There’s a ‘Super Bowl/I Hate Football Party’ This Sunday
Whether you’re a diehard fan who can’t wait to watch the New England Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks during the Super Bowl, or a fair-weather follower who actually hates football and everything it represents, Harvard’s Humanist Hub has just the place for you to go to catch the big game on Sunday.
Organizers from the Cambridge community center, which caters to atheists and agnostics, are throwing what they’re calling a “Super Bowl/I Hate Football Party,” a hybrid social gathering that will broadcast the Super Bowl while simultaneously hosting a discussion about how the beloved sport “glamorizes” cheating, violence, drug abuse, sexism, and over-eating and drinking.
For Humanist Hub Chaplain Greg Epstein, a longtime Patriots fan who graduated from the University of Michigan the same year as Tom Brady, tackling the negative topics that have been piled on to his home team in recent weeks—and months— will be no easy task.
“I’m ambivalent about this [event] in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever been before. This is a sacred cow for me, sports, and I feel like I’m about to tip it over,” said Epstein. “I’ve always loved the Patriots, and I love how Brady carries himself, but this year has been such an awful, awful year for sports fans who are trying to justify our love of sports to ourselves—especially with football, and especially the Patriots. It’s really deflating.”
During the event, it’s downfalls like the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, accusations that the Patriots used unregulated footballs in the AFC Championship game, and reports of assaults at the hands of other league players that Epstein and the community hope to air out, as the game plays on the big screen in the background.
“With all the scandals…our team, our guys—the good guys, the Patriots—don’t even seem to be coming off as good guys in all of this,” said Epstein. “This is grief [for me].”
The idea to host the “Super Bowl/I Hate Football Party” was born last week while members from the Humanist Hub were trying to figure out ways to carry on the tradition of doing “meaningful things” that benefit the area and their supporters.
Being an avid sports fan with a particular passion for the Patriots, Epstein suggested a Super Bowl party of their own.
But his assistant Chaplain, Vanessa Zolton, looked at him with “disgust and disdain” when he made the suggestion. “We were in the middle of a staff meeting and I said, ‘what’s all this disdain about? We try and keep a positive attitude in our staff here,’” Epstein said. “And she just started going on with this litany about the things she despises about football. I like to think of myself as being someone with a response for things, but I just sat there and thought, ‘what could I say in response to these allegations about football?’”
He didn’t say much, but he thought the argument both for and against the sport would serve as a great platform and theme for a nationally televised event that everyone will be talking about. “She does make an interesting case about all of this. So we’re going to show the Super Bowl and we are going to enjoy it, but we are also going to be giving time to the other side,” said Epstein. “We will be doing both at the same time. I have no idea whether that will be a good idea or not, but we are going to try.”
The Humanist Hub, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, will open its doors to both football fans and football opponents at 6 p.m., according to event details. The screening and discussion portion of the event will also feature a potluck, snacks, and some other activities, Epstein said.
As for where Epstein will stand on all of this as the discussions come to a boil, that’s a tougher call than the ones that will likely be made by referees come Sunday.
“I don’t know,” he said, reiterating his support for the Patriots as they go for yet another championship title. “Usually I know where I stand on an issue. But I just don’t know where I stand on this.”