Football’s Super Bowl is remarkable for its ability to have gained such a secure place on the national calendar.
Since it began in January 1967, it is all but a national holiday, second only to Thanksgiving as a day for the largest food consumption. Almost every year, it is the most watched event on television. It has done this with a relatively narrow focus — the game of football — yet it attracts the interest of millions of Americans per year, many with little interest in the game, many unable to differentiate a Titan from a Giant, a Bear from a Ram.
The Super Bowl has proven that Americans will dedicate a full day to concentrate on a game.
What would it take to replicate the same intensity to another event of more importance, say a National Day of Reflection?
The nation faces issues, challenges and problems that are worthy of at least as much reflective thought as the winner of a football game. Instead, they become issues of the month, with a short grasp on the national attention span, then shuffled off the stage.
Gun control, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, held 60-second spots on the national news as proposals were drafted. They will be important to those who are absolutists in terms of the Second Amendment and to those who believe that gun ownership is not an unlimited right.
“We all know we have a moral obligation — a moral obligation to do everything in our power to diminish the prospect that something like this could happen again,” Vice President Joe Biden said Jan. 16 in introducing the Obama administration’s gun control agenda.
President Barack Obama then presented his executive orders and his legislative proposals on national television on a weekday, at noon in the Eastern time zone, where it might get some attention at the lunch hour, but still morning commute time in the West.
“This is the land of the free, and it always will be,” Obama said. “As Americans we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us. But we’ve also long recognized, as our founders recognized, that with rights come responsibilities.”
A recent Pew Research Center survey said 55 percent of Americans support a ban on military style assault rifles; 40 percent oppose such a ban. A national conversation would allow each side to explain its position and perhaps inform the remaining five percent. Another important issue, the debt ceiling and deficit reduction, could benefit from such reflection.
People find it hard to think and reflect beyond surface arguments in today’s media culture. This is a good reason for a National Day of Reflection, which would get as much media buildup and hype as the Super Bowl.
Naive and unrealistic? Who would have thought more than 40 years ago that the nation would devote its full attention on a single day to 22 gladiators fighting over inflated pigskin?
The questions of moral obligation, of rights and responsibilities, deserve at least that much attention.
Kent is the retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.