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Super Bowl is an all-consuming experience
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If professional football is not a game, and it ceases to be a sport about the time a kid enters high school, what is it? It is a not-for-profit institution granted tax-free status not unlike the American Red Cross. - photo by Joseph Cramer, MD
I have been at the mountain top. I have seen the promised land. I was in Phoenix during Super Bowl Week.

If there was any question about who rules supreme, it was answered in the Arizona sun. NFL, NFL, NFL. Amen. Amen. Amen. For those who missed all the excitement, you are out of luck until next year.

The trappings for the Super Bowl were everywhere. Getting off the plane, we entered into the NFL Twilight End Zone. It was as if we had arrived in Shangri-la. The Super Bowl is no longer a sporting event; it is the event. It is not 22 men pushing and shoving on the pitch; it is an all-consuming experience. It does not start with the blowing of the whistle nor end when the game clock ticks to 00:00.

One could not travel anywhere in the Valley of the Sun without bumping into something promoting, extolling or highlighting the NFL. It started the moment we disembarked. Welcome signs from floor to ceiling greeted one and all. We missed renting from the official rental car of the NFL because we got a better deal on Priceline. It is unclear exactly what we missed, but I am certain it must have been very special.

We made up for our rental faux pas by staying in the official hotel of the NFL. Unfortunately, the official hotel was very noisy with weird pounding sounds that kept people awake. We gave the hotel a penalty for personal foul of roughing the sleeper. The official bathroom light had burned out, but they did replace it with another official NFL bulb that worked. My guess is they were intentionally reproducing the time the lights went out in the New Orleans Super Dome during the Super Bowl.

It is hard to define the NFL. It stopped being merely a game a long time ago. It may not even qualify as a sport. It has become for some a form of idol worship. The gods are the quarterbacks or the rushing defensive ends. The TV commentators are the priests, the players the sacrificial offerings. The devotees have their holy days and pregame rituals. They pay tithing by purchasing all the icons of their faith caps, uniforms, tickets, posters, chips and beer.

The NFL consumes our social consciousness. We spend more time talking about a bunch of deflated footballs than we do about our childrens future, low pay for teachers or collapsing infrastructure. Thirty seconds of Super Bowl ad revenue would help many an impoverished school district.

If professional football is not a game, and it ceases to be a sport about the time a kid enters high school, what is it? It is a great American business. More precisely, it is a not-for-profit institution granted tax-free status not unlike the more praiseworthy American Red Cross. It is only appropriate with the T-shirts that read, "Donate blood, play football."

The NFL is a cabal of a few very wealthy owners/families conducting a $9 billion enterprise freed by an act of Congress from the restraints of ordinary monopolies. It is a taker of public funds to build its coliseums and skybox palaces.

"Kill em" is the cry of the warrior soldier in a struggle to kill or be killed. It is the same call that hyperactive parents scream at their 10-year-old in pads. Seeing their intensity come out as aggression tells us that football ended as a game and has become a condition.

The spread of its reaches into every part of our life speaks to the power of modern advertising. Throw in powerful young men; stir in helmet-crashing, head-smashing violence; sprinkle in the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders; and mix with a gob of technology and slow-mo and you have todays professional football.

If the NFL Super Bowl dies, we die as a country. Fortunately, it will return as the phoenix next year, but this time in Santa Clara, California.
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