The Bottom of the Super Bowl

On the eve of the big game, debates about the sport and its future rage.

The Super Bowl and the Risks of Being an Athletic Spectator

Have we gone crazy over spectator sports?

I don't know about you but I am getting more and more worried about the influence of spectator sports in America. Here are a few examples to consider.

1. You may have seen this recent report and map stating that the highest paid public employee in all 50 states is either a college football or basketball coach. Period…no exceptions!

2. In recent months I have heard numerous stories of high school seniors applying to colleges basing their selection solely on the status of their men’s football and/or basketball programs. These are students who are not athletes themselves but just want to go to a school that has a great football or basketball team to watch. The quality of the school’s academic reputation, their intended major, the costs of their education, and so forth are all secondary in their decision making process.

3. The Super Bowl will be played in a few days and, in a nutshell, it has become a major national holiday with most of America stopping whatever they are doing to watch the game.

4. A friend’s teenage son looks at college as simply a venue to play baseball if he doesn’t get drafted out of high school. College is to play baseball…period!

Curiously, the majority of Americans (about 67%) are overweight (with BMIs above 25) while 33% of all Americans are considered obese (with BMIs above 30) according to a variety of government reports. The vast majority of Americans don’t even come close to reaching minimum Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for regular exercise. These guidelines are pretty easy to meet by the way. 

The bottom line is that for the most part, we are a nation obsessed with spectator sports but don’t do much exercise ourselves. We like to watch but not do when it comes to exercise.


Now, to be fair, I certainly enjoy following my local professional and college sport teams and growing up in New England (RI), how could I not be obsessed by the Boston Red Sox (but then again, that’s a religion not so much a sport). Certainly sports in America can be an enjoyable form of entertainment and a productive direction for many top athletes, savvy business professionals, and for many youth. I’m not saying that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. But rather I’m wondering if it is healthy for us to be as obsessed about sports as we seem to be and to neglect potentially healthy choices for ourselves and others. Before we watch others exercise shouldn’t we exercise ourselves? Shouldn’t we pursue higher education to further our learning, intellectual enrichment, and career rather than sit in a stadium and cheer our peers while they exercise? Shouldn’t the highest paid public employees be someone other than a college football or basketball coach? Shouldn't we exercise before we watch others do it?

I’m reminded of a comment once made at a group meeting that I attended with the famous and prolific psychologist, Professor Al Bandura at Stanford. He said, “There are those who read and there are those who write.” He obviously is a very productive and influential academic scholar and writer. Perhaps he doesn't read much…I don't know. More recently I’m reminded of the comment reportedly made just last week by Tom Brady, the quarterback for the New England Patriots, who said that he probably won’t watch the Super Bowl himself. Again, perhaps there are those who play and those who watch.

Maybe the more we watch the less we play. While there are no simple solutions to this issue, perhaps at the very least we should be sure that we exercise an equal number of hours to the hours we watch sports. So, for example, if you are going to a three-hour Super Bowl, maybe you should exercise for three hours before the game. On Super Bowl Sunday maybe we should all spend some time before the game to take a walk, go to the gym, or whatever exercise you tend to enjoy and is doable this time of year. Then, watch the game if you want to. I'll watch the Super Bowl but I'll run first. Will you join me? 

So, what do you think?

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Copyright 2014 Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP

The Bottom of the Super Bowl