Monday, February 05, 2007


Several things struck me on this "Superbowl Sunday." When I first woke up this morning, the television news anchors were talking about the potential problems to the waste water management systems in America because, just as half-time started, such a large portion of Americal would flush at the same time. When I think about this, I wonder at the power of something which can cause such a huge majority of people in the US to behave identically. Later in the broadcast, some intrepid reporter was out at Soldier Field's parking lot because there was a crowd gathered "tailgating" -- there are two facts of which you must be aware to fully understand the import of this assembly. First, as is widely known, the Superbowl wasn't played at Soldier Field-- none of the players or coaches were there. Second, it was the coldest day in Chicago (CHICAGO!) in eleven years. I wonder at what has the power to gather so many who could not even hope to be entertained by the sporting event to gather on this bitterly cold morning.

There were many Superbowl parties in the Seminary housing where I live, just as there are in homes all across the U.S. The Superbowl is a tradition. People remember where they were when certain games were played. Superbowl Sunday has become something of a holiday. My students complained because they have a paper due tomorrow.

I have a penchant for studying ancient cultures, especially Egypt, but I am also interested in
Isreal, Rome and Ancient China, etc. One thing that strikes me from these studies is the role of the gods in the lives of most ancient peoples. Gods represented you as a people. You rooted for your god because if your god won a battle, you won. Of course your gods never "won" battles in the myths until you as a people got to write the myths, so that probably meant you won some military victory over another people and consequently its gods.

We sometimes call certain actresses "screen goddesses" and I wonder whether there isn't more truth than poetry to this comment. We follow their loves and losses, pay attention to their triumphs and sometimes secretly smile at their failures. We take our sons and daughters to Wrigley field and tell them the stories of the past there, the teams that have played and the mythos that surrounds them. We tell them which other teams we hate and which ones are okay, but just not as good as our team. We get in arguments defending the honor of our team, our side, our pride. We associate ourselves with the acts of these athletes who we refer to in mythical language: gladiators, warriors, combatants.

I am struck, then, most by the similarities we have with our foreparents who, searching for meaning and truth in life, grabbed onto stories of something greater than themselves, something to take themselves out of the misery or tediousness of their own lives, and I wonder whether polytheism was the mass entertainment and celebrity watching of the past, or whether professional sporting events and Hollywood are the pantheon of the polytheism of the present. Either way, I wonder whether we as humans have an innate need for something (like ritual and a sense of belongingness) that causes us to make myths out of people and to stand out in the cold on days when the high is zero degrees.

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