Title

The Super Bowl: An Enactment of American Cultural Myths and a Mirror Image of American Society

Date of Award

2000

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Gene Wiggins

Advisor Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Abstract

The Super Bowl is an American phenomenon that lends itself to different interpretations. The complexity of the events wrapped around the Super Bowl can challenge the boldest scholarly effort to cover all aspects. This study examined the significance of Super Bowl, the great yearly American ritual, as an enactment of American myths. It also examined the development and presentation of the ritual as a narrative that reflects a distinctive American business ethos and the capitalist ideology. In essence, this study viewed the Super Bowl as a ritual that provides a mirror image of many peculiarly American cultural and business practices. This daring effort provides a comprehensive view of the event with data derived from a recorded tape of Super Bowl XXXIII, written reports in scholarly journals, newspapers, books, internet sources, and interviews. The combination of research methodologies used to analyze relationships between text and viewers or fans or both also allowed for interpretations of the ideological and sociocultural representations. The symbolism of the graphics, music sounds, pyrotechnics, language of commentary and interactions among viewers was explored to determine the extent to which the contemporary and/or traditional social perceptions and/or expectations were represented. Since the Super Bowl is an international event, the sources included newspapers with international circulation such as the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The Sporting News, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post . Also, relevant stories in magazines such as Sports Illustrated known for sports reporting were used. The analysis was on the interpretive context of the environment in which the game was played and how the rituals surrounding the event were experienced by viewers. The study is divided into seven chapters, each of which addressed an aspect of the event. The introductory chapter provided an overview of the Super Bowl landscape. The second chapter addressed the event's narrative potential, and the third illustrated the many ways that the event reflected the American society, while the fourth identified similarities between the Super Bowl and American business environment. The foci of chapters five and six were ideological implications and the rituals while chapter seven was used as a retrospective epilogue.