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Most Americans won’t need a justification to watch Sunday’s game, but if you’re a TomDispatch.com reader you might think, even in passing, that celebrating the holiest day of violence, consumerism and class warfare on your couch is a betrayal of your values or a waste of your time. You might even imagine that it would be better to take a hike, read a book or meditate.
Not this Sunday, buster. It’s an election season. You need to watch this game to fully understand how jobs, religion, leadership and healthcare dominate every American contest.
1. Joe Hill will be playing. Where else will be you be able to watch more than 100 young men, most of them African-American, working for high wages in a totally unionized shop? True, their jobs are dangerous (more on that later) and relatively short-term (typically three or four years), but they are also high-profile. They can lead to TV gigs, even political office. Buffalo Bills quarterback Jack Kemp became a Republican congressman and vice-presidential candidate. The former New England Patriots running back and ESPN analyst Craig James is currently running for the Republican nomination for senator from Texas, although to less-than-universal acclaim.
Fans tend to fixate on the money and glamour of the football job, so that when this past season was threatened by labor-management strife, it was easy for National Football League lackeys to frame the confrontation as “millionaires versus billionaires” so the rest of us thousandaires wouldn’t stand with the workers against the bosses.
Even with a progressive attitude, watching the Super Bowl, which seems to float on rivers of oil—think car ads—and beer, is not exactly like holding a OWS-style general assembly in the red zone. Nevertheless, it’s a terrific visual of the American class divide. In their skyboxes, usually in jacket and tie, eating, drinking and high-fiving—or scowling—are the one-percenters who own the team, which is usually not their only source of income.
Below them, on the field, are their employees (many of them temporary one-percenters, given the median league salary of at least $560,000), using up the capital of their bodies. If you want to root for the Patriots or the Giants, fine. I’ll be rooting for the working class.
2. Tim Tebow will not be playing. Thank God. The season’s most hyped player—the NFL published its first magazine last month with Tebow on the cover—has the looks, personality and backstory of the clean-living, principled, athletic role model we’ve been told we need to help raise our children. Born in the Philippines to Baptist missionaries who refused to abort him despite his mother’s illness, Tebow led the University of Florida to two national championships and became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, college football’s top individual prize. He also refused to be considered for Playboy’s annual all-American team because the magazine’s values conflicted with his Christian beliefs.