Should Mormons Watch the Super Bowl? Opposing Points of View

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A Family Watching the Super Bowl
Are you going to watch the Super Bowl? Two Latter-day Saints talk about how they came to their conclusions.
Opinion

Latter-day Saints Should Not Watch the Super Bowl

Amid the hoopla of the Super Bowl, it can be easy to forget that the event is a corporate product. As consumers, Latter-day Saints should understand what they support with their purchasing power. And the NFL does not stand up to any reasonable moral critique.

Violence

Watching violence in entertainment, desensitizes our mind over time. LDS Church leaders recognize this reality. The Strength of Youth pamphlet advices, “Do not view . . . anything that is violent. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable.”

Yet NFL football not only presents violence as acceptable, but as the main mechanism of game play. Repeated slow motion replays lionize the most violent plays. And as of 2013, the NFL averaged more than one injury per game, all while the fans are watching.

Cheating

When we watch any kind of entertainment, we want to see a moral message displayed. But unfortunately, in the NFL cheaters prosper.

When players and organizations break the rules such as tampering with game balls, taping opponents signals, or taking steroids, they receive small punishments such as losing draft picks, or missing games. But the potential benefits are substantial such as winning Super Bowls, or decades of muscle improvement.

By establishing rules, and then punishing them so lightly, the NFL sends a clear “moral of the story” that cheating is the path to success.

Misogyny

Misogynistic behavior by individual players made a lot of news in 2014. But for a sport that breeds aggression and violence, some responsibility must be taken for the off-field ramifications.

Honestly is it any surprise that women are not respected by the employees of an organization where virtually no women are in leadership? The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports gives the NFL the worst grade of any sport on the hiring of women. And gives it an F for the hiring of women in senior level positions.

The only visible role of women in the NFL is as trivialized sex objects during games. Shouldn’t they hold some responsibility for their players treating women the same way?

Mistreatment of Employees

Evidence is increasing that the NFL lied to players and the public about what it knew about the permanent brain damage concussions can cause.

Thirty percent of players end up with brain damage as a result of playing in the NFL! Some argue that players take that risk willingly in exchange for the fame and large paycheck.

But if that’s the case, don’t we have an even greater responsibility as a consumer?  It may be their decision to play, but it’s our decision to entice them. That fame and large paycheck come from us the viewers.

Stand Up for What You Believe

It’s easy to say that this is Roger Goodell’s fault, or this is Ray Rice’s fault. It allows us to take ourselves out of the moral equation.

But as consumers we are responsible for the things we support, if only by watching the commercials. Some have suggested that this is nothing more than moral one-upmanship, but who are we as Latter-day Saints if we are unwilling to stand up for unpopular moral decisions?

Even if you feel the moral concerns do not amount to much, the benefits of the Super Bowl are trivial. Being with friends and family can be achieved in many ways that don’t support questionable organizations. And there’s little value in being caught up for the “water cooler.” If anything not watching the Super Bowl for moral reasons, may give you the opening to discuss your faith.

None of which is to mention the Sabbath day on which the game is always held. While the Church notably does not dictate Sabbath day observance in any particular way, choosing to not watch the game gives you the time to worship in more substantial ways.

 

Latter-day Saints Should Watch the Super Bowl

With all the allegations and negative stories in the news tied to football, is the Super Bowl something my family or I should watch?

Football and Apostles

Many LDS apostles either played football in high school or college. Both Elder L. Tom Perry and the late Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, among others, have spoken fondly about their college football days in General Conference.

During those addresses, they never said football was something to avoid. With that in mind, I don’t see why someone should throw a flag on you for watching a sport that general authorities both participated in and support.

Positive Influences and Attributes

There are negative things that happen around football. Because of this, efforts should be continually made to limit negative actions and behavior. In our haste to celebrate racking up six more points for righteousness sake by deciding to not watch football, let’s not pull a University of Utah’s Kaelin Clay and drop the football before we get into the end zone. One cannot ignore that many football players are extremely positive role models and influences in their communities.

Football promotes hard work on both an individual basis and as a team. Football teaches discipline, endurance in the face of adversity both in the form of an actual opponent, and a mental one during those hard-fought games and long practices. Football builds leadership and develops decision-making skills—all of which are worthy and important attributes to develop in life.

Family Time

Family, family, family. Your children might occasionally wonder, “Why does it always have to be about family?” Getting you and the kids into the same room, let alone doing something everyone enjoys, may sometimes seem like chore.

The Super Bowl is a great activity that can bring families together. Why not your family? Share the salsa, chat over chips and dips, enjoy the cookies and the company, and you may even watch some of the game if you are a Patriots or a Seahawks fan.

Football might not be everyone’s first-round-pick when it comes to their free time, but last time I checked everyone loves food and spending time with people they care about. If it wasn’t in your game plan to watch the Super Bowl, there is still time to call an audible and score a “quick six” early this year with your family. Watch The Super Bowl and make it a party.

Football Can Be a Tool

Sharing the gospel doesn’t have to feel like you against an opposing team where only one side can come away with a win. A great, non-threatening, way to invite your non-LDS friends over to your home to get to know your family is to invite them over to watch the Super Bowl.

Whether Tom Brady will complete more passes to Richard Sherman or his own receivers, will not be the only topic discussed. Football is a non-threatening way for you to bond, find common ground, and be a win-win for both sides.

After the final whistle blows, and the last chip has been dipped you can then invite the other family to come over again on a specific future Monday night. Tell them there will be a short lesson, an activity, and some treats afterward. Or, as we LDS people call it, FHE. It’s called spreading the gospel people, why not use football to do so?

American Football

Some feel football encourages cheating, misogyny, and other things that decent people should frown on. While some of these things do occasionally take place on and off the field, they’re not what football is about.

Cheating has occurred and will occur in basketball, golf, the Olympics, spelling bees, academics, and yes football. Yet we don’t feel the need to avoid all these things.

Likewise, we should still feel like we can take advantage of the many great opportunities and lessons football teaches, and participate in this great part of American culture.

 

What about you? Are you going to watch the Super Bowl? Why or why not?

 

Christopher D. Cunningham, the More Good Foundation content director, loves emphatically celebrating the normal healthy development of his sons Albus and Whitman, writing about the Church of Jesus Christ, finding the middle ground on most controversies, and using Western Family generic brand lip balm. Christopher is a proud graduate of Brigham Young University-Idaho, and a resident of San Antonio, Texas. He is a longtime supporter of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Abe is always aspiring to be awesome. It wasn't until he started to go bald that he finally started to realize that goal. When that happened, he realized his writing, and life, drastically improved. He enjoys writing, growing his facial hair, and many other pursuits. Abe is a Professional and Creative Writing Major and an intern with LDS.net