For a few hours, the ultimate play-off is the ultimate unifier, chasing away everyday cares and cutting across cultural, economic and gender lines that on most days divide people, says Baylor University pop culture observer Greg Garrett, Ph.D.
It can even cause a "spiritual sugar high" of sorts, says Garrett, an author and professor of English in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.
But the flip side is that it is a "festival of excess, consumption, spectacle and violence . . . "I think it's entirely possible that we can join in a national conversation about the Super Bowl on Facebook, Twitter, talk radio, and other media, watch the game, halftime show, and trendy commercials, and get a sort of spiritual sugar high that has little or nothing to do with the virtue at the root of all wisdom traditions: compassion."
He notes that "players are hurt -- many suffering lifelong damage -- for our amusement," citing Baylor's own alum Robert Griffin III -- Washington Redskins quarterback -- who suffered a horrific injury on national television in the 2012 playoffs.
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