christ, Spiritual Awakening!

      "He did not thank God for winning the Super Bowl but for the opportunity to participate. You must get online and read about this man. I believe he is the real deal. He is the most positive think about the Super Bowl. I am pleased to introduce you a man and team that are presenting a different face of professional athletics!"

    6. Just after writing the above response, I saw the following two articles in today's online Washington Post.


  3. When I was in high school a friend gave me an old board game of football, and we played it a lot. Somewhere between chess and poker, it was a fascinating challenge. As the NFL players have become ever larger and faster the game has become less chess and poker, and much more demolition derby. Then last year Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter. As if it were not enough for the President of the United States to distort and demean his protest, the NFL buckled enough that Kaepernick spent this entire season as a top free agent at quarterback who was not signed by any team, even when the team seriously needed a better quarterback. Finally, the very play Leroy mentions above finally drove me to a break. The chess and poker football finally died in me, replaced by the ugly face of a cruel cross between professional wrestling and demolition derby when Travis Kelce went down during what looked to me like an intentional helmet-to-helmet collision by a defender even as Kelce was in the process of being tackled. Locked in that tackle, there was nowhere for his head to go when hit. No penalty resulted. Certainly no one was ejected from the game. It might as well be gladiator fighting as football. My lifelong love of the KC Chiefs finally had crashed into the violent, corrupt world of professional football. I could look away no longer. I hope Kaepernick walks away from football while he can. I see potential as a political leader in him. Kelce might want to think about it, too.

    1. Thanks, Craig, for your lucid comments. In addition to bringing up the important Kaepernick angle, which I didn't have the space to get into (with my self-imposed word limit), you highlighted the violence angle in a helpful way.

      I, too, had thought about the similarity of watching NFL games to watching gladiator fighting, and I am glad you mentioned that.

      And, yes, I too thought that at the very least there ought to have been a penalty assessed against the player that initiated the helmet-to-helmet collision with Kelce, even though that would not have kept him from getting a concussion, of course.

      I have often said that I am not a NFL fan, just a KC Chiefs' fan. While I watched some of all the Chiefs' games and all of a few of their games this season, I didn't watch any of any other game all season long -- which is one reason it has not been hard for me not to watch the Super Bowl in recent years.

      I will most likely keep up with the Chiefs next season -- it will be interesting to see how they do with their new hot-shot quarterback. But I most probably will learn about how they are doing by reading about them on the Internet rather than by watching them on TV.

  4. It is interesting that culture has brought us vandalism/hooliganism in response to a victory. (I know this dates back a ways.) Why?

  5. Here are comments, once again and once again appreciated, from Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for your comments.

    "I, too, do not plan to watch the Super Bowl; I have watched very few over the years. My main reason is that I find it to be rather boring, although tense moments in close games in any sport can be entertaining. But I am also appalled by the corruption, exploitation of athletes, and serious injuries sustained by athletes in both football and the Olympics.

    "As for Korea, I applaud a joint Korean team under one flag. I suspect that Mr. Kim is trying to brush up North Korea's international image. North Korea already has nuclear weapons (15 according to one estimate), but it lacks a reliable delivery system for those weapons.

    "I would like our government to lead an international effort to gradually eliminate nuclear weapons, but the Trump administration wants to upgrade and expand our nuclear arsenal. Admittedly, getting some other governments to give up nuclear weapons under a reliable inspection regime will be difficult."

    1. Thanks much for your comments, Eric.

      Concerning North Korea having nuclear weapons, I had mistakenly assumed that the talk about how the U.S. must do everything possible to keep NoKo from getting nuclear weapons meant that they did not have them yet. So I was surprised to find just now, because of what you wrote, that an August 2017 article on the Al Jazeera website said, "The US now puts the North Korean arsenal at up to 60 nuclear weapons."

      It was gratifying to see that ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year -- but they have a long, hard road ahead of them. Sadly, it is the U.S. more than North Korea that is most likely to be the main obstacle--and that has been made more difficult with the recent statements by DJT.

  6. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky, who also regularly sends comments by email and that are also much appreciated, writes,

    "I’m not keen on either for much the same reasoning you follow, Leroy. Athletics has moved beyond sport to become one of the world’s largest businesses too. I can’t imagine paying what some will pay to attend the Super Bowl! The Olympics have suffered corruption through drug usage."

    1. Thanks, Dr. Hinson. The doping issue is another sad aspect of the Olympics which I did not include in my article, so I appreciate you ​bringing up that problem in your comments.

  7. I received an email notification that Thinking Friend Greg Hadley, a USAmerican who has long lived in Japan, had posted comments--but for some reason they didn't seem to be here. They were such good and important comments that I am posting them now.

    "I lost interest in the Super Bowl almost twenty years ago, and I see them today as soft gladiatorial games that form a matrix for the most important thing, which is to sell commercial time.

    "The same for the Olympics. It is a roving parasitic event that enriches corporations, provides propaganda for the host country, and exploits the talent of young athletes while significantly affecting the lives of those living in the host country in a myriad of ways (e.g. lost housing, lost businesses, increased taxes, expensive facilities needing maintenance for many years after the event, etc.)."

    1. Thanks, Greg! You succinctly amplified the points I tried to make in my article, and I appreciate you strengthening my position.

  8. Facebook friend Ken Grenz posted these pertinent comments on the link to this article I put on FB:

    "Run and pass plays show some really good ballet movements, but as a whole, the game promotes sexism, glorifies violence, and breaks bodies and minds. The cost benefit does not add up. Yet the game is so uniformity accepted and glorified that even those researching and reporting the facts of brain injury tend to go home and cheer the head bashing on! 😢

  9. Leroy,

    You've certainly gotten a lot of responses to this blog post. I know lots of people protest the Super Bowl by not watching. I've watched less football this year because of the head injuries being inflicted on so may players in the past and currently. I have to think that in a decade or so football will no longer be played (many will disagree), but I don't think we'll continue to inflict boys and young men to these risks.

    I've always said I watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. Most are not as good as they once were, but there were some gems in this year's grouping. Past games have been so lopsided that they've not been worth watching. This year's game with a strong underdog had lots of drama which I enjoyed. What I did not enjoy was the forced down your throat display of patriotism before the game. The National Anthem isn't enough anymore. Now we have to have America the Beautiful, too. All of this has become a statement of support for troops and veterans. I heard a woman interviewed on NPR Sunday morning who said the only reason we sing the anthem is to honor troops and veterans. I respect those men and women, but they are not why I sing my country's anthem.

    I'm still waiting for some national organization as big as the NFL to pay tribute regularly to other heroes in our society...teachers, nurses, social workers, first responders, sanitation workers...who work out of passion, not the paycheck.

    Finally, I am sad you don't want to watch the Olympics. Every Olympics someone looks for a way to politicize the games. I still hold to the ideal that the games help bring the world together in a peaceful way. It is tragic what has happened at Michigan State to so many female athletes. And yes some are pressured to compete by parents or coaches, but I believe that most athletes are there, in Eric Little's (of Chariots of Fire fame) words, because, "God made me fast." These athletes have abilities which they have worked hard to develop and hone. Some people were meant for competition. I watch to celebrate their hard work, endurance, skill, ability, passion. Watching doesn't mean I ignore or don't care about some of the downsides. Every good cause has some form of downside. Certainly the commercialism of the games is a downside.

    Well, I will watch with a closer eye to those things which create challenges for us. I appreciate all the comments made by those who responded. In the next few weeks, I'll be cheering more for the world than the US as the games are played.

    1. Thanks, David, for taking the time to write such substantial comments. I especially appreciate your next-to-last paragraph and agree that the athletes who participate in the Olympics certainly exhibit "hard work, endurance, skill, ability, passion"--and I appreciate/admire that. For that reason I will watch some (but not much) of the Olympics.