Super Bowl XXXVI Makes Al-Qaida Run For The Hills —
“No more Terry Bradshaw!” they scream.
Each year, the concentric rings of florescent gluttony emanating from the Super Bowl reach further and further out, before they eventually dissolve, say, around the time pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in late February. But this year, on top of the reams of ad money and endless sports media backslapping that have become traditions, Fox’s coverage of the Super Bowl was spun as an “America RULES!’ boondoggle on par with James Brown’s “Livin’ In America” spectacle preceding Apollo Creed’s bout with Ivan Drago.
And I still don’t know what an Mlife is.
The event played out on a series of levels. In the center was the game itself, which was treated as a non-event til midway through the second quarter, when it became clear that the AFC’s New England Patriots were not the Washington Generals to the NFC’s St Louis Rams’ Globetrotting “Greatest Show on Turf” act. Revolving around the game was the usual Sunday slumber – which on Fox is dominated by JB, Terry, Cris and Howie’s towel-slapping antics and barely tenable game analysis. But because of September 11, and in anticipation of the patriotic daisycutter that will detonate over Salt Lake City next week, Super Bowl XXXVI was almost forgotten amidst the Up With America! fervor lancing through every aspect of the event.
Mariah Carey sobered up long enough to competently lip-synch our national anthem. A full-figured gal, Carey’s pinup girl good looks nicely complimented Fox’s troops-in-Kandahar breakins. Here’s what you’re fighting for, boys. Get home safe, you hear? And when you do, visit Mariah at the group home, where she’s gearing up for a tour of America’s roadhouses and supper clubs, selling her new release from the trunk of her 1986 Nissan Sentra. Vanity license plate: CRAZY4U.
“Sir” Paul McCartney, looking spry in his casual tracksuit, performed “Freedom,” his wretched song penned in the wake of 9/11. The sentiment is to be applauded. But like Neil Young’s “Let’s Roll” before it, the song just sucks. A better Macca moment came during halftime, when he harmonized with Terry Bradshaw in a version of “Hard Day’s Night” straight out of the decaying brain matter knocking around inside Bradshaw’s skull. The erstwhile Steeler QB played too many games without his helmet on, and it shows. For his part, McCartney took it all in with good-natured charm, not even flinching when the decidedly un-funky James Brown suggested that McCartney’s old band changed the world “with their moptop haircuts.”
U2 made the most of their 12- minute halftime gig, even if the heart-shaped stage and “Beautiful Day” don’t have the same freshness they did over a year ago when we first saw and heard them. Bono’s entrance through the crowd was a nice touch, as was the brief coda of “MLK” before the Edge’s sparkling intro to “Streets Have No Name.” Instead of his usual sermon on peace and love, Bono chose to let an enormous projection of 9/11’s victims speak for itself.
It’s been suggested that an American band should have performed at halftime. Who, Grand Funk Railroad? U2 is no longer just an Irish band. While Bono’s proselytizing is at times overwrought, he and his band have truly become a band for the world. Their message is clear, but their music supports it with appropriate amounts of rocking and songcraft. They were the perfect choice for this year’s halftime show, reinforcing the patriotic flair of the show with their trademark grace and sound.
By the end of the fourth quarter, a slush fund of ad dollars had amounted to a memorable Broadway chimp, a few funny Budweiser ads (“I’m doin’ fine. My brother just picked me up from the airport and…”), and the fact that Britney would have been hotter in the 1950s. Because of the Patriots’ late game heroics, Fox had to push its tribute to departing broadcast icon Pat Summerall into the post-game. But when it finally came, the video montage was accompanied by some extremely awkward on-camera banter between the ancient Summerall and his booth partner for 21 years, the monolithic John Madden. It only got worse when each member of Fox’ broadcast crew delivered a soliloquy about what Summerall meant to them (or at least what he meant to their fledgling careers as moronic broadcasters). It may have been time for the 71-year old Summerall to hang it up, but Fox’ treatment of his farewell was concurrent with the network’s bludgeoning, substance-less brand projection. Even drunk, senile, and old, Pat Summerall has more class than goose-necked desk warbler Cris Collinsworth.
Given the Fox network’s penchant for brazen cross-promotion, Super Bowl XXXVI’s patriotic bent could have been so heavy-handed as to make the terrorists hate us more. The cast of “That 80s Show” reciting the Gettysburg Address in Valley Girl accents, perhaps? Instead, the event combined reverent patriotism, exciting football, and a hint of that “don’t fuck with us” cold war chest-thumping that defined Rocky IV and America in the 1980s.
And in the end, a red, white, and blue team of upstarts and never weres, led by a spunky kid QB with corn-fed good looks and an “aw, shucks” smile, knocked the cool kids’ block off, and made the Vince Lombardi trophy their own. If that doesn’t sound like a script written for America in 2002, I’ll submit to a Quizno’s product testing seminar.