Only the New York Times could make you feel guilty about tuning in to the Super Bowl, but there it was, in a full page in Friday’s edition: “It’s Flawed. It’s Ugly. It’s Beautiful.” Three culture reporters (Austin Considine, assistant TV editor, critic-at-large Wesley Morris, and pop music editor Caryn Ganz) chatted about the upcoming spectacle of Super Bowl LIV. The online headline: “The Super Bowl Is Problematic. Why Can’t We Look Away?”
Considine got his kicks in first, saying he struggled to understand why certain controversial players kept their jobs but Kaepernick did not. "Some fans have learned to tolerate the cognitive dissonance, or to square their free enjoyment with the ostensible free will of the players. Others, like me, have trouble shouldering our complicity with football’s worst elements and have mostly stopped watching," he griped, before wondering why many fans like him would still watch this year's Super Bowl.
Morris blamed capitalism:
"How do we enjoy the work of bad, unpleasant, corrupt people and institutions? Of criminals? Does opting into the Super Bowl experience then condone the problems of football? Can spectatorship be anything but an endorsement? It’s the conundrum of a capitalist society to the extent that it’s truly a conundrum at all," he wrote.
Ganz noted, "Football is the quintessential problematic fave. And like Michael Jackson, it’s too challenging to cancel, too big to fail, too embedded in the fabric of American leisure to rip out. (For now, at least.)..."
Morris was also bothered by the Chiefs’ “tomahawk chop":
Kansas City’s excellent Super Bowl team is the Chiefs; and when fans are feeling confidently vicious, half the arms in the stadium begin to tomahawk chop. (They’re not the so-called Redskins, and yet the team brings with it many centuries of terrible history anytime it plays -- anytime its “merch” is sold.)
Ganz regarded a previous notorious half-time incident through a "woke" prism: "Janet Jackson’s “Nipplegate” incident “rewrote her entire history, plunging her into years of purgatory. It only briefly affected Timberlake’s, since he has the luxury of being white and male," she whined.
Considine pondered why so few country music acts perform at halftime, and insulted country fans:
In racial or political terms, I’ll wager many of those fans who objected to Kaepernick’s knee-taking fancy themselves quite open-minded -- or at least magnanimously indifferent -- regarding the race or style of the performers, same as with the players. If I’m right, then the N.F.L. risks little in ignoring those fans’ musical preferences for 15 minutes. Intolerant people make low-stakes claims to tolerance all the time. But that tolerance reveals its limits when, say, a black man takes a knee.