February 4th, 2018 around three in the afternoon, millions will gather around a television to watch America’s game, Super Bowl LII. For some, they will scream at the television, whereas others will just enjoy the game. Some will only watch the commercials and halftime show, but regardless of why each person is watching, there will be fewer people watching this year.
Well, at least that is what Frank Bruni claims in his article “The Existential Hell of This Year’s Super Bowl”. This claim of Bruni’s is preceded by vivid rhetoric that attacks our current President Donald Trump, and his “team” the Patriots. Bruni aims this article at football fans, specifically the more reserved fans. To do this, Bruni uses vivid diction to shock readers, combined with clever comparisons.
This enables Bruni to appeal to the readers on an emotional level, but it is also what takes away from his argument. In these ways, Bruni is able to create a good argument, but these devices also kept his argument from being stronger. To fully understand how Bruni used these devices to his advantage, his audience needs to be identified and addressed. In the title, Bruni establishes his main target audience of the football fans by referencing the “Super Bowl”(Bruni).
Bruni then continues on to address his second audience, the Democrat fans. In his 3rd paragraph, Bruni references “our income-inequality era and tax reform” that appeals to a more democratic population. This increases Bruni’s likeability with his reader’s, which in turn increases his credibility among reader’s. This population of the football fan world tends to be the ones that are more moderate viewers that tend to stay at home and enjoy the game with minimal distraction. Bruni targets this population of the fanbase, as they are the most likely to not be watching the Super Bowl, or the ones that aren’t watching NFL anymore. Bruni argues that the NFL has lost ratings due to injuries and other off-field/offseason distractions. As pointed out in the article, the Patriots are labeled as “Trump’s team” which stems from the offseason actions of one of the players(Bruni par.4).
Tom Brady is the quarterback of the Patriots and in the offseason, he spent some time on the golf course with Trump. In the article, Bruni uses this relationship between the team and Trump to attack both, but mainly Trump. Bruni starts off by making a shocking comparison between Brady and Trump that shocks readers and strengthens his argument. The wives of both Brady and Trump are from other countries and ironically they are both models. Paragraph five illustrates this bashing of both men starting with Brady by calling him a “glamour-puss” and talking about what Trump sees in him.
According to Bruni, Trump see’s “a younger, less quizzically coifed version of himself”. To the reader, this is a shocking statement that causes the reader to gasp at first, but once they have recollected themselves, they realize how accurate it is. This example of Bruni’s use of vivid diction shows how he was able to draw the reader further into his argument. Bruni’s last bash on the duo comes in the eighth paragraph when Bruni refers to the relationship between the Patriots owner, coach, star quarterback, and Trump as a “cluster strut”(Bruni pa.
8). At first sight, the average reader might think nothing of this comment, but once they understand the older definition of the term strut do they understand the sophisticated and vivid insult that Bruni has just issued. By calling the group arrogant and stiff, Bruni appeals to his readers more as his insult accurately represents the views of many of his readers. After finishing up insults, Bruni then goes after the outcome of the playoff games and how they helped to lower the ratings of the entire sport.
The eleventh paragraph is where Bruni decides to plant the last attack on Trump, as well as express his disappointment in the playoff outcomes. He starts by comparing the two teams in the Super Bowl, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles, to Trump’s administration and how they both are “bows to the Acela corridor”(Bruni par.11). I like most readers West of the Rockies have no idea what the Acela corridor is, but it makes sense to look at where Trump is from and where the two teams are. This reference to the Northeast states singles out anyone not from that area and makes them feel unimportant. Bruni is trying to do this to show how fewer people are going to watch the Super Bowl, due to lack of interest. No one really wants to see two teams from the Northeast battle it out for the title, it’s just not appealing enough.
Readers sympathize with Bruni and how he feels about the lackluster team selection in the game. This appeal to emotion strengthens Bruni’s argument again by showing his sympathy towards his readers and their situation. Bruni then goes on to talk about the other frustration of fans and of his, injuries. Injuries plagued the NFL this season with the new addition of concussion protocols.
Player’s were sidelined for lengthy periods with head injuries and others that are becoming more common. Bruni expresses his frustration with injuries in the thirteenth paragraph after he praised football for being his favorite athletic showcase in America. He talks about how he enjoys watching the amazing feats of athleticism, “when they aren’t sidelined”(par.13). Readers alike can agree that this is an issue in the NFL, but injuries are going to happen unless we take tackling out of the game. That’s never going to happen, so it looks like Bruni and all the other fans are just going to have to live with it. Despite this realization, Bruni still strengthens his argument by appealing to the view of his readers. Even with these appeals, Bruni still falls short of having a solid argument.
For starters, Bruni loses a lot of credibility in the beginning when he claims that “America is about to get the pathetic Super Bowl that it deserves”(par.1). This statement implies that every American did something to deserve this.
Well, he couldn’t be referencing the election, Hillary had the majority. He couldn’t be talking about the fanbase of the NFL, there are 30 other teams and loyal supporters that didn’t do anything to deserve this. Ultimately, this statement is an attack on the American public which lowers his credibility and weakens his argument as he has started off by attacking his readers. Another weakness in his argument is his failure to consider other factors that could have lead to the decrease in viewers. For starters, the NBA has been gaining viewers rapidly ever since the birth of the Warriors and Cavaliers rivalry. Along with this rivalry we have seen an increase in NBA talent and the formation of “super teams” that have taken more media attention away from the NFL.
Bruni fails to address the rise in NBA popularity as a source of the decrease in NFL ratings. Bruni addresses another reason for decreased ratings in that nothing new and excited has happened in the NFL. This combined with the increasing interest in NBA is what has ultimately lead to the decrease in NFL ratings.
Bruni’s failure to address this argument weakens his argument that injuries and offseason distractions lowered ratings. Throughout the article, Bruni talks about the issues within the NFL and their effects on the ratings. His use of vivid diction established a credibility with his readers and the accuracy of his comments increased credibility again. Even though he was able to establish credibility and validity, he failed to address the main counterargument that the NBA has stolen ratings. Ultimately Bruni was able to create a good argument but it wasn’t as effective as it could have been.
However, we should also consider the fact that America is changing and what our social norms are changing and sadly football seems to be fading out. That’s all good though, we now have a new sport to get over competitive about, Political Debates.