Was your Super Bowl everything you hoped it would be? Of course not. It's too tall an order. To be perfectly frank, at this point in my journey, I don't know which part I enjoy more -- the good, the bad, or the ugly. Just be interesting and you're okay by me, and as the curtain goes down on another NFL season, I remain grateful for the mind-numbing spectacle that is Super Sunday. It takes our fear of the great offseason (not to mention the greater fear of labor unrest), sets its phaser on "stun," and freezes the angst ... until today, when it thaws into slush and regret. What worked? What failed? What annoyed you to the bone? Here's my two cents…
Pregame show that wouldn't end
Not to single out FOX on this one -- the host network always feels obligated to jam 20 hours of filler in a 10-hour sack, often featuring every single on-camera employee on the payroll regardless of their football acumen -- but this felt like a white-noise-a-thon. We really could have used a juicy player arrest the night before the game to give the proceedings a pulse, but no such luck. I was in and out. When I saw Bill O'Reilly and President Obama (who O'Reilly insisted on calling "Mr. Obama") I was out, fast. Thank God the NFL Network was counter-programming with a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders swimsuit special.
However, when the dreaded red carpet was in full effect I was riveted for all the wrong reasons. Michael Strahan seems like an affable-enough studio yapper in this era of forced laughter, but there are limits to what we should ask of any former player who is more than a season removed from his Super Bowl glory. Jerome Bettis wore out his shelf life remarkably quickly, and he wasn't asked to do half the tasks Strahan shoulders. You can make a strong case that Strahan's short-lived sitcom was proof that comedic acting in the half-hour form is a very specific and challenging art. Yes, the writing was excremental, but even when the word-cupboard is bare, the great ones make it look easy. The not-so-great make it tiresome. Then you have inexplicably-cast neophytes who make comedy seem harder than landing a space shuttle. Was he sitcom Emeril Lagasse bad? No, that was a once-in-a-lifetime mess. Still leaves plenty of room for badness … then came last Sunday, when Strahan's duties on Fox's red carpet treated him to an entirely new galaxy of on-camera humiliation. For the first time ever, Americans turned to each other and said, "Maybe we've been a little too hard on Melissa Rivers…"
Hall of Fame vote
I can't really argue the class, and I am staunchly in the pro-Ed Sabol camp. Way back in the day when there were three networks and a lot of stuff a kid didn't want to watch, the weekly NFL Films show was an absolute revelation. Riveting, dramatic, NFL Films told stories in line with the contemporary Hollywood writing scale -- on a mythic level that taps into the eternal stories that have always been told throughout time and culture.
I always said Chairman Mao only wished he had a propaganda wing half that effective. NFL Films built a generation of fans who saw the game and the league as the stuff of history and glory. I can't imagine how any of the voters couldn't wrap their arms around that. Fortunately, enough of 'em did. I wish I could muster the same enthusiasm for Shannon Sharpe. I don't deny him as a player, but the HOF thing guarantees we'll have to suffer his highlight calls for a few more years. Seriously, it's still called broadcasting, and this guy isn't cut out for it. If you close your eyes, listening to Sharpe describe a touchdown is like listening to a small child vomit Jello.
Now it's time to stop goofing around and vote Andre Reed into the next class. Then I can rest.
How 'bout them design flaws?
The practice facility collapsed and ruined lives. Now huge chunks of ice slide off the new crib's roof and people are hospitalized. Then the fire marshal ruins the day for paying customers who flew a long way to get there … time for Jerry Jones to stop shopping for free agents and hire some new engineers.
Three million bucks for that?
That's all I can surmise from this year's crop of Super Bowl ads. Bud Light kicked things off with a thud, and kept 'em coming. Pepsi Max was a mess. The car ads were mundane, with the exception of the Audi rich people in jail spot -- visually rich, but the concept was so buried it should have come with a pamphlet. I guess I didn't hate the Chevy Truck as "Lassie," but overall I am staying with my current ride.
One of the best moments was when the audio screwed up during the big Verizon/Apple unveiling, and you couldn't really hear the guy say, "Yes, I can hear you now." Sweet.
I was shaking my head when I saw Tim Hutton pop up in an ad, thinking, "Who is banging on this cat's door to give him an endorsement?" Then I got it -- it's an ad for Groupon meal discounts that makes fun of the suffering in Tibet. Can you imagine the parade of "No's" they got on that one?! After Jim J. Bullock passed, someone probably said, "Well, we're down to Hutton and Snookie's new best friend."
Year after year, Go Daddy remains the gold standard of crap.
Eminem was 1-for-2: The claymation version of him actually looked more like Vanilla Ice. However, the one commercial that actually stopped me in my tracks and gave me chills was Chrysler's "What does Detroit know about luxury?" Admittedly, as a son of the rust belt, I am an easy target, but here we heard 12 simple words that were worth three million dollars. Stunning.
The little Darth Vader starting up the Volkswagen was nice, Ozzie and Bieber were okay, Adrien Brody needs a beating, but for me the big winners both went 2-for-2: Doritos had me laughing hard, in particular the guy with the Dorito-sniffing fetish. How very 2011, how very Rex Ryan! But the grand prize went to Bridgestone -- two hi-larious commercials that earned TiVo replays in case B: The "Reply All" email meltdown destroyed me, and the Beaver redemption was its match. Take a bow, guys, you didn't spend a trillion dollars animating dragons or buying the music rights to "Tiny Dancer." You were just funny. Really, really funny.
I miss Pete Townshend's belly-flab!
Where do I begin with this halftime show? You knew we were in trouble when the Peas descended, dressed like a doomed landing party on Star Trek: Voyager. Wow! Upon closer inspection, will.i.am was also sporting head gear that looked like a cyber comb-over. Maybe that's what screwed up the audio mix, because he was the only thing you could hear. Never did hear the band the whole way through, found myself baffled when Slash appeared, even more baffled that they dressed Fergie so she couldn't move, then Usher appeared, apparently just to prove that the Peas aren't band enough to carry the weight of this show. Maybe the two baggage Peas needed to step up their game. This was the kind of awkwardness that helped me forget the cross-promotional nightmare of that chick from "Glee" making us all wait even longer for kickoff with her pre-anthem anthem. Insane, and I loved the cutaway shots of the players, all hyped up and angry, shooting her the "wrap it up!" eyes.
Oh yeah -- they also played football on Sunday! When I saw this matchup, I predicted greatness. Well, we got goodness, and that's okay. Both teams did what they do -- Green Bay plays a great first half, the Steelers storm back in the second half. Love it. It just needed a better final drive from Pittsburgh to rank with the classics. The drama of fourth-and-do-or-die was not helped by the unusually casual attack of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman -- there's a booth that could use some new blood -- I mean where the hell is Jerry Glanville when you need him? Regardless, at the end of the day, and the season, Super Bowl XLV fell one more first down shy of making the finish exquisitely tense, uncomfortable, exciting.
In closing, I just want to say:
1) You're all nuts -- A-Rod is a lucky guy.
3) I look forward to the "Leave Britney Alone!" kid firing up his webcam in defense of poor little Christina Aguilera. After all, until the players union and the owners get some signatures going on the dotted line, that is how we will be filling our days.
Shoot me now…