Roger Barbee: What if energy spent on Super Bowl is focused closer to home?

Roger Barbee

As I type on the keyboard, it is early afternoon on Super Bowl Sunday, and for the past two weeks the world, it seems, has been aflame with deflated footballs, non-speaking professional players who do not cooperate with the media, news announcers who make almost daily references to “the big game,” and ordinary — usually sane citizens — who began planning parties and taking sides for the game.

Sunday morning, the game was even made referenced to in the sermon I heard. An estimated 115 million viewers watched the game, or at least the commercials, which are costing a hefty $4.5 million for a 30-second slot. It seems to this non-viewer, who lost interest in “the ultimate game” long ago, that since the days of Vince Lombardi and Joe Namath, John Riggins has been proven correct when he compares his stellar career to that of being just like any other entertainer. And, if this is the way so many people want to be entertained, then so be it. I mean, can 115 million viewers be wrong? Has not the NFL and Roger Goodell weathered many storms this season, coming out smelling like a rose, showing that they know NFL fans better than the fans know themselves? It appears so to me, but I ask the question, “What if… .”

I spent Saturday in the Warren County High School main gym, watching the Bull Run Wrestling Tournament. I watched small wrestlers weighing just over 100 pounds compete. I saw large wrestlers weighing over 250 pounds move with a certain grace as they tried to pin their opponent. The race for the team title moved between Clarke County, Strasburg, and host Warren County. Like many of the individual matches I saw, it was close and fluid and finally settled at the very end. And, I watched Zach Beckner of Warren County wrestle matches, cheer on teammates, and, well, have fun while doing it.

Zach has had a stellar career as a wrestler, and runner. Last year he lost only one match — a 4-1 defeat in the state 3A finals. This year he is wrestling in the 113-pound weight class, and has lost only one match. Ask any other wrestler, and he will tell you that, on the mat, Zach is “the real deal.”

But this week, Zach showed that he is “the real deal” off the mat. Knowing that the competition for the team title would be fierce, Zach approached his coach, Matt Wadas, and volunteered to wrestle in the 120-pound class. However, in order to remain eligible for the 113-pound class for the state tournament, he would have to continue weighing in at 113.

Think of that, spotting accomplished wrestlers seven pounds of weight and muscle. Yet, in order to help his team, Zach was willing to do that. Yes, one can argue that he still had a good chance of being the champion at 120 pounds, but the reason he wanted to “move up” was to help his team be stronger and perhaps win a team championship. It is this slight, 113-pound wrestler, a junior in high school, that causes me to ask “What if… .”

What if, instead of hero worshiping over-paid men who have a talent to play a game, that we found the time to thank mothers and fathers who work each day so that their children may have shelter and food? What if, instead of sitting around a tube watching someone else do something, we read to our children? What if, instead of validating the spending of $4.5 million dollars for 30-second commercials by watching them, we had a conversation with our family members or played a family game?

What if we spent some of that money on feeding and housing the poor? What if each news announcer and newspaper article made mention of such decisions as that of Zach Beckner and the thousands of other young athletes who do the same as he? What if a tiny bit of all the money spent for this night’s entertainment was given to schools for equipment, improved teacher salaries, and used to keep school libraries and arts’ programs alive and well? What if… .

If you are one of the 115 million who tuned Sunday night, I hope your team won, and that you enjoyed the company, the dip, and the food. However, before next year’s game I ask that each of you give the energy and resources to a community cause that you give to this night of entertainment.

In our schools we have many Zach Beckners who excel in many areas. Why not move the Ray Rices aside and put the Zach Beckners in their place. Not on a pedestal to be worshiped, but out front where all of us will see their example. And maybe learn from it.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at