The Super Bowl Sunday holds a quintessential cultural and cohesive meaning among all Americans. Super Bowl Sunday is characterized by social gatherings, charitable events and high food consumption, dynamics that are all akin to other American holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas (Deninger, 1-5). Furthermore, the viewership of the Super Bowl is quite diverse as the number of white, Asian-Americans, African Americans and Hispanics who tune in to the game amounts to more than half the population of each group in the United States (Deninger, 3).
However, the argument against designating the Super Bowl as a holiday is drawn from a concern that the National Football League (NFL) will lose some of the economic prospects of the Super Bowl when the Federal government gains more influence over this day. For instance, the NFL has predominantly controlled gambling during its games, a power that it would lose if the Super Bowl was turned into a national holiday. Even transferring the term “Super Bowl” into the public domain could be consequential to the NFL since it could lose the revenue generated from licensing the use of the slogan to commercial corporations. Despite these concerns, most Americans already perceive Super Bowl Sunday as a holiday. In the chapter “The Social and Cultural Impact of the Super Bowl”, Dennis Deninger affirms that the call by most Americans to designate Super Bowl Sunday as a holiday is out rightly justified.
In his first argument, Deninger asserts that the national viewership of the Super Bowl games is quite diverse and representative of the perceptions of the entire nation of the Super Bowl as a popular countrywide and global event. In 2009, 74 percent of the Super Bowl viewership was by white Americans, 11.2 percent by African Americans, 4.4 percent by Asian-Americans and 9.2 percent by Hispanics (3). This viewership nearly matched the general populations of each group in the United States.
Moreover, the number of male and female viewers of the Super Bowl approaches parity. According to a Super Bowl Nielsen report, the number of women who tune into NFL games stands at about 49 percent while that of men stands at 51 percent (3-4). Hence, this statistic represents a trend towards gender equality. Moreover, the global context of the Super Bowl can be affirmed by the tweet of Pope Francis.
During the 2017 Super Bowl, the Pope wrote that the cultural dynamics of the NFL game promoted peace in the world (2). Contrariwise, Mark Dyreson warns that although the NFL website boasts of a viewership in 170 foreign countries, American football is yet to create a remarkable global impact on the sports culture unlike soccer (Dyreson, 3-7). However, Dyreson notes that the Super Bowl is still “a beacon of American nationalism” (13).
Secondly, the Super Bowl holds the cultural significance, social gathering aspect and charitable undertakings inherent to other national holidays. During the Super Bowl XXI, the winning New York Giants players poured Gatorade on their coach as a way to celebrate their victory. Later, this tradition would be replicated in NHL games and other American sports as a post-game celebration (18).
The solemnity of this culture is best described through the analogy of the Bears’ coach, Mike Ditka. Dikta was quite distasteful of this tradition, warning his players against repeating the incident. Deninger allegedly claims that Dikta’s decision would later cost the team a championship game (18). Conversely, New York Giants’ coach Bill Parcells encouraged his players to continue winning through the series by adopting the post-game celebration (19). In addition to this cultural significance, the Super Bowl promotes the social gathering of friends and family just like other holidays.
Millions of Americans hold Super Bowl parties or spend time with their families during the game (4-5). Most Americans abhor spending Super Bowl Sunday alone and prefer to be in the company of their loved ones. Inherently, the Super Bowl promotes a large consumption of food second to the amount consumed during Thanksgiving (5). The act of exchanging gifts during these holidays is also represented during the Super Bowl through charitable acts that promote the growth of society (15). NFL charities offer financial grants to communities in the states that host the Super Bowl.
The charities aim to improve educational institutions, provide technical training, develop the life-skills of minors and build youth recreational centers (15). Hence, the practice of gift-giving in other holidays is adopted by the NFL through various forms of charity during the Super Bowl.
Yet, one looming concern that is against designating the Super Bowl as a national holiday is that the NFL will experience financial losses. The use of “Super Bowl” is exclusively copyrighted to the NFL which receives a stream of revenue for allowing other corporations to market their products using the slogan.
Furthermore, the NFL made Caesars its “Official Casino Sponsor” to control the lucrative gambling business. During NFL games, the number of placed bets amount to more than $6 billion annually (10-14). Hence, designating Super Bowl Sunday as a national holiday would result in the NFL’s loss of revenue from licensing as well as its loss of control over the gambling business to the federal government.
Nonetheless, designating the Super Bowl as a national holiday would simply be a form of formality that should occur. Already, most Americans recognize the Super Bowl as a holiday based on its cultural significance, works of charity and its promotion of socialization— akin to other holidays. The Super Bowl has managed to bridge the diverse cultures of American citizens by promoting cohesion among them. Just as Dyreson notes, the Super Bowl is a symbol of nationalism.
Deninger, Dennis. “The Social and Cultural Impact of the Super Bowl”. The Game that Changed
America, Blackboard, 2020, pp. 1-21.
Dyreson, Mark. “The Super Bowl as a Television Spectacle: Global Designs, Glocal Niches, and
Parochial Patterns”, The International Journal of the History of Sport, 2017, pp. 1-18, DOI: 10.1080/09523367.2017.1349115