As I sat back and took in the carnival better known as the Super Bowl, I couldn't help but feel ashamed.
Being a former player, it would have been easy to get captured by the moment and solely focus on the game. But I quickly realized the event within itself is not about the game. It's about catering to the higher power.
Similar to the structure of our great nation, the Super Bowl does not have time to concern itself with the perceived lowest common denominator of society. The haves versus the have nots has been the bane of our social order for centuries, and the NFL's annual "big game" is a yearly reminder of the dynamic.
The true fans of the game are not fiscally able to attend, nor are they really encouraged to attend. Instead they are forced to view the product they fund through a lens that has been carefully manicured to present what is intended to be seen.
It's not a coincidence that every celebrity or "somebody" attending the game is bestowed a gratuitous camera shot. We all know that George Bush, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Condoleeza Rice and Michael Douglas represent the populace of the NFL's fan base. It's the cool kids' club, don't you wish you were here.
This is all taking place while every few minutes folks are bombarded by commercials of stuff they probably can't afford, but are told they need if they want a level of respectability in this world.
But the reality is you can't buy your way into the club because there is no club without you. You have to stay home because who else is going to watch the $3 million, 30-second commercials?
Advertising is meant to draw consumers and the more consumers I can have watching my ads the more worthwhile it becomes to spend millions on advertising. It is really simple economics and the NFL has mastered the art of leveraging a dedicated fan base to bolster the value of its brand.
Some of you are reading this and saying, "What about the fans at the game?"
First, every single fan attending the game had to be selected through the NFL's secret lottery. After you send in your certified mail request, "don't call us we will call you" is the procedure. This is the antagonist to regular-season ticket sales, where the league falls over itself to assure you are well-accommodated.
But the Super Bowl is different. All of the corporate sponsors and their partners become the target demographic while you sit at home to enjoy their festivities.
I clearly understand that this is just business and a darn good business model, but is it right? At $9 billion a year the NFL qualifies as big business and all big corporations have a little slime around the edges. During a time when companies like Enron, Bear Sterns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac personify today's economically dynamic institutions, isn't the NFL supposed to stand alone?
I'm not saying nor do I believe the NFL is in a position to bring our country to its financial demise. I am pointing to the notion of exploitation.
Each one of the aforementioned institutions all share one common theme: the exploitation of people because it was the people that made them what they were and the people were the biggest losers.
Maybe I am naïve to believe that this game that grew into a business should position itself above the fray of the almighty dollar and represent who represents them. But after this past Super Bowl became the most-watched television show in the history of television those same people that made this possible have to sit around and wonder if there will even be a Super Bowl next year.
It doesn't matter how the NFL's slick PR department wants to spin this, it's just not right. It's bad enough that the biggest sporting event in the world that is made possible by the commoner isn't intended for the common man.
Now, these same people will toil through their respective areas of employment while penny pinching with the hopes to crack open their piggy banks for the kickoff of the 2011 season without the assurance of there even being one.
That's the existence of the have-nots, but the haves will continue their butler lifestyles and wait for the invite to the event they could care less about.
Maybe this is fair in the world of big business but the world of sport is supposed to be a meritocracy. I don't see the merit or virtue in keeping people out of what they built -- and potentially taking it away as well.