A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, February 04, 2007

I was always led to believe it was God, Flag, and Football....

There is NO way the NFL will win this one:
The thousands of churches across the country that want to host Super Bowl parties Sunday night had better not pull out big-screen TVs, or they could face the wrath of NFL attorneys.

For groups that want to host Super Bowl parties -- other than sports bars and businesses that normally show televised sports -- here are rules the NFL says must be followed:

• No admission fees (even to pay for snacks).

• Only one television (55 inches or smaller).

• No use of the words "Super Bowl" in promotional materials.

• No exhibition of the game in connection with events "that promote a message."

Source: NFL

The NFL is telling Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis that the church's plans to use a wall projector to show the game at a party for church members and guests would violate copyright laws.

NFL officials spotted a promotion of Fall Creek's "Super Bowl Bash" on the church Web site last week and sent pastor John D. Newland a letter -- via FedEx overnight -- demanding the party be canceled.

Initially, the league objected to the church's plan to charge partygoers a fee to attend and that the church used the license-protected words "Super Bowl" in its promotions.

Newland told the NFL his church would not charge partygoers -- the fee had been intended only to pay for snacks -- and that it would drop the use of the forbidden words.

But the NFL wouldn't bite. It objected to the church's plans to use a projector to show the game on what effectively was a 12-foot-wide screen. It said the law limits the church to one TV no bigger than 55 inches.

The league even took exception to the church's plan to influence nonmembers with a video highlighting the Christian testimonies of Colts coach Tony Dungy and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.

"While this may be a noble message," NFL assistant counsel Rachel L. Margolies wrote in a follow-up e-mail, "we are consistent in refusing the use of our game broadcasts in connection with events that promote a message, no matter the content."

Given all the NFL's concerns, the church appears unlikely to host a Super Bowl party.

"The Colts and Tony Dungy are such good people -- and (team owner) Jim Irsay, too. We want to be supportive of our local team. I don't want to make our people choose between coming to church and watching the game. It is such a big event," Newland said.

"For us to have all our congregation huddled around a TV that is big enough only for 10 or 12 people to watch just makes little sense."

Newland said he expected there are churches across the country that are planning similar Super Bowl watch parties using big screens.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league's longstanding policy is to ban "mass out-of-home viewing" of the Super Bowl. A major exception to the rule is made, however, for sports bars and other businesses that show televised sports as a part of their everyday operations.

"We have contracts with our (TV) networks to provide free over-the-air television for people at home," Aiello said. "The network economics are based on television ratings and at-home viewing. Out-of-home viewing is not measured by Nielsen."
Newland said his church won't break the law. But he sees a double standard at work when sports bars with giant screens can charge barstool rental fees and sell food, but his church can't offer a free event for families.

"It just frustrates me that most of the places where crowds are going to gather to watch this game are going to be places that are filled with alcohol and other things that are inappropriate for children," Newland said. "We tried to provide an alternative to that and were shut down."

The NFL's attorneys can flap their gums all they want, but I imagine they really don't want to really be seen by the public as going after a church. And get a load of those rules about big-screen TVs! If the NFL wants to make the Super Bowl practically a sacred holiday, then it should be unsurprised about churches trying to use the event for proselytization.

And that certainly is "promoting a message."

Lots of religious people are football fans-- witness all the invocations spewed while watching the game. I imagine loads of people pray, call out to God, and ponder heaven, hell, temptation, and other theological issues while immersed in the game. I even have a joking theory that the Super Bowl has been moved to later in the winter over time so that it will not coincide with the annual meetings that so many churches have in the month of January-- hahaha! (Actually it would be more likely that churches would move the annual meeting, but whatever....)

Hat tip here.


At 2/4/07, 8:52 PM, Anonymous Tense Teacher said...

If the NFL keeps up stupid tactics such as this, they'll end up just like baseball, which hardly anyone watches anymore.

Weren't sports about fun once upon a time?

At 2/5/07, 7:28 AM, Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Your last paragraph: I agree. If the Super Bowl were on the last Sunday in January, who would show up at church for the annual meeting?

At 2/5/07, 10:14 AM, Blogger ricki said...

Well, I guess I'm off the hook, more or less. I had a party for the youth group at my church but the tv was just under 55"

And I paid for the snacks out of my own pocket.

And we didn't use it as a "message" event - I don't think we even asked a blessing before feeding 'em pizza (in our defense: the pizzas were late, a touchdown and a field goal had already been scored by the time they got there)

I DID say "Super Bowl" in my announcement of the party, though. Whoops.

Well, the NFL can just come after me, then. Good luck to them at getting their fee or fine money out of me.

I mean, seriously: what a way to lose the goodwill of your fans, to make silly rules like these regarding where games can be watched and in what context.

At 2/5/07, 9:39 PM, Blogger Mrs. T said...


At 2/5/07, 10:48 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Just wandered to your blog and had to comment on this post. Because of the NFL's response to Falls Creek Church, several groups in our town cancelled their Super Bowl parties, including THE LIBRARY! I was irritated beyond irritated.

Stupid NFL.

At 2/6/07, 10:19 PM, Blogger Gene said...

My church has several smaller parties in the homes of members, usually based upon Sunday School classes or age groups.

Shame on the NFL for the double standard of "we want you to watch our holiest of holies game of the year, but just don't gather people together with any other message in mind."

They might as well say "We want people to watch our Sunday night game and for them to miss church if they have to".


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