The late John Philip Sousa is deservedly known as “The March King.”
But at this year’s spectacle known as the Super Bowl, Sousa’s marvelously inspiring music was totally absent. So were any of the marching bands that exhilarate so much of college football games.
I rarely, if ever, watch pro football games – no, make that “pro football events.” For on those professional occasions, enormously paid gridiron gladiators can hardly be regarded as, in any way, sporting (as in games) rather than hugely hired hands for colossal commercial consideration.
But I do watch the Super Bowl, as did a reported 111 million others this year, which was a new record viewership. I do this to look for the growing number of excesses and bizarre behavior.
The game, which was won excitingly by Green Bay over Pittsburgh, was undeniably well-played. But why do so many of these football players have such an aversion to barber shops?
One of the many excessively hirsute players had so much excess hair that it covered his shoulder pads.
This poses a question: If defensive players have the right to grab the arms or legs of the offensive, why shouldn’t they be allowed to grab excessive hair and pull it?
I am most grateful to one of my talk-radio listeners for bringing to my attention the case of Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams, about whom the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported:
“For the record, any part of a player’s hair that extends from the helmet is considered part of the uniform and is fair game for a tackler. It’s known as the Ricky Williams rule for the running back who favored dreadlocks as his hairstyle. … Pursuant to the ‘Ricky Rule’ clarified and enacted in 2003, the hair is considered part of the uniform. It’s fair game to tackle a guy by the hair.”
There were also numerous players whose arms were tattooed.
This begs another question: What would the National Football League do if one of its players were an American-Indian who lingered in the locker room long enough to adorn himself with full, face-covering war paint?
Further into the realm of Super Bowl excesses were a number of the TV commercials for which the Bowl authorities took in enormous amounts of money:
- A spot for Doritos showed one man sucking the middle finger of another man;
- The Pepsi Cola spot showed a can of its product being catapulted into a man’s crotch;
- A Snickers spot featured a woman being knocked down by a swinging tree log;
- A Cars.com commercial featured automobiles talking to each other;
- One ad showed a man throwing a cane – which hits a small boy.
I confess that I avoided halftime, because I needed to eat dinner and halftime featured such “highlights” as the Black Eyed Peas and Flash.
That, and the fact that I heard both “America the Beautiful” and our national anthem musically mauled.
Two female soloists interspersed both of these national classics with feminine howls alternated by groaning. And Christina Aguilera messed up the national anthem’s words.
The only thing more distasteful came two days later when the Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri actually denounced Maryland’s Francis Scott Key for what she claimed was:
- “a botch of nature”;
- “some of the most bizarre and dated lyrics ever attached to any song”;
- “no way singable”;
- “a bizarre relic of the War of 1812”;
- “history’s most unbearable song”;
- “The tune is terrible … an ungodly anthem”;
- The lyrics: “Terrible, dated and irrevocably attached to an oddly specific incident that Francis Scott Key suffered during the War of 1812”;
- “absurd, terrible, embarrassingly incompetent-sounding.”
No wonder the Washington Post – which would publish such a malediction of our national anthem – is suffering major losses of circulation.
By a striking, and to me very welcome, contrast to the Super Bowl is a much older national classic that invariably jams every stadium where it is played.
The Army-Navy Game does not have anywhere near the Super Bowl’s TV viewership. But John Philip Sousa is there and being played by two superb bands (while the Super Bowl had no marching bands at all).
The Army-Navy Game is preceded by two parades: the Corps of Cadets from West Point and the Brigade of Midshipmen from Annapolis.
Comparing either of these march-ons to anything produced at the Super Bowl is like comparing John Philip Sousa to the Black Eyed Peas.
Neither the Army nor the Navy team is as skilled and powerful as Packers or Steelers. But none of the cadet or mid players is paid more than a fraction of those pros – and these Army and Navy players are paid no more than any other cadets or mids.
On very rare occasions, cadets or mids make it to the pros – but only after completing a five-year service obligation in defense of our nation.
That is far more important (and much less financially rewarding) than all of pro football.