America’s Working Forests: Super Bowl 50’s Unsung, Unofficial Sponsor

The obvious and not-so obvious ways America’s working forests help Super Bowl 50 be more super.

On Sunday night, roughly one in three Americans will be watching the Super Bowl, an unrivaled annual showcase of the game of football and America’s working forests.

The assertion, admittedly, may initially feel a little silly. Still, the role that forest products play in the biggest football game of the season, is a testament to the many ways our lives are enhanced via the sustainably-produced materials found in abundance in our nation’s working forests.

Not convinced? Imagine for a moment a Super Bowl unfolding without forest products of any kind. Whether or not you’re one of the fortunate 70,000 or so folks that were able to obtain tickets, or are like the rest of us watching from home, a Super Bowl unsupported by forest products quickly unravels into something decidedly less super.

Examine for a moment the game day experience for those fans attending the game in person. Getting inside of Levi’s stadium requires a ticket, a paper ticket. An argument could be made that paperless tickets might likely be used and some likely will be, but a ticket to the Super Bowl is a far different thing than a ticket to a pre-season game. A ticket to the Super Bowl, once obtained is photographed, cherished, worn around the neck in ticket protectors, carefully transported home and saved as permanent reminder of the event.

Once inside, a Super Bowl without forest products would boast no game programs. Like a paper ticket, a Super Bowl program is a must have for the vast majority of fans in attendance. Without a printed program there’s one less piece of real estate available to advertisers and the Super Bowl, while primarily a football game, is also a giant platform to promote products and services and paper provides advertisers a medium by which to do just that. Considering a Super Bowl without these two items alone underscores the enormous role that paper products play in the experience. Now imagine a trip to a concession stand free of any forest products. How do fans walk away from a concession stand with their hot dogs, their peanuts, their soft drinks or their boxed candies without the benefit of a paper product?

The tickets. The game program. The food service papers. The newspapers carrying the stories before and after the game. These products, so vital to the game day experience are just as vital to local, state and the national economy. According to the American Forest & Paper Association the pulp and paper industry employs over 378,000 people alone with another 140,000 working as foresters and loggers. Add employment from the wood products sector and employment numbers in the segment are right around 1 million, generating over $50 billion in annual payroll.

While the contributions made to the Super Bowl by paper products are easy to identify, the role that forest products play in the game do not end with them. Wood, it turns out, is an incredibly convertible raw material and can be found in 5,000 different products. Products of all kinds. Products like football helmets. Football helmets contain a platform chemical called Cellulose Acetate Butryate, a chemical derived from the cellulose found in wood. Cellulose can and is converted into many different platform chemicals and performance fibers and shows up in everything from cosmetics to paints to filters to digital display screens and finally, to hot dogs. Once again, we’re back at the concession stand. Cellulose, it turns out, makes very good hot dog casings. The ketchup on that hot dog? It has a thickener derived from wood products.

Super Bowl Sunday is a celebration of the pinnacle of a uniquely American sport. It’s certainly grown well beyond that and is now a showcase of television commercials, musical acts and pyrotechnics. This Sunday though, just for a moment, let the Super Bowl stand as a reminder of the men, women, families and companies who are the stewards of America’s working forests and committed to keeping them productive for future generations.

Enjoy the game.