It has become a bit of an internet meme to observe how the American obsession with football is a form of idolatry. For example, here, and here, and here. Since Judaism is highly concerned with the topic of idolatry, and since I am a big sports fan, it seems like a topic to reflect upon here, too.
The problem with idolatry, as I understand Jewish tradition, is that we are commanded to worship God and God only. Any time we worship something that is not God (whether we use the word "god" or not) we have committed idolatry. We have assigned ultimate meaning to another person, to a natural phenomenon, or to something of our own creation. Our tradition says that doing that is a way of enslaving ourselves to something that can never fulfill our expectations or hopes. Idolatry is a crime against ourselves.
Every sports fan, deep down, knows that this is true. My favorite team won the World Series this year, for example, and I know that the pleasure of winning is great, but it does not do anything to solve any of the real problems in my life. It doesn't make the world a better place or solve the riddle of existence. It sure makes Red Sox fans happy, but it is a very temporary joy. After all, as they say, there's always next season.
I like the Super Bowl. It's fun. It feels good to cheer on your team (even if it is only "your team" for today). We should remember, though, that to make it anything more is just a way to turn an entertainment into a form of self-enslavement.
If you're a Seahawks fan, enjoy the next half. Celebrate and have fun. If you're a Broncos fan, I won't mind if you pray for a little miracle. Just remember, it's only a game.
Enjoy the commercials.