As an enthusiastic sports fan and a former athlete (sort of) who follows the National Football League every year, I am looking forward to this year’s Super Bowl with a great deal of excitement. I expect a great day spent with great friends, good food, a few quality brews, and athletic competition at its best. I love sports and believe the impact society in many positive ways. I am, however, utterly disgusted by how money corrupts competition on the field at all levels: high school, college and professional. When you attend a sporting event or watch one on TV, it seems that flashing advertisements constantly surround you wherever you look. It makes me feel ignorant, as a human, that flashing signs actually cause me and my brethren to buy a product without any frame of reference except that we saw it on some sign, or some athlete claims to use it.
I think the Super Bowl epitomizes the rampant greed that many sports fans simply choose to ignore, which is the main reason (among many others) that I personally boycott all the products advertised during the Super Bowl until the following Super Bowl. I invite you to join me this year. If you do, I can promise that you will be a “better consumer.” By ignoring flashing signs and clever jingles, you will be more likely to select goods based on quality, price and even on the reputation of a company. I can say with confidence that you will only notice benefits to your health, your pocketbook, and an overall improvement of our less-than-desirable economic climate if this is done in large enough numbers.
Although the Super Bowl is televised on network television, the common belief is that it is free to watch the game. This is only true if you take part in this boycott and refuse to pay the costs of the excessively priced advertisements that are passed on to you, the consumer. According to USA Today, the average cost for a 30-second advertisement for the 2012 Super Bowl is $3.5 million. Multiply that by 60 (the number of commercials from 2011), and the total cost reaches $210 million! I myself want nothing to do with paying any part of that ridiculous sum of money. I will be among the small group of Americans who actually get to watch the game free of any “admission fees.”
I also think it is important to call into question the quality of the products that are being peddled to you at great expense. It is certainly fair to say that if you need to spend $3.5 million to advertise a product that everyone knows about anyway, then the particular good or service hardly “sells itself.” Beer aficionados do not drink Budweiser, Mexican restaurant owners do not serve Tostitos, and nutritionists refrain from drinking soda and eating either the Big Mac or the Big Carl. I also find it incredibly ironic that many of the products advertised seem to be in complete opposition to the idea of athletics in the first place. Energy drinks, fast food and alcohol do not bring out the “champion” in anyone. To be a successful professional athlete, except for rare cases, requires a strict adherence to healthy choices and habits that do not include an abundance of simple sugars and alcohol that break down muscle and reduce energy and strength. McDonald’s may sponsor the Olympics, but certainly does not feed its athletes.
We all know that this economy is in shambles and we all want to see an overall improvement. You may hear politicians on both sides of the aisle talking about “creating jobs,” but the solution to fixing our economy in the long and short term is much more complex than that. We need quality employment opportunities that are meaningful and enable people to purchase homes, raise families and send kids to college. By purchasing most of the items you will see during the Super Bowl, you will be doing very little to improve our dire economic circumstances. Fast-food chains and soda companies are not known for their high-paying jobs. In tough times, the “winners” are often very large corporations like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, who offer low quality goods at low prices. The jobs that are created by them are also often less than desired. By visiting locally owned small business, however, you will help take us in the right direction. Local shops may not have the purchasing power to spend $3.5 million on commercials, but they do have the ability to put a personal touch on the goods or services they can provide. By shopping locally, you can be confident that the people behind the counter actually care about their product rather than being alienated from it mentally and emotionally. You also ensure that the taxes local businesses pay will stay in your community.
Watching the ads may be fun, and there is nothing wrong with that. Let’s be honest — some of them are quite hilarious; but that’s not enough to get my money. I don’t want to be tricked or fooled. I want a quality product from a company that treats its employees like people rather than commodities. At first, I did this for all the reasons I listed above, but over the years I have found that it is actually quite fun to find out what I cannot purchase and consume every year. While you may get strange looks and comments for even suggesting this, it will become a source of entertainment … or at least a conversation piece for your family and friends.
Bruce J. Potts resides in Ventura and teaches U.S. History at a local community college