Diana West

Tsk, tsk. Isn't that just too bad. But is the NFL really saying it isn't "comfortable" with supporting government efforts to prevent terrorism at the border?

Aiello went on. "The borders, the immigration debate is a very controversial issue, and we were sensitive to any perception we were injecting ourselves into that." The key phrase here is sensitive to "any perception." It becomes clear that the NFL is not focused on the American perception.

The fact is, the ad wasn't "injecting" anything into the immigration debate. The ad's substance concerned not, for example, the pros and cons of "guest worker" programs, but defending the border and upholding the law. And who could be "sensitive" about that? All I can think of, besides terrorists and drug smugglers, is illegal aliens and their families back home. Considering that the NFL hopes to add a Mexican franchise to its roster, maybe Mexico is where the NFL thinks discomfort and sensitivity over "the borders" come from. Which isn't exactly going to win a trophy for being all-American.

But maybe there's more than a supranational business decision to consider. The NFL has revealed something new about the state of the border in the popular imagination. Even as one large constituency of the country wants to mark our southern border with a fence, making it more tangible, another wants to make the border more elastic, making it less meaningful, even less defensible. This political struggle has had the effect of making the border itself controversial, a development the NFL was somehow mindful of in its decision to rebuff the border agency.

Next question: When a nation's border becomes controversial, how long does its sovereignty last? And what happens to the civilization? All of which is precisely why future historians of American decline shouldn't overlook what didn't happen at Super Bowl XLI.

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).