Sixty-five commercials during Super Bowl XLIII.

That means, on average, each ad you saw during the game on NBC cost $3.1 million. Man … we Americans are an expensive date!

While our Congress debates a $900-billion stimulus package to jump start the economy, we eat chips and dips and sausages-in-blankets through $206 million. I’ve tried to do the math to determine what portion of $900 billion we munched through on Sunday ”but that’s way too many zeroes for my calculator. I think $206-million is about 1/4,368th of the $900 billion stimulus proposal, though. A drop in the bucket.

It’s mind boggling. The stimulus bill and the bill for airtime on the Super Bowl. Both are almost beyond my ability to think, understand or do long division.

But, here’s what I’m thinking …

What if just one of those advertisers ”say Budweiser, which had four or five different commercials during the football game ”had taken money that it cost to air just one of those ads and diverted it elsewhere. With $3.1 million, Budweiser might have purchased:

  • 1/65th of a hockey team in Tampa Bay, Fla. (The Lightening sale price, $206 million)
  • 1/2 year of a traffic improvement plan in Oxnard, Calif. ($200 million for 27 year bonds)
  • 1/3 of a new elementary school in San Antonio, Texas ($48 million in bonds for three new schools)
  • 1/3 of a U.S. Senator (on average, it costs $10 million to be elected to the U.S. Senate)

Or, Budweiser could have bought:

  • 1,000 water wells to ensure 20 years of clean water for villages in Africa
  • 21.7 million meals for hungry Americans ($1 buys 10 pounds of food, or 7 meals)
  • 54,545 pairs of shoes for children in Argentina or Ethiopia who have never had shoes (oh, and a pair for 54,545 of their Budweiser friends, too! Check out TOMS shoes.)

$206 million for airtime so we might be persuaded to buy beer, cars, tires, investment accounts, energy drinks, sodas, etc?

It looks so ridiculous when I type it.

I like football. I understand the need for advertising dollars to bring me all the action in HD. I’m just not sure I understand our insulation from the reality that is this: a $206-million, three-hour sporting event (and we’re just talking TV ad time with that number) is an obscenity in a world with hungry children.

The tree is known by its fruit. So says the Bible.

People are known by their priorities. So says my mother.

Our priorities are determined, most clearly, by what we spend our time and our money on.

What does that Super Bowl broadcast say about us?

Jan Chapman is a former broadcast journalist, a story teller and a blogger. She is a member of Church of the Savior, a UCC congregation with Baptist roots in Austin, Texas. She blogs at Thinking in Peaces.

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