My almost-six-year-old son and I watched the Super Bowl together on Sunday. Earlier in the day we had gone grocery shopping, and he had seen a multitude of footballs -- large, football-shaped helium balloons and miniature footballs on top of cakes and cupcakes. I explained to him that there was a big football game, the Super Bowl, on TV later that day. And Ryan decided he wanted to watch.
I am not a football person. I don’t understand the rules of the game. Players run and try to catch the ball. Someone catches the ball, hopefully, they’re tackled, and suddenly a bunch of grown men are falling on top of each other in a big pile.
To my son, those pileups resembled the game of squish we often play. Squish is a bit of tickling, a bit of wrestling, a lot of love. Periodically, my son would become inspired by a pile-up he witnessed and try to re-enact it with me on our bed.
My son watched the game and had a lot of questions. He wondered why it was dark there while it was still daytime outside here. I explained to him that the Super Bowl was happening in the state of New Jersey, on the other side of the United States of America, where it was already dark. He asked what the flags meant, why a whistle was blown, again, and what “3rd down” meant. I had no answers for those.
My son is quite adept at numbers, and he recognized that the Seahawks were scoring while the Broncos remained at zero. He told me his prediction was that the Seahawks would win. I took this opportunity to turn the situation into a “teachable moment.” Yes, the Seahawks were scoring. A lot. But the Broncos weren’t giving up. They kept trying. They cooperated and worked together as a team. The game wasn’t over yet.
Our biggest problem was the commercials. During the “scary” commercials, Ryan and I turned our heads and looked at the wall. My son asked me why there were so many car commercials. We saw Bruce Willis, Bob Dylan, Laurence Fishburne all advertising cars. And we saw beer commercials. My son, thankfully, doesn’t understand it all, but I had a problem knowing that too many people drink and drive and yet the majority of the commercials we saw were for liquor and automobiles.
My favorite commercial was actually a “controversial” one. Yes, in the year 2014 with an African-American President serving his second term, a cereal commercial featuring an inter-racial family created an ugly controversy.
As a parent, I was thankful that my son watched the game in a state of blissful ignorance and naivete. I was overwhelmed by the images and the mixed messages our country is sending to our children. We want them to be responsible and take care of the planet, yet we’re advertising cars. We want them to drink lots of water and be healthy, yet we saw commercials for soda and liquor. We want people to be treated fairly and equally, yet a commercial with an African-American daddy, a white Mommy, and a mixed-race child (a family that resembles my own) created controversy.
That’s what happens when someone like me, a person who doesn’t really understand the game of football, watches the biggest football game of the year. I think too much about it all.
My son had a good time. And really, that’s the only reason we watched it in the first place.