|A Joint Color Guard practices next to Kelly Clarkson while she sings the national anthem, Feb. 3rd. The Color Guard displayed America’s Colors during the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, Ind. Photo by Sgt. Felicya L. Adams. Source: ourmilitary.mil|
American Football, by Rebecca Zanolini
I am not a football fan. Nevertheless, after days of Super Bowl hype from the media coupled with a promise of entertaining commercials and a chance to see Madonna at half time, I thought I’d give it a try. Thus, at 5:00 pm sharp this past Sunday, I sat down on my couch with snacks in hand and turned on my TV to bear witness to our country’s most important annual sporting event.
As I watched country music artists Miranda Lambert and husband Blake Shelton sing America the Beautiful, I found myself instantly moved. By the time the military march and national anthem had concluded, I was in tears. Perhaps never before had I recognized a link between football and patriotism.
As Americans, we are faced with a unique circumstance that our vernacular does not include a word other than "American" to identify our unified nationality in the United States. While other languages have gone to the extent of creating a label that specifies those from the U.S. (such as with the Spanish term, estadounidense) our native tongue provides us with a term that encompasses not just a nation, but also an entire continent.
As a result, this semantic difference leaves many Americans with a potential identity crisis. By recognizing our nationality as American, we are opening ourselves up to global criticism; yet, if we denied ourselves the right to self identify with this term, we would in part reject our national heritage and culture.
Watching our country’s favorite sport on its biggest Sunday night has inspired me to revisit my own internalization of national identity. While in comparison to greater matters of our nation, I fully recognize that a sporting event is far from grandiose, watching this game I couldn’t help but feel a sense of connection and unity with my fellow compatriots. Even despite the increasing difficulty in defining the term American, this event felt just that: American.
Although I still may not understand the rules of the game, nor have the patience to watch another event of this sort in its entirety, I have come to the conclusion that the Super Bowl may in fact be embedded somewhere in our nation’s identity and culture. Although a win from the Patriots might have underscored this commentary on national identity and led to a more poetic ending, perhaps there is a greater lesson to be learned. After all, both sports and the United States of America provide a unique venue in which anything can happen. February 5, 2012 is just one of many such examples.
Rebecca Zanolini teaches Spanish at Middle Tennessee State University. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and an Educational Specialist degree (Ed.S.) in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Curriculum and Instruction at Tennessee State University. Beyond her passion for teaching the Spanish language, she is passionate about achieving social and educational equality for Tennesseans of minority and immigrant backgrounds and improving the quality of life for all people in our community. Most recently, she has served on the Equity Task Force Committee with Franklin Special School District, volunteered with FUTURO of MTSU, and helped to lead and moderate an equality forum at MTSU known as, “We are Created E.Q.U.A.L.”