The Superbowl was strangely quiet this year – maybe hype fatigue has set in, and with only one week between the Conference Finals and the Big Game, there wasn’t time for the momentum to take on a life of its own. This gives me hope for media bombast in general, that it can be scaled back without the whole house of cards collapsing.
Of course there was all kinds of pomp and circumstance, but everything was tones down a notch or two: even the announcers, Al Michaels and John Madden, remarked more than once that there was a general lack of excitement, especially among the Raiders. Perhaps all national spectacles are less grandiose in the wake of 9/11 – the people involved are a little less shameless than they used to be whether they realize it or not: the breathless tone that implicitly says, “This is the most important event in the history of the world,” can no longer be conjured with psychic impunity. Maybe we are a little more willing to let events sell themselves.
Regarding the other SHOW, the commercials, they were less grandiloquent and solipsistic as well and only a few stand out in my mind: the teams of horses waiting expectantly for the replay official – a literal “zebra” – to make a call was clever and funny, the Willie Nelson tax commercial not only poked fun at Nelson’s past problems with the IRS, but also his own image of rugged integrity. But by far the best ad was Reebok’s “Terry Tate, Office Linebacker,” wherein the beefy, fearsome Tate lays the smackdown on office policy violators, young and old, male and female alike: “You know you’re supposed to put a cover page on the TSP report, RICHARD.”
“That’s a long distance call, DOUG.”
Tate glowers down upon his fallen victims while company CEO raves about the company’s “42% increase in productivity since Terry came on board.” A classic.
As Mark already mentioned, for the halftime extravaganza, the emphasis was on familiarity rather than promotion as Shania Twain went back to her Come On Over album for “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” before strutting and preening in her space-Amazon outfit through the title track of her latest, Up: pop-country on steroids and meth as far as I can tell.
Next, No Doubt retreated all the way back to their first album for what is still their best song, the punky ska of “Just a Girl,” which ran seamlessly into Sting appearing to front No Doubt for the Police classic “Message In a Bottle,” which reminded me how painfully sedate Sting has been solo now for almost 20 years. It was great to see he can still rock – BRING BACK THE POLICE.
Very nice indeed. Back to the game: Michaels and Madden, to their hype-deflating credit, didn’t even pretend the game was anything less than a rout by the time it was 34-3, but then the Raiders sprang to life for a time, narrowing the gap to 13 before two more interceptions – five on the day – finished off the Raider rally. As someone with no stake in the game whatsoever other than being a sports fan, there was enough to hold my interest.