February 3, 2009
After the Super Bowl
Well, it’s over. The Pittsburgh Steelers are dumping champagne over each
other’s Super Bowl XLIII Champion caps and thanking their Lord and
Savior for standing by them and guiding every savage hit on an opponent
from the very beginning of this long, tough NFL season. Meanwhile, the
Arizona Cardinals are quietly waxing philosophical and consoling each
other with a cold beer – probably not Steel City.
what have we really accomplished here today?
For one thing, as a game-watching nation we wolfed down something like
1.2 billion chicken wings and 15,000 tons of chips, along with enough
ranch dressing, salsa, onion dip and guacamole to turn the grand canyon
into a scenic condiment bowl. Some statistician with a lot of time on
his hands has actually calculated that the amount of Orville Redenbacher
we chowed would make a popcorn string long enough to stretch more than
5.5 laps around the world.
And we washed it all down with 52 million cases of beer.
The Super Bowl is also the number one day on the American calendar for
blowing money on stupid bets. We plop down an estimated $8 billion on
every kind of wager that devious minds can dream up, including exactly
how long the National Anthem will take and how many times John Madden
will make a food reference (the current over/under on that last one is
1.5). Vegas was even giving four-to-one pre-game odds against Bruce
Springsteen opening the halftime show by singing “The Rising.”
And then, of course, there are the commercials. On the day after every
year’s Super Bowl, at least among the gridiron luddites I hang around
with, the water cooler rehash is not even remotely about the game. It is
about Conan O’Brian crawling across a foam-lathered stage in a red mesh
tank top crooning an ad slogan in Swedish.
What we have here is American companies thumbing their corporate noses
at the tough economic climate and spending upwards of $3 million for
each of 69 30-second ad slots. Instead of throwing in the towel, they
will invest more than $206 million in themselves and in selling their
With that kind of money on the line, they naturally try to put the most
creative work they can come up with into those little solid platinum
time slots. This year, in addition to Conan, we had a Clydesdale who
knew how to fetch, a box of flowers telling the recipient that nobody
wants to see her naked, and a pretty fair-sized chunk of the insect
kingdom banding together to steal a guy’s Coke.
just doesn’t get any better than that.
From a sport purist’s point of view, this year’s Super Bowl was a much
better football game than a lot of them have been. Sometimes in the past
we’ve spent five hours watching the gang of sportscasters and ex-jocks
on the air struggling to make a pathetic blowout sound like the contest
of the millennium.
And since the vast majority of Super Bowl viewers live outside the
market areas of the two teams who are playing, even that good old
drunk-since-8 a.m.-in-the-parking-lot brand of fan loyalty is not really
that much of a factor. There is only enough of all that on hand to spice
up the pre-game show.
the Super Bowl is always more about the party than about the game. A
bunch of millionaire athletes get enormous cash bonuses, and we get to
spend the next two weeks on the Stair Master trying to work off all that
beer and queso. But everybody involved has some real fun in the process.
Sort of makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?
Michael Ball. Distributed exclusively by North Star Writers Group.
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