Is the Super Bowl Even a Sporting Event Any More?

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest events of the year, but is it losing the sporting element behind pop stars and movie trailers?

On Sunday 4th February, one of the largest – albeit controversial – sporting events of the year happened. People from around the world, who barely watch American football and have no clue about the rules, stay up until 3am to watch the biggest NFL (National Football League) match of the year. While America seems to stop for a whole night as everyone crowds into pubs, their living rooms, or anywhere with a TV.

But there’s a significant difference between this event and a European final of the same stature – for example the Champions League final, with the seeming lack of dramatics and theatricality compared to NFL.

Chloe Challis is a football and rugby fan, and finds that in making the Super Bowl entertaining, it loses the sporting aspect.

“I think the theatrics of the Super Bowl are what make it entertaining to so many people,” she begins. “It’s popularity ultimately stems from the excitement of first look trailers, and commercials and of course the half time show. I think it contributes to why the Super Bowl is such a widely recognised event. But in terms of the sport, it’s almost completely overshadowed by the theatrics.”

“In terms of the sport, it’s almost completely overshadowed by the theatrics.”

There’s a stereotype around Americans that they like to milk things. They like to turn something that could be rather mundane – such as an hour of American football – into a huge event, a spectacle, a day that attracts the biggest names. People like to moan and groan that events such as the Super Bowl are “so Americanised”. But, is that such a bad thing? Among all the hate, the terror, the segregation that our everyday lives are filled with, is it really such a bad idea to have one day where everyone with access to a TV can enjoy an event that takes them away from the real world? Is that not essentially what sport is, escapism?

Christabel Bancroft has been a fan of American football for about 11 years now, and the theatrics that run side-by-side with the sport actually helped to attract her to NFL.

“I love how over the top it all is and I actually love the game and (most) of its rules,” she explains. “It’s entertaining and once you learn what’s going on, you can see the competition.“

Craig Quinn has been following NFL for almost ten years now after being involved in an American Exchange programme. He agrees with Christabel, and believes the theatrics add to the Super Bowl rather than take away from it.

“It offers a little bit of Music, Sport and Film,” he says. “I don’t think the theatrics of this take away from the sport, I think it adds to it. It’s a once a year thing. They have to make it big to get an audience and keep viewers coming back every year. I guess the majority watching obviously tune in to watch the football. However, film fans get to watch the latest movie trailers. Music lovers get to see 13 minutes of an act performing their latest and oldest singles. It’s all fun and friendly and brings people together for one night. Not only in America, but worldwide.”

“It’s all fun and friendly and brings people together for one night. Not only in America, but worldwide.”

During the same weekend as the Super Bowl 2018, rugby Six Nations began. There is a significant point to be made before comparing the two. NFL is club American football where as Six Nations is a competition with six international teams (England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and Italy). But if we were to compare them both, you’d find that the Six Nations are conducted in a much more “British” or “European” manner. There’s some fire at the beginning and the national anthems are sang, but in terms of dramatics, that’s about as far as it goes. While P!nk sang the national anthem before the Super Bowl, the majority of the people involved were crying. In fact, there was barely a dry eye in the arena. You’ll struggle to find a single tear at any of the rugby matches during this year’s Six Nations.

In terms of whether European sporting competitions such as the Six Nations should take some influence from the Super Bowl, Challis would rather it not.

“I’m happy for them to stay the same,” she says. “I watch the sport because I’m interested in the sport and game, half time is an opportunity to get a drink, listen to commentary and discuss the game. I don’t need to then be distracted by a half time show, or to be distracted by pointless commercials.”

There’s no denying we live in a heavily commercialised and materialistic world. The Super Bowl has jumped on this, using ad breaks to push the biggest films of the year with brand new trailers, using the biggest music artists to cover half-time, and regularly zooming in on the most famous celebs sitting in the audience. Perhaps the controversy (more so outside of America) comes from sport fans not understanding the need for so many distractions. But what is for sure, is that the Super Bowl is getting bigger every year.

Whether you love it or loathe it, it’s here to stay. It’s usually on pretty late at night over here so it’s easy to avoid if it’s not your kind of thing. But the idea that these American footballer players are basically being overshadowed by a thirteen minute performance by a singer is a little disappointing for sport as a whole. The sporting world offers opportunities, escapism, and entertainment. It’s understandable why people find it frustrating that the sport at the Super Bowl is almost being forgotten about.

But people enjoy it, and how often do we have an event that uplifts, entertains and brings people together in the same way the Super Bowl does? It’s here to stay, and perhaps that’s actually a good thing.

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