If you scheduled your party to start before 9:00 AM Eastern, you’ll be on your own to entertain your guests. From 9 on, however, you’ll have 9½ hours of pregame coverage. That’ll be alot of food but, we’ll get the dos and don’ts of Super Bowl Sunday food later. Let’s start with the cultural context of this game compared to the culture that Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Bud Grant and others knew and understood.
The first Super Bowl was played January 15, 1967. The game was actually (the first of four) called the NFL-AFL World Championship. The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10. In 1967, the men who were the owners, coaches and players in the NFL, like Lombardi, Landry, and Grant were men—American men. The league (there was no players union) did not have college professors as consultants to tell them what was “hurtful speech” and what was “inclusive.”
Fast forward to our 2013 Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers Sunday in New Orleans. The League has changed. There are consultants. There are Attorneys. There are public relations firms. If you receive a check from the NFL, your speech is not “free speech,” your speech is “controlled speech.” Some things are in and some things are out.
These players, like their teams and the League, must be “sensitive” and “caring” and “open” and “inclusive;” not “bigoted” and “hateful.” Some politics are “good” and “productive” so the League is “accepting and inclusive.” Other politics are “hurtful” and “mean-spirited” and must be rejected. Like Bob Costas and Hank Williams, Jr.
Some performers expand the definition of art while others are merely divisive. Take Madonna and Rush.
No doubt the storyline for this Super Bowl is two opposing head coaches who are brothers, John and Jim Harbaugh. This is a terrific American story. But an enterprising radio interviewer uncovered, in what seemed to be a fine, friendly
49er cornerback, Chris Culliver, a “hateful,” “hurtful” bigotry. After a former 49er player, Kwame Harris, was charged with felony domestic violence and assault for beating a former boyfriend, Culliver was asked about homosexuality in the locker room. Culliver forgot the speech control rules; answered like, perhaps, Hank Stram, coach of the 1967 Kansas City Chiefs:
“I don’t do the gay guys. I don’t do that,” Culliver told Lange, who had asked the cornerback if he ever had been approached by a homosexual player.
Culliver indicated that a gay player would not be welcome on the 49ers when Lange asked if there were any gay players on the team.
“We ain’t got no gay people on the team,” Culliver told Lange. “They gotta get up out here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. … Nah, can’t be … in the locker room, man.”
When asked if a gay player should keep his sexual orientation a secret, Culliver stated that gay players should reveal their sexuality after retiring. “Gotta come out 10 years after that,” Culliver said.
The NFL, the NFLPA—as well as the 49ers (who were clearly ready)—sprung into action. Undoubtedly Culliver’s agent was involved. The next day, the 49ers released this statement on their commitment to diversity:
“The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris,” the team’s statement said. “There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.”
I don’t know how you could be more distant from Lombardi (or Grant’s superstar end, Carl Eller) than that. Probably half of the “Super Bowl I” winning Packers would have vomited. Meanwhile, Culliver got the message, saying in a statement:
“The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel,” Culliver said in a statement released by the team. “It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”
Culliver’s personal public relations representative, Theodore Palmer explained:
“Chris is very apologetic for any harm caused to anyone,” Palmer told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “His intent was not that at all. He is one who celebrates the differences of others. All of this was just a big mistake. It was interpreted wrong.”
Did you get that? Apologizes for “any harm caused to anyone;” Chris, “celebrates differences.” God help us. Get bags for the rest of those ’67 Packers.
Back to your Super Bowl party. Is your menu Politically Correct? Is it sensitive and caring? Does it support President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care act? What? You’re not serving vegetables? My heavens no!—Not tacos!
Taco Bell had a Super Bowl ad that said don’t “cop out” with veggies on game day, get a Taco Variety 12 Pac. The vegetable police were on it. Veggies for the “New” NFL are like Costas and Madonna; Tacos are like Hank Jr. and Rush. Taco Bell pulled the ad Friday. They are hoping their ad featuring disobedient old people is less hurtful and excluding. Take a look at what we can’t see during the Super Bowl in (dare I say?) Obama’s America:
UPDATE April 30, 2015: The Taco Variety 12 Pac commercial has been scrubbed from the internet. Culliver was the goat in the 49ers 31-34 loss to Baltimore. Did he play poorly because of a lack of sensitivity training guilt? Did the League and its game officials target him for punishment as President Obama would expect? Was it a combination of the two? Go ahead, you can speculate.
Enjoy the game and, of course, we all hope no one loses.