Panel discusses social impact of Super Bowl

Ken Zimmer

Most people aren’t thinking about social stratification when the Super Bowl comes on TV.
But that’s just what they should be doing, concluded a panel of local sports celebrities and University professors who spoke to about 30 people Wednesday afternoon at Coffman Memorial Union. The discussion, hosted by the Minnesota Journalism Center, touched on topics such as the perception of the Super Bowl as an upper-class event and the exclusion of women from professional sports.
Kellie Gallagher, a former Minnesota Vikings cheerleader, said she has sometimes felt uncomfortable around some men in the crowds.
“There are always times people will look through their binoculars (at you) or make comments, but you just ignore them or get someone to take care of them,” she said.
Dona Schwartz, a journalism school faculty member, said the tendency to objectify women goes along with professional football.
“Everything you’ve learned about being a woman is plagued during Super Bowl week,” she said. “Women can be decorative, but (men) don’t want us to say anything.”
Schwartz moderated the panel, which consisted of Mary Jo Kane, director of the Center for the Study of Women and Girls in Sports at the University; Mark Rosen, from WCCO-TV; Bob Sansevere, from the St. Paul Pioneer Press and KQRS radio; Mary Ann Dallas, from the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders Organization; and Jim Marshall, a four- time Super Bowl participant.
Marshall, a former Vikings defensive end, said football holds many attractions for people, especially the physical contact.
“I think it’s the level of violence,” he said. “People start to identify with that and the sense of competition gives them an outlet.”
Marshall, who said that he doesn’t consider himself a football fan, may not even watch the Super Bowl this year.
Kane said the gender rift is broadened by the Super Bowl.
“Football is a training and proving ground of masculinity,” she said, adding that football provides male bonding rituals for men to celebrate their dominance over women.
Rosen, who has covered the Super Bowl six times for WCCO-TV, said that covering the Super Bowl is an overrated experience.
“It has been one of my least favorite events to cover,” he said. “The week leading up to it is kind of a joke; it’s the same garbage you’re going to hear everyday.”
Schwartz said that, contrary to popular expectations, the fans in attendance at the Super Bowl are predominately upper-class, while working-class fans must watch it on TV. Tickets to the Super Bowl cost around $300, a price many fans cannot afford.
“Real fans don’t have much access (to tickets),” she said.
Rosen said the Super Bowl may be football’s largest event, but it doesn’t bring people together like hometown games do.
“The excitement is very difficult to manufacture,” Rosen said.