Can we say it now? Is it safe? Are all those Homeland Security bros and confused-looking U.S. Army personnel, with their assault rifles, bomb-sniffing dogs and nervous glares, on their way back to base? What about the military snipers, Blackhawk helicopters, FBI investigators, additional surveillance cameras? Is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell back in his cryogenic deep freeze until the next time he’s called upon to decimate some other city and/or defend brain damage?
Excellent. Let’s go for it.
Farewell, and good riddance from San Francisco, Super Bowl. You will not be missed.
No reason to be delicate about this. Goodbye to your bloat and garishness. So long to your manufactured patriotism, your bogus Americana, your vulgar $4,500 tickets, your chauvinistic arrogance, your drug, rape, sexual abuse, spying and cheating scandals, your nauseating foodstuffs, your Tostitos and liquid cheese and your Pizza Hut Garlic Knots and your oceans upon oceans of pisswater Bud Light. Verily, Super Bowl, you passed through the Bay Area like a kidney stone.
Wait! Do not misunderstand. This is not anti-spectacle, or even anti-sport. Sporting events large and small can be marvelous and unifying; game days are as good excuse as any to gather friends and enjoy company and freely mock Coldplay’s bright, vacuous flaccidness. We flourish with the World Series. We rock the SF Marathon. Events like Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly? Grand and messy and wonderful. And so on. Also, Beyoncé is a total badass. I mean, clearly.
But the Super Bowl is a different beast entirely. Uglier, more sour and destructive and laughably, ruthlessly inelegant. The game is not about sportsmanship, or athleticism, or friendly rivalry. It’s publicly sanctioned, heavily sponsored violence. It often represent the worst in televised American sports, not the best. And the game is frequently boring as mud.
I don’t know all the exact logistics – because many have been kept intentionally murky and buried – but reports say SF taxpayers were slammed for more than $5 million to host the Bowl, which is about what the NFL makes in nine seconds of broadcasting. Other reports say Super Bowl City was a disaster, poorly planned and under-attended, given how the game itself was fully 45 miles away, in a tiny town that suffered not a single indignity and made all its money back in advance. How many backroom massages did SF mayor Ed Lee promised to Roger Goodell to host this lurid silliness? No idea.
Nevertheless, you, yourself, were watched, and closely. Did you know if were hanging around the Bay Area at all during Super Bowl week, you were tracked and recorded in any number of ways? Security in SF was omnipresent and sinister. Did you remember to wear your Allah is My Homeboy T-shirt?
Let’s be fair: It’s easy to criticize. Most people understand the NFL is a massive, insane scam, a multibillion-dollar machine run by rich white males, made of counterfeit jingoism wrapped in millions in brain-trauma litigation payouts. The league and its owners rake in billions even as taxpayers and cities line up to subsidize new stadiums. Few humans are actual fans of the titanic “non-profit” corporation that is Goodell’s NFL.
But then again, some certainly are. Furious football supporters have let me know it’s downright un-American to hate on the Super Bowl, that it’s an “honor” for any city to host the NFL’s colossal circus. “If you don’t like the game, don’t watch it,” they argue, derailing the point entirely.
It’s at least partially true; the NFL has spent billions to shut down critics and forcibly enshrine itself as the all-American, righteously nationalistic proto-sport. The Blue Angels! The Budweiser horses! Military ceremonies! Doritos and Chevy and a bunch of creepy pharmaceutical commercials promoting drugs for diarrhea and irritable bowel! Who are you to question it?
Don’t forget rampant sexism, barely veiled rape culture and of course, the epidemic of degenerative brain disease that has officially afflicted hundreds of players – if not pretty much all of them – from high school football on up.
Have you read Joe Montana’s comments lately? What about the recent death of Ken Stabler, the famed Raiders QB? According to researchers at Boston University, “Stabler had high Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., the degenerative brain disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.”
This much you know: When the president of the United States declares unequivocally that he would not let his own sons (if he had any sons) play football, and yet the NFL juggernaut plows along bigger and louder than ever, something’s amiss.
But let’s keep it in frame: the Super Bowl did not serve SF at all well. And if all reports are accurate, San Francisco did not serve the event well, either. We were, apparently, a lousy host; the City failed in numerous ways to make space for all the ridiculousness the NFL’s cavalcade of orchestrated brutality hurls forth.
Which, for most of us, is fantastic news indeed. We didn’t much care for you, and you fit us like the Mormon church taking over Folsom Street Fair. Let us part ways amicably, and never try this again. Deal?
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