This Sunday millions of people will tune in to watch the most beloved tradition in American sports: the Super Bowl. This annual event determines the best of the best in professional football—America’s favorite sport that has, since its inception nearly a century ago, become a religion in itself. From the Highland Mint gold-plated coin toss at the opening of the game to the trophy presentation at the end, from the A-list halftime entertainment to the heaps of nachos and TV ads people consume from couches all across the country, the Super Bowl is the ultimate Sunday ritual.
As devotees to the religion of football, NFL Fans faithfully follow, support, and defend their favorite team year after year, paying to see players in action, splurging on merchandise to show the world their devotion, and even joining mammoth social networks created solely for gambling. And just as people automatically adopt the religious tradition of their family, football fandom isn’t achieved by deep consideration or thoughtfulness. Your team often is determined by where you live or where you’re from, and deviating from the herd around you can be isolating and even dangerous. Decades-long rivalries plague fans with hatred and violence, advertisers fork over millions for thirty-second TV spots that tap into assumed ideologies, and pregame festivities have even become political battlegrounds.
With so much religiosity surrounding a dangerous and harmful sport, it’s puzzling that humanists would support such a spectacle. But if none of this is enough to turn you off, consider the following three reasons why skipping the Super Bowl is good for the health and wellbeing of human beings.
1) Playing football can severely damage the brain and body.
Starting from a young age, football players run the risk of doing long-term damage to their mental and physical health. According to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, children who play tackle football under the age of twelve are at a higher risk of developing developmental problems and experiencing depression as adults. This early exposure can cause ongoing brain changes throughout life. In 2015, 1.23 million children under the age of twelve played tackle football. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of two high school players die each year from tackle football. The damage that long-term players experience can be extensive, including permanent brain damage, the altering of a player’s mental disposition, clinical depression, and severe arthritis due to strained ligaments and broken bones. Athletes required to maintain a large body weight risk developing diabetes, sleep apnea, and joint pain. The danger fans and coaches are willing to put players in may be the most troubling reality of this sport. When the sport becomes the “belief” there is no length fans won’t go to keep the sport going.
2) The Super Bowl may increase instances of human trafficking.
According to law enforcement and anti-human trafficking groups, events like the Super Bowl threaten to increase occurrences of trafficking. While there hasn’t been substantial evidence to back this claim for the Super Bowl specifically, there have been surges of activity leading up to the big game in the past, which is why task forces are standing by.
3) The Super Bowl makes life harder for the homeless.
The homeless population also falls victim to the spectacle that is the Super Bowl. In 2016, San Francisco demanded the homeless population vacate the areas of the city where tourists would be for Super Bowl 50. This year’s game, which is being played at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will close down a homeless shelter at the First Covenant Church across from the stadium for four days leading up to the game. A contingency shelter will be set up six blocks away, but it still disrupts the lives of those who depend on a warm place to sleep in the winter.
So, what can you do instead of watching the Super Bowl? Literally anything else. Go out and enjoy nature. Spend time with your family. Go out to a nice restaurant. Go see a movie with the theatre all to yourself. But if you really dislike the Super Bowl, you can join one of the many protests forming. Spend your time volunteering at a homeless shelter. Or, you can watch my favorite alternative, the Puppy Bowl.