Politics & Policy

A Great American Spectacle

At worst, it's a great excuse for a party.

On one day each year, diehard football fans are forced to share their game with the general public. And while the profusion of beer and snacks might do something to mitigate for them the offensive intrusion, some of the football cognoscenti — if they will excuse the Latin – still find it necessary to resort to more drastic measures (see Rush, for instance, below). A small minority of viewers will see in this national event compelling evidence in support of the quip that ignorance is bliss; most will just enjoy the festivities, and, if we should be so lucky, a good game of football. So, in honor of this great American spectacle, NRO has gathered here a spectrum of views on the Big Game.


Jonathan Adler

The Super Bowl is supposed to be an epic clash of titans. Unfortunately, the game itself often fails to live up to the hype. Blowouts and snoozers are as common as nailbiters. The New England Patriots have put in some memorable performances, winning games with fourth quarter heroics, but don’t forget about the Baltimore Ravens pasting the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, or the Dallas Cowboys’ back-to-back shellacking of the Buffalo Bills in XXVII and XXVIII. As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I am forced to endure memories of the Iggles’ collapse in Super Bowl XV against the Oakland Raiders. (What a week to play their worst game of the year!). In past years we’ve still had much to look forward to besides the game: Super Bowl commercials! Given the stratospheric cost of gametime spots, many advertisers pull out all the stops, debuting new campaigns and their best promotional efforts. In the past few years I’m not sure the ads have quite measured up, but there’s still hope that if the game is a snoozer, capitalist spirits will provide some excitement (at least until all the beer’s gone).

— Jonathan H. Adler is professor of law and co-director of the Center for Business Law & Regulation at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio.

Rush Limbaugh

Football ignoramuses do not irk me unless they are watching the game with me, which they don’t because I don’t invite them. If one sneaks in with another guest I set them up with Oprah reruns in a far off room. What does irk me is know-nothings getting TV shows on PMSNBC.

I like to think about this Super Bowl as the First Ever. And people love talking about something that is The First. This Super Bowl is a first, and it will never happen again.

The first black coach.

The first with two black coaches.

The first with both coaches being close friends.

The first with both coaches being strong confessing Christians, both of whom are clean and articulate. And I wrote this being myself clean and articulate, so I should now run for president, especially since this is also the first Super Bowl to occur when I have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize .

Rush Limbaugh is an American institution.

John J. Miller

For me, the most important thing about Super Bowl XLI is that it’s the 41st Super Bowl that will not feature the Detroit Lions. At least I’m getting used to it. The Super Bowl is important for another reason as well: It means that spring training is just a couple of weeks away. Go Tigers!

— John J. Miller is national political reporter for National Review and the author, most recently, of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

Geoffrey Norman

There is probably nobody to whom this Super Bowl — or any Super Bowl, for that matter — is more important that the average avocado farmer. A couple of years ago, the best guess was that fans in the U.S. would scarf down almost 44 million pounds of avocados during the big game. Poured into a football stadium, that much guacamole would make a mound more than ten feet deep.

For most people who watch the Super Bowl, the party is the thing. The dip, the chicken wings, the beer and wine. Monday morning comes hard.

And then there is the wagering, which, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal, will amount to something between five and six billion dollars. Around $100 million of that will be in the form of legal bets in Las Vegas, the only jurisdiction where sports wagering is legit. The government, of course, has recently come down hard on the online gambling operations. No doubt they were cutting into the loot states were accustomed to raking in from their lotteries. Government hates competition, and since it isn’t nimble enough to go head-to-head with challengers, it simply outlaws them. When it does this, however, those nasty unintended consequences tend to follow. In this case, the government crackdown has been good for the bookies. One sports handicapper was quoted in the Journal story as saying, “The online-gambling ban should be named the Sopranos Support Bill.”

Still, people will bet on the game even if the government thinks it is bad for them. And no event seems to bring in more “proposition” bets. A couple of years ago, I wagered that there would be no streaker at the game. I lost.

The more cerebral bet is the one that figures the spread. Last I looked, the line was Colts by 7.

But for many of us who would watch the game even if there were no guacamole or beer or betting to get us through, the big question is: Will Peyton get it done?

Sports writers have been wearing this one out, but the question is still compelling. Manning is a great quarterback and an appealing personality. But he has not yet won a Super Bowl, which, for a quarterback, is the last, essential step to football immortality. If he wants to be remembered with Staubach and Elway and other greats, Manning needs to engineer a Super Bowl win, and probably this Sunday in Miami. There is no guarantee he will ever get another chance.

For me, that’s the story. The ads and the dip … all that stuff is just lagniappe.

Geoffrey Norman writes for NRO and other publications.

Mike Pence

The most important thing about this weekend’s Super Bowl is that the American people get to see the greatest quarterback in NFL history finally get a ring, and, in the process, they will be inspired by his conduct on and off the field. This year’s Super Bowl offers a classic Midwestern match-up between two teams that reflect the rugged character of the region they call home. The Bears bring the unpretentious valor of the Windy City to Dolphin Stadium, while the tireless, indefatigable Colts bring the humility and character that personifies the Hoosier state. From the coaches to the players, this will be a game that promises to inspire.

It doesn’t bother me one bit that millions of Americans who never watch football will be watching the game…as long as they are cheering for the Colts!

Congressman Mike Pence represents the 6th District of Indiana in the House of Representatives.

NR SymposiumNational Review symposia are discussions featuring contributors to and friends of the magazine.


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