The Eternal Damnation Of The Superbowl

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Watching Shakira and Jennifer Lopez performing will apparently damn your immortal soul. 

In a world where Titania McGrath often seems less crazy than the people that she is a satire of, it’s often hard to tell where parody ends and reality begins. So when I read about an American evangelist who wanted to sue the National Football League for putting his eternal salvation at risk, then I had to follow the trail of links just to be sure that this wasn’t some particularly blunt satire of the lunatic fringe of the American religious right. But no – unless this is the most extravagant long-form spoof in history, then Dave Daubenmire, aka Coach Dave, is very real, and his concerns about the threat of eternal damnation for watching two fading pop stars dancing during the interminable half time show at the Superbowl are genuine.

Both Shakira and Jennifer Lopez are pop stars who we might argue are past their prime, given that pop music is all about youth and both performers are now comfortably into middle age. But if they still have it – whatever ‘it’ is – then good for them, and clearly both were considered relevant enough to be booked as performers at the cultural wasteland that is the half-time show, an artistic atrocity that is apparently the only reason anyone actually tunes into the endless sporting event that bookmarks it. It’s not the place where you’d expect to find edgy entertainment, and after the nationwide meltdown caused by a split-second shot of Janet Jackson’s partially-uncovered breast some years ago, it’s unlikely to be the home of unfettered sexual wantonness. And indeed, a quick look at the show reveals it to be a typical empty spectacle put together by clueless executives.

There’s perhaps an argument for saying that this sort of thing culturally diminishes the viewer, being itself a soulless and cynical affair, devoid of anything genuine or culturally worthwhile. But the suggestion that it is somehow a sexual spectacle is bizarre – the costumes are not especially revealing, the dance moves only briefly and embarrassingly raunchy. You’d need to be stretching a lot to call this “porn”. So well played, Coach Dave, for making that stretch. As he rants during his lengthy podcast:

“Would that halftime show, would that have been rated PG? Were there any warnings that your 12-year-old son—whose hormones are just starting to operate—was there any warning that what he was going to see might cause him to get sexually excited?”

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Would the show have been rated PG? Almost certainly. We might say that for most twelve-year-olds, both Shakira (aged 43) and L-Lo (aged 50) will more resemble their grandmothers than the girls of their developing sexual fantasies – that’s no dig at either performer, but I doubt many adolescents see them as fantasy figures – I doubt many have even heard of them, and they’ve probably seen much raunchier performances from much more relevant-to-them singers at the MTV Awards and such. I rather suspect that the person who really felt a twitching of the trouser zone while watching this was Coach Dave, who is perhaps the right age group to be unduly aroused by seeing middle-aged women gyrating and flashing their legs.

Outraged complaints by sexually frustrated Christians are one thing, but Coach Dave is taking things a step further by complaining that by unwillingly seeing this ‘pornographic’ spectacle has put him in danger of burning in Hell. So much for the loving forgiveness of Christ, if merely seeing something by accident and getting an unwanted boner damns you for eternity. That seems pretty harsh.

Like all good Americans, Coach Dave aims to rectify the issue by suing, for “$867 trillion”, an impressively insane amount. Given that you can’t take it with you, it’s uncertain just how this money will sort out the whole ‘eternal damnation’ thing – maybe God accepts bribes. Maybe he respects the judgements of American courts and will set aside the burning in Hell should Coach Dave win his case.

I suspect that even in America, this is a case that might go nowhere. I’m not sure that the US courts will be keen to make a judgement on the existence or otherwise of the immortal soul, and even if they do, surely Coach Dave would have to demonstrate that he has never, ever had a single lustful thought or involuntary erection – because if he had, then surely this whole ‘eternal damnation’ thing would already have been decided.

You can watch his whole podcast here, if you have an hour to kill, though be warned that it will feel much like spending eternity in Hell sitting through it.