Every year, it shows up on Facebook: posts throwing around the cost of a Super Bowl advertisement, ticket or the whole shebang, and arguing that the money would best go to feeding homeless, employing veterans or whatever noble cause. Not only are such comparisons insulting to the millions of people who pay for and enjoy spectator sports—including Pope Francis, a big fan of sports himself—but they show a lack of understanding about where the money comes from and where it ultimately goes.
In other words, the money poured into the Super Bowl was always meant for some big sporting event. The venue, NRG Stadium, had already been built for a voter-approved $352 million. Houston wanted that stadium and they’ve had it since 2002. The incredibly expensive commercials are hyped and expected by viewers to bring laughs, pride and, in Alfa Romeo’s case, something of which the general public wasn’t quite aware. Movies that viewers will ultimately go and see are previewed, earning their 10 million dollar a minute commercial purchase back quite nicely. Were it not for the Super Bowl, other events would take on the advertising money and expensive stadiums would still be built.
And the Super Bowl is such an easy target. Would the same people be lamenting the perceived greed of the Super Bowl, a national event shared across the United States, be making the same arguments about the Summer Olympics, which cost 8.77 billion pounds, roughly 11 billion US dollars, in 2012, also features expensive air time? More than two-thirds of the United Kingdom saw the cost as worth it, and billions of people throughout the world who enjoy the celebration of peace, national identity and humanity likely agree. Should the 25 million dollar cost of the film “Hidden Figures” about NASA’s integral female African-American mathematicians have instead gone to scholarships for underprivileged students wishing to become the next NASA greats? We can’t cannibalize the money and resources for arts, culture and entertainment to support social programs. Otherwise, what kind of society are we trying to build? You can’t pay for housing projects by shutting down the libraries.
In addition, the fault doesn’t lie in the Super Bowl and the NFL. In fact, they have their own issues of brain health and player-committed sexual assault to worry about right now. Homelessness, veteran unemployment and poor living conditions are the responsibility of cities, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, respectively. Where’s their criticism every February? Why point fingers at an expensive sporting event that millions enjoy every year with their fellow citizens when its job was never supposed to involve social work? It’s not as if the Super Bowl is taking money from charities, government programs and pensions for service members. Is it not too much to ask for both the well-being of the United States’ citizens and something for them to enjoy together? We certainly have the money and resources for it. If valuing a sporting event is something inconceivable to you, then replace the Super Bowl with a Broadway musical, your favorite film or the millions of dollars that created the television infrastructure that allow you and your friends to watch whatever mindless reality show together. In the meantime, on behalf of millions of sports fans, including the Pope himself, back off of the Super Bowl.