OPEN END-O: Oh Say Can You See…Diversity

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Ellen Endo headshot2By ELLEN ENDO

I watched the Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7 along with nearly 50 million others. That’s not news.

All the pre-bowl hoopla, the training, the playoffs, the prognosticating, the wagering, the shopping, the cooking, the baking — came together for one big beer bash in front of car-size TVs. That’s not news, either.

As I prepared for this milestone Super Bowl, I suddenly realized that one thing was missing: A rooting interest. In other words, I didn’t care which team won or lost. The biggest professional football of the year battle was about to kick off, and I was Switzerland. Inevitably, there would be first downs, fumbles, turnovers, and…oh dear…touchdowns, and I wouldn’t know how to feel.

An hour before kick-off, I decided that I’d better pick a team. I picked Denver. They’re the ones with the nice older guy who is a quarterback, Peyton Manning. Also, I once lived in Denver. I think I was 4 or 5 at the time. I remember snow. No matter, I was now ready to eat guacamole and pretend to be interested in the game.

Thank goodness for the half-time show. (Such-a-girl.)

My anticipation was high when Chris Martin of the British band Coldplay started to sing. I enjoy listening to Coldplay’s music on a CD in my car, but watching the band perform live was like waiting for milk to become yogurt. I started to wish that Lady Gaga, who sang a rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” would come back with a medley of patriotic hymns.

I was to about to grab a teriyaki wing when Bruno Mars took the stage, singing and dancing to his hit “Uptown Funk,” backed by Mark Ronson. Now that’s a showman! Way to represent the API (Asian Pacific Islander) community! Then, just when I thought Mars’ performance couldn’t get any cooler, Beyoncé and 40 backup dancers made a synchronized entrance onto the field. Hallelujah, halftime!

When Beyoncé, Chris Martin, and Mars began to sing together, I suddenly realized that the half-time show had a diversity theme. The clues were becoming obvious. Black, white, API star performers had created a powerful tableau. Behind them were members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra L.A. (YOLA) featuring string musicians of every ethnicity.

Beyoncé’s “black lives matter” single, “Formation,” left no doubt that this half-time wasn’t just about music. It was about activism. Coldplay’s final medley paid tribute to past Super Bowl performers, including the late Michael Jackson, James Brown, and Whitney Houston.

Bringing it all together was a card trick by the stadium audience spelling out “Believe in Love” in a rainbow of colors — a nod to the LGBT community. Selection of Gaga to sing the National Anthem supported the theme. Her hit “Born This Way,” released in 2011, advocated empowerment for all minorities, including LGBT.

Not everyone caught the deeper meaning behind the rhythms, the energetic dancing, and special effects. They simply enjoyed the show, and that’s okay. Among those who did recognize the messaging were a few who openly objected to their proliferation during an American sporting event.

One of the critics is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who appeared on “Fox & Friends” the morning after the big game. He bristled at what he perceived was Beyoncé’s anti-police message. He then called upon “the people behind the halftime show” to look for more wholesome acts.

He went on to say, “You’re talking to middle America when you have the Super Bowl… so let’s have, you know, decent, wholesome entertainment.

“The halftime show, I thought, was ridiculous anyway. I didn’t know what the heck it was — a bunch of people, like, bouncing around … It was terrible. I actually don’t even know why we have this. I mean, this is football, not Hollywood.”

Alas, Giuliani is sounding more and more like a cranky old man than a retired politician.

However, Giulani was not alone in his disapproval of the Super Bowl. Donald Trump took to his Twitter account during the second half of the game. “So far the Super Bowl is very boring,” he tweeted.

He had picked the Panthers to win. And, as we all know, the Trumpster hates to lose.

Impetus behind the creation of the Super Bowl was to settle the question of who was more dominant, the venerable National Football League (NFL) or the newcomer American Football League (AFL).

Ultimately, the NFL prevailed, and each year the Super Bowl is America’s most watched television program. With that came the expensive, elaborately produced commercials that have become an integral part of the Super Bowl watching experience. To describe the Super Bowl as merely a “wholesome” sporting event is grossly naïve on Giuliani’s part.

Whether intended or not, kudos to the National Football League for providing the platform for a message of inclusion and tolerance before an audience so large that it is comparable only to the Oscars telecast.

Ahhh, the Academy Awards. Time to dial down the diversity celebration…at least for now.

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“Politics: ‘Poli,’ a Latin word meaning ‘many,’ and ‘tics’ meaning blood-sucking creatures.” 

— Robin Williams (1951-2014), American actor and comedian

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Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of The Rafu Shimpo or its management. Comments and/or inquiries should be directed to [email protected]

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