Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Different Take on Super Bowl Sunday

I have heard some pundits scorn the "World Series" because it is a contest limited to American teams (occasionally one from Canada) of sport that is played internationally i.e. Japan, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, etc.  The Super Bowl, however, is ours—right? Correct me if I'm wrong, but what could be more American?!
Sister Whit. Will take a lot of convincing to get me to consider anyone can sing this any better than she did.
A game between two championship teams, the entertainment is in no way limited to what transpires on the grid iron. As written in Rolling Stone, "The Super Bowl is an enormous night for television. Last year, an estimated 111 million people watched the game, its advertisements and its halftime show. It all begins with the performance of the National Anthem, a tradition that has been carried out by some of the greatest voices in pop music history. The song isn't easy to deliver – as Christina Aguilera discovered last year – but there have been some exceptional performances." To me, Whitney Houston's performance of the Star Spangled Banner in 1991 reigns supreme. 

Perhaps you have a favorite memory of a half time show as well. In "Bruce" Peter Ames Carlin reports that Springsteen "turned down the invitation to play for over 10 years." In 2009, he finally agreed to play the half time show of Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa. 
"It wasn't what I expected," he says. I wasn't sure I expected it to mean something. But it had a little strange sacrament to it. For weeks afterward, everybody came up and told me what they thought. The guy handling baggage on the airlines, this person, that person, the nine-year-old kid on the street. "Hey didn't you...You know" It was quite wonderful and meant quite a bit to all of us." 
After watching Tom Petty, the Boss said "I can do that!"
The Super Bowl, replete with "a little strange sacrament to it" offers something for everyone. From gaming opportunities—$5 squares anyone? to your favorite Super Bowl party or snacks, its truly a day of celebration. In fact, after Thanksgiving, Americans eat more on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. And the snack industry stop at nothing to see that is true—Souper dips, salty snacks, M&Ms candies in colors of the opposing teams. Skittles the unofficial candy of the Seattle Seahawks must be ecstatic.

Being that 111 million people watched the Super Bowl last year, I think it's time that amidst our celebration, we bring awareness to a pressing reality that too many Americans face on a daily basis: Hunger.

Feeding America the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity puts this in context. This non-profit organzation helps provide food to over 37 millions Americans each year. Formerly known as Second Harvest Food Bank, it consists of a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks and food rescue organizations that serve virtually every county in the United States as well as Puerto Rico. 

It's website offers excellent information, identifying who in our country is struggling to put food on their table and where.. They have an interactive quiz to test your knowledge. Here are facts we can and should all consider.
  • Hunger in America exists for over 50 million people. That is 1 in 6 of the U.S. population—including 1 in 5 children.
  • Children who are malnourished or hungry are at greater risk for failing in school and at work, marking them for a lifetime.
  • One in four children in America is at-risk of hunger.
  • The National School Lunch Program provides lunches to an average of 31.3 million children each school day.
  • The percentage of households with food-insecure children is the highest at 19.3 percent for female-headed households.

It is important to realize just how many people live in homes that are "food insecure." This is the notion that many Americans may not have enough food in their pantry to provide for a full day's meals. Soup kitchens, Federal food assistance programs (SNAP), and The National School Lunch Program are of great assistance to those who may not be sure where or how they will get their next meal. 

Hunger is a reality for too many of our brothers and sisters—the same folks who will also enjoy Super Bowl Sunday and the traditions that come with it. It's not that I don't want you to enjoy your 7-layer dip, your special chili and Fritos or Coors light, but in the spirit of Pope Francis, perhaps you will consider donating half of your earnings from Super Bowl squares to your local food bank. Or maybe you will make a spirited Super Bowl dish/treat for your local soup kitchen to share. My hope is that the strange little sacrament that characterizes Super Bowl Sunday feeds those who go hungry not just for victory but those in our community on a regular basis. Enjoy the day, enjoy the game...and the half time show! 

Photo Credits
The Boss and E Street at the Super Bowl
Rolling Stone: WH
Feeding America

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