In case you’re visiting from another planet, this Sunday is Super Bowl XLIV from Miami. The late Pete Rozelle, then National Football League commissioner, used roman numerals to create a gladiator feel. It always seemed pompous to me.
How popular is pro football? In the league championships, the Colts-Jets game drew 46.9 million viewers while the Vikings-Saints drew 57.9 million (largest number since 76.3 million for the final “Seinfeld” in 1998 which, with all due respect, stunk).
In addition to being a nationwide extended party, the Super Bowl is unique among other major pro sports for another reason. As opposed to baseball, basketball and hockey, it’s a single game, not the best of seven that decides the championship. (At the risk of offending my hockey friends, Richard and Russell, I’m being charitable by including hockey in the major sports, given its TV ratings or lack thereof.) So, the Super Bowl winner is the World Champion and the loser gets to feel what Buffalo felt for four straight years.
Frankly, it’s not easy being an NFL fan in the Los Angeles area, a city with no professional team. Unless one counts USC, whose players seem to get free use of cars and houses, plus cash, all allegedly of course, wink, wink.
A neighbor visiting from Australia asked me how is it the second largest media market in the U.S. doesn’t have an NFL team. I said because Kobe Bryant doesn’t play football. (This was right after Kobe made a last second shot to beat the hated Celtics.)
The question for us “teamless” fans is who to root for in the Super Bowl? This, assuming that you weren’t born in Indianapolis or New Orleans, or, more importantly, you haven’t bet on the game. Las Vegas expects $85 million in wagering by Sunday. Surprisingly, that’s actually less than half the ad revenue CBS expects.
Last year’s Super Bowl commercials took in a whopping $206 million as NBC sold out all their spots! This year, CBS is carrying the game and the cost of each commercial will average a mere $2.5 million for 30 seconds! At those numbers, CBS brass is praying for overtime — or two.
I was hoping the Minnesota Vikings would be in the Super Bowl so that 40-year-old Brett Favre would be pitted in a classic match-up against Peyton Manning. With 475 total yards, the Vikes should have beaten the Saints but for a slew of fumbles. (File under shoulda/coulda.)
Plus, the final pass from Drew Brees to Robert Meachem was incomplete! Meachem clearly bobbled the ball and it hit the ground as he came down. As loudly as I shouted at the TV, I was stunned the referees didn’t overturn the call. Then again, I’m lucky my neighbors didn’t call the police.
The Colts are favored by 5 1/2 points over the Saints, with the over/under at 56. (If you understand that lingo the odds are that you’ve bet on the game.) Ironically, Manning grew up in New Orleans. He may be the greatest quarterback ever but I’m rooting for the Saints, for two reasons.
One, this is the first time in their 43-year history that the Saints have been to the Super Bowl, and two because of Hurricane Katrina. How could you not root for them? Speaking of Katrina, I was thinking it would be fitting if George W. Bush flew over the stadium Sunday to watch New Orleans play.
Speaking of old white guys, who selects the Super Bowl half-time entertainment? And where do they recruit their talent from, senior centers? (As if I should talk.) This year the music will be provided by The Who, though every time I write The Who, my spell check insists it’s The Whom.
In recent years the half-time show has featured Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones and Sir Paul McCartney, all of whom are geniuses, albeit senior citizens. During the 1960s there was a counter-culture mantra, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” For the Super Bowl half-time apparently it’s “Don’t play anybody’s music who’s under 60.”
There clearly must be a boomer demographic at play here. Then again, the last time youth-oriented music was featured (Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake) horror of horrors, a female nipple was exposed on camera for an entire millisecond. This was the infamous “wardrobe malfunction,” which some say (speaking of horror) helped re-elect George Bush.
The Super Bowl is the only sporting event that attracts viewers who aren’t interested in the sport. My friend Marianne, in Pasadena, watches just for the commercials. An ad agent’s dream, she tapes the game and watches it a second time fast forwarding to the commercials.
As for Sunday, “Go Saints!” As for The Who (or, per spell check , The Whom) I’m wishing them the old stage, good luck expression “Break a leg!” And, in their case, better a leg than a hip.
When he isn’t yelling at the TV, Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.