Next to Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday has become the biggest “food holiday” and the largest gathering of family and friends in America.
It is annually the biggest event in American sports. Sunday, 110 million people will watch the game on CBS. Some watch just for the commercials. A 30-second Super Bowl commercial will set you back $7 million. Fifty million people will wager bets totaling $16 billion. One ticket reseller lists game tickets in the $9,000 to $12,000 range.
How many do you need? One luxury suite in the Las Vegas stadium can be purchased for $2.5 million, but you get 20 tickets, two parking passes, plus food and a good seat.
The most eaten food on Super Bowl Sunday is chicken wings, followed by pizza, chips and dip. One in 7 Americans will eat 100 million pounds of wings (which adds up to 1.25 billion wings, just in case you wanted to know). What a sacrifice for the chickens!
The name “Super Bowl” came from Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt. His Chiefs played in early American Football League vs. National Football League championship games. A childhood toy favorite was a “Super Ball,” thus the name “Super Bowl” came to him and stuck.
Perhaps the most memorable Super Bowl game came in 1969, the third game, when Joe Namath and the New York Jets were 19 ½-point underdogs to the Baltimore Colts. Joe guaranteed a victory and produced one of the biggest upsets in sports history with a 16-7 victory.
Sunday is the 58th Super Bowl — LVIII. No Super Bowl has been canceled due to war, a pandemic or weather. The champion gets the Vince Lombardi Trophy, which is made by Tiffany and valued at $50,000. It weighs 7 pounds. Miami has hosted 11 Super Bowls, the most of any city. This is the first in Las Vegas in Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL Raiders, and it seats 65,000.
The winning team’s players get $157,000 and the losing team members get $82,000.That’s chump change when the minimum yearly NFL pay is $750,000. The real prize is the Super Bowl ring. They typically cost $30,000 each or more. Sotheby’s estimates that each ring could be worth $1 million dollars at auction.
Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will be in their fourth Super Bowl game in five years, and they will meet the San Francisco 49ers. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is 28 years old and 2-1 in Super Bowls.
Brock Purdy, the 49ers quarterback, has just turned 24. He was a 3 star prospect when he entered Iowa State and was the last player taken in the 2022 NFL draft making him “Mr. Irrelevant.” He wears No. 13 for his favorite player, Dan Marino. Analysts are having a hard time deciding who they think will win this game.
On a personal note, I had the privilege of seeing just one Super Bowl. It was Super Bowl V in 1971 (53 birthdays ago) when the Fellowship of Christian Athletes had a Weekend of Champions in Miami.
As an FCA national staff member in Kansas City, I helped assemble 100 college athletes and coaches from across the nation to speak in high school assemblies on Friday and do sports clinics on Saturday. We all had a church worship service to speak at that Sunday morning.
On Sunday afternoon, Jan. 17, 1971 in the Orange Bowl, the Baltimore Colts edged the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 on a last second field goal before a crowd of 80,000 people.
Anita Bryant sang the National Anthem with the Southeast Missouri College Marching Golden Eagles Band, who also provided the halftime entertainment. The Super Bowl ticket price was $15.
Perhaps a spiritual application to all of this madness can be found in Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
For millions of us, sports provides such great pleasure, joy, delight and entertainment, but sadly, too many make sports their god and ditch their faith in Jesus Christ.
Billy Graham says in the Library, “Idolatry is the worst of all sins.” After all, it is the first commandment: “Do not worship any other gods besides me” (Ex. 20:3).
As Christians, we are in the Christian race, running with endurance with our eyes fixed upon Jesus, serving Him above all the pleasures of this earth. We can enjoy the Super Bowl down here but nothing will ever compare to the Super Bowl celebration awaiting Christians in heaven when we see Jesus in mansions of glory and endless delight! Hallelujah!
EDITOR’S NOTE — Wayne Atcheson is senior ambassador and historian for the Billy Graham Library and Archive Center. An Alabama native, Atcheson is a graduate of Samford University. He spent 28 years in college football, working with Bobby Bowden at Samford and Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama. He also has spent 33 active years in various roles with Fellowship of Christian Athletes.