The Super Bowl, by definition, is not meant to be subtle, but the NFL’s mission to wrap itself in the American flag crossed into new territory yesterday. I’ve grown accustomed to a generous helping of patriotism at major sporting events, especially the World Series and the Daytona 500, but the Super Bowl has no peer. Ever since Super Bowl XXV, the Whitney Houston Super Bowl held during the first Gulf War, the game has been repackaged as a celebration of American strength and values.
Before yesterday’s game, Michael Douglas narrated “The Journey,” a video tribute to the Super Bowl teams that merged a string of iconic images — the Statue of Liberty, D-Day, John-John’s salute, Rosa Parks, Iwo Jima, 9/11 — and the most famous words of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., into a stirring montage of the American spirit. “This is so much bigger than just a football game,” Douglas intoned, as the narrative awkwardly shifted to the gridiron. “These two teams have given us the chance for one night, not only to dream, but to believe. This is a celebration of their journey, of our journey.”
And I thought I was just tuning in for the Packers-Steelers! I had no idea this match-up was the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement, the race to the moon, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The video felt like a political campaign commercial, which, in some way, I guess, it was. But using our shared national history, our tragedies and triumphs, to sell a football league — a league that is now at risk of suffering a work stoppage as billionaire owners square off against millionaire players — seemed a little inappropriate. Did anyone else feel like ‘The Journey” went too far in its evocative imagery? Or is there no such thing as too much patriotism when it comes to the Super Bowl?
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