Three years ago I didn’t know who won on Super Bowl Sunday until Monday. We embarked on the day-long trip back from Cape Town at 8 p.m. South Africa time and we were in the air as the Colts and Saints kicked off. As the Colts were coughing up a lead, a fellow passenger was vomiting up his liquor right next to us. I saw the final score as we stood in line trying to re-enter the country. I was pulling more for the Colts, although didn’t have any real rooting interest. At JFK I watched on CNN — or Headline News or CNN Airport or some other news-related station that replays the same story over and over — as fans in New Orleans celebrated the victory.
This year I’ll be back in front of my TV, along with millions of others, or are TV executives now using billions in their made-up attendance figures for the Super Bowl? Some Super Bowl thoughts:
* Obviously millions — trillions! — of people watch the Super Bowl simply for the ads. When I watch the game with a group, I always get a strange anxiety as the highly anticipated commercials roll out. Not sure what it’s about, but a lot of it has to do with the analysis that takes place when a commercial ends as everyone critiques the spot, judges it and offers up letter grades or a ranking based on some type of 10-point system. I like to just watch the ads, though I’m as guilty as anyone as thinking I’d do a better job selling beer or dog food or cars in a 30-second piece if only I was given the proper budget.
* Do we know which legendary actor will introduce a completely over-the-top ode to the NFL this year? Can anything top Michael Douglas and the video from two years ago, prior to the Packers-Steelers matchup? D-Day, Kennedy assassination, John Lennon’s murder, the depression, moon landing, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther Ling, Iwo Jima, September 11…and an insurance salesman who plays quarterback for a team in the Midwest — is this a Billy Joel song or a football game? This isn’t just a football game, Douglas said. Well, actually it is.
* My favorite part of Super Bowl weekend as a kid came when ESPN ran a marathon with NFL Films’ Super Bowl highlight packages. Hour after hour of John Facenda narrating clips of Bradshaw, Stabler and Csonka. The Raiders destruction of the Redskins in 1984 was Facenda’s last performance for NFL Films.
* Hey, Hank Stram! If you took a poll today of 1,000 Minnesota dads who are 50 or older, chances are Hank Stram would still rank as their least-favorite person, with Bob Schnelker perhaps being a close second. No one’s forgiven Stram for his cocky outbursts during Super Bowl IV, when the Chiefs defeated the heavily favored Vikings while matriculating down the field.
* I don’t want to alarm you, but the pregame show just started.
* And Shannon Sharpe just laughed at his first joke.
* It always throws me off when the network play-by-play announcer introduces the starting lineups to the entire stadium. Play-by-play guys have voices meant for the small screen, not the large stadiums. I suppose there’s not much of an alternative, unless you had the home organization’s regular PA guy handle the duties. This year it’d be Jim Nantz, who breaks out the same tone he uses when welcoming friends to the final day of coverage at The Masters. Not saying I need the Detroit Pistons’ PA guy; just don’t want to fall asleep before the opening kickoff.
* What makes Michael Douglas’ video look understated? The opening coin toss. Players stream out to midfield, as do honorary captains and dignitaries. There’s usually a special coin used — maybe a nickel crafted out of material from a church that was devastated in Hurricane Katrina — and a foreigner watching the game for the first time might think the game itself was going to be decided on that toss. Or perhaps fates of nations are at risk. Instead we find out who defers.
* I’m sure people are already tired of the Harbaughs. Not me. Last week in Minnesota I watched an old Real Sports piece on the brothers, followed by an old interview the brothers did with their dad and brother-in-law Tom Crean for NFL Films and the late Steve Sabol. Jim Harbaugh has an edge to him and is actually fairly entertaining, unlike the headset-toting robots who occupy most NFL sidelines. I enjoy the whole brother drama, perhaps because I don’t have a brother of my own and sort of wish John or Jim were a Fury sibling. Their dad Jack is funny and entertaining. I won’t apologize for enjoying this storyline.
* No, really, the pregame show has started. What started off as a joke has become a reality. Oh, no.
* Most people agree that Skip Bayless has become something of a national menace, a man who gives screaming sportswriters a bad name. Still, part of me would like to see Skip on First Take the day after someone pulls a Max McGee and stars in the Super Bowl while nursing a hangover.
* Spend some time with some Super Bowl Sporcle quizzes. Here are Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. How about everyone who’s caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl? Here’s everything that pops up when you search Sporcle for Super Bowl.
* For those who enjoy watching Boston sports fans suffer, here’s Bill Simmons’ column following the Patriots’ loss that ended their dreams of an unbeaten season. Revel in the misery. Again.
* Odd thing about the Super Bowl: While it’s the biggest game in football — in the world! — and is certainly the most watched and the most covered, it’s not really the most anticipated day for football fans. Probably not even close, really. In some ways fans might dread it, since it’s the end of the NFL for one more season. Fans get more excited about the draft and the opening of training camps and the first game of the season. The other playoff rounds offer more chances for more great games.
* I’m sort of enjoying that no one’s legacy is on the line this Sunday. We don’t have to decide if Tom Brady is better than Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. We don’t have to figure out if Eli Manning is better than his brother. No use worrying about Peyton Manning’s performance in big games. No need to fret about Ben Roethlisberger being a terrific quarterback but an apparently terrible person. Imagine Romo in this game. Instead we get Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick, two really good quarterbacks but still historically meaningless. Maybe Flacco becomes elite if he wins, whatever that means. A Kaepernick victory makes us wonder just how good he’ll eventually be. But that’s it, nothing overwrought.
* Each year we get stories about people simulating the Super Bowl on video games. Is there anyone out there — a recluse, possibly one with a criminal record or warrants, surely unkempt — who simulates the Super Bowl each year by playing electric football?
Time to go. Wanna catch some of the pregame.