Football has never been a stranger to politics, and this year is no different: Will a NY Giants victory in Super Bowl 2012 impact the 2012 election?
Flashback to 2009, when the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl against the Indianapolis Colts 31-17. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and much of the Gulf Coast in 2005, Super Bowl 2009 was more emotionally-charged and politically relevant than most. The Saints' victory represented more than just a win in the country's largest football game; it gave hope to the citizens of New Orleans, a metaphoric sign of the city's recovery after four years of suffering. That the Saints' famous Superdome stadium was used as an emergency temporary shelter for displaced residents just years earlier was a powerful reminder that football can, indeed impact politics and the national psyche.
This year's Super Bowl contest features the New York Giants vs. the New England Patriots, and the age-old Boston vs. New York rivalry aside, the game will hold little of the same political or emotional impact as back in 2009. Of course, the game is bound to be entertaining, and with the nation's weak economy and a broken national government, any opportunity for us to bond together over food and sports provides a nice diversion to our political problems. (Indeed, it is refreshing to enjoy a day that will not be dominated by political coverage of the 2012 election). But, the New York Giants do not hold the same political weight as the New Orleans Saints. I say this as a proud New Yorker.
Which teams would have made a more measured impact on politics this year? First, the Detroit Lions. After limping along on near life support for years, Detroit's auto industry is enjoying a revival this year; Chrysler and GM have begun to pay off considerable chunks of their bailout receipts and all Big Three auto manufacturers posted profits in the third quarter of last year. This after many questioned whether the Big Three were beyond repair.
After performing near the bottom of the NFL all decade, the Lions experienced unprecedented success this year, under the leadership of starting quarterback Matt Stafford, defensive phenom Ndamukong Suh, and hard-nosed coach Jim Schwartz. A Lions victory in Super Bowl 2012 would have provided a boon to the city of Detroit, boosted the city's morale, and served as affirmation of the success of the auto-bailouts. (At the end of 2008, when the bailouts were being negotiated, 15% of Americans reported they would not buy an American car. By March 2010, that number was down to 6%.).
Second, the Green Bay Packers. Yes, the Packers won the Super Bowl last year. But Wisconsin has been rocked by labor protests this past year, with controversial Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to ban public unions. Public protests in Wisconsin over collective bargaining garnered large amounts of publicity in 2011 and Walker may be recalled this year. The Packers are a unique NFL team, due to their ownership structure. They are publicly traded, with a total of 112,158 shareholders owning 4,750,937 shares in Green Bay Packers Incorporated. The Packers’ stocks do not gain in value, there are no dividends, and ownership can only be transferred to an immediate family member. There’s a 200,000 individual share limit to prevent any one person from becoming the majority owner. A Packers victory in Super Bowl 2012 would be a win for this more egalitarian model of ownership (in sharp contrast to the Washington Redskins, for example), and also serve as a rebuke to Gov. Walker.
While the New York Giants vs. New England Patriots game will have all the excitement of a dramatic rematch, it will not impact the political conversation in the same way a Packers or Lions victory could.
Photo Credit: AJ Guel