Super?

Yes, I watched the Super Bowl. Sorry, Jackie.

I could try to spin it, I suppose. An ecumenical gesture toward those who follow the Faith of the Oblong Ball, perhaps. But the truth is simpler and arguably less worthy. I wanted to see the Patriots lose.

Sure, I had some secondary motivations: wanting to see the commercials and the half-time show in context–important for proper snarkage–foremost. But the bottom line is that the Patriots exemplify all that’s wrong with sports teams setting themselves up as “America’s Team”. Like the Dallas Cowboys, LA Lakers, and Atlanta Braves* of yore, and the Yankees of, well, any day, they exhibit an arrogance and an attitude of entitlement that cries out for humbling.

* Ted Turner has much to answer for.

So it’s easy to root against the Patriots. It was harder to root for the Eagles, since–as Maggie reminded me–they’re the ones who brought Michael Vick back into football. But since they were the only team who had a chance to beat the Patriots on Sunday, we used the proverbial long spoon.

And I took notes, because that’s what writers do. Herewith, my thoughts on Super Bowl LII.

MassMutual served notice even before the kickoff that this was not last year’s television spectacle of Fox-sponsored odes to Amurrica. Can’t argue with the moral of the ad–don’t count on the government to help you through a disaster–but it would have been a stronger message if they’d mentioned Puerto Rico.

As expected, the camera angles during “The Star-Spangled Banner” made it impossible to tell whether anyone was kneeling or sitting. NBC’s not going to risk those glorious advertising dollars over three minutes of air time.

Apparently Sprint is fully prepared for the imminent robot rebellion, and is ready to placate our new robotic overlords from Day One.

Seriously, Turkish Air? If they think Dr. Oz is qualified to talk about the wonders of the human body, I’d hate to learn what they think qualifies someone to fly an airplane. Gonna put them on my “never patronize this company” list.

Bud Light’s sales were down 5.7% this past year. If their ads are any indication, those idiotic “Dilly Dilly” spots are the only thing keeping them in business. Hooray for living down to your smallest potential.

On the brighter side, NBC’s frequent promos for the Winter Olympics were considerably less annoying than Fox’s similar binge on behalf of the Daytona 500. Maybe because the Olympics aren’t a sport that glorifies unsafe driving and promotes climate change?

I’ll admit to enjoying the dual and dueling Doritos/Mountain Dew ad combination. I don’t like Mountain Dew, but the commercial didn’t drive me to forswear Doritos.

On the other hand, Diet Coke’s promotion of the desirability of uncontrollable, unstoppable dancing left me cold. Can I really be the only person in the world who still remembers Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes“? Is a swig of mango-flavored Diet Coke worth pedal amputation and eternal damnation?

NBC hurried to assure everyone that no game action or commercials were lost to that eighteen second blackout. But they’ve been disturbingly silent on whether any jobs were lost.

I won’t bother with my screed about Dodge using MLK’s words to sell Ram trucks. Plenty of others have said more than enough. I’ll just put them on my list, right after Turkish Air.

Regrettably, Janet Jackson did not parachute into the stadium and rip Justin Timberlake’s pants off mid-song. But even in her absence, you have to know that NBC and the NFL paid close attention to the choreography of JT’s show. So now we know that both institutions believe it’s perfectly fine to hump a dancer’s leg on international television, as long as her breasts are covered.

And maybe it was just an effect of the television broadcast, but the much ballyhooed and equally derided “holographic performance” by Prince came off as a bare half-step up from projecting a movie on a bed sheet. And really, JT, choosing “I Would Die 4 U” was a damn tacky move.

Of course the blatant attempt to promote “Super Bowl Selfies” as a hashtag was mildly nauseating, if completely predictable.

All in all, I score it the most soporific halftime show since at least 2000, when we had Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, and Toni Braxton lulling us to sleep.

I got a chuckle out of the self-referential commercial for The Voice. But then, I’m an easy mark for self-deprecating, self-referential jokes.

Budweiser partially redeemed themselves for the stupid “Dilly Dilly” nonsense with their “Water” commercial, which did mention Puerto Rico.

My two favorite commercials of the day ran in succession. My Number One was the Jack In the Box / Martha Stewart spot. Juvenile throughout, but with a nice twist on the old “Got Your Nose” bit. And then, Number Two, the payoff to the sequence of apparently pointless Peyton Manning spots, recreating Dirty Dancing as a touchdown celebration. Stupid and pointless–perfect for the message that the NFL isn’t going away.

We’re putting Tide on the list, too. Not that their ads were bad. The concept was mildly amusing the first time. But by the end of the game, they’d completely run it into the ground and arrived at “thoroughly annoying”.

Unrelated to the actual game or the commercials: We discovered that Dish doesn’t think anyone has a four hour attention span. With about ten minutes left in the game, right on the four hour mark from when I turned on the TV, they popped up a message box that said (I’m paraphrasing here, because I didn’t get a picture) “It looks like nobody’s watching TV right now. If you don’t click ‘Continue’ within 20 seconds, we’ll shut the receiver off.” Uh, guys, you’re going to be sending the satellite signal whether the receiver is on or off, so why do you care if I’m watching? If I want to waste electricity by leaving the TV on all day, let me!

And, finally, my prize for “Worst Commercial of Super Bowl LII”.

No, it’s not Tide, Bud Light, or even Turkish Air.

Not only did this company completely ignore the well-documented complaints about their business model, but they’re actually promoting class violence. Congratulation, Groupon, come up and claim your trophy.

Or am I the only one who heard the message “He didn’t use Groupon, so we sent a couple of thugs to kick his rich, white ass”?

Seriously, there’s a right way to do things, and in this case, TV commercials aren’t it. If we’re going to have a revolution of the proletariat and forcibly redistribute the wealth, can we please do it as a spontaneous popular uprising, rather than because a coupon service wants to improve their bottom line?

Well, That Was Super

So another Super Bowl has passed into history. In this case, more impressively than most. Greatest comeback in the game’s history (or, if you’re a fan of the Falcons, the biggest collapse in the history of the “Big Game”).

But I’ll leave dissection of the actual game to the actual fans of the sport or the teams. I’d like to see someone who knows the NFL culture address the proverbial elephant: Since the Patriots have made such a big deal about drawing motivation from the “excessive” punishment Tom Brady received for his role in the Deflategate scandal, are we going to see the other teams demanding to be punished to restore competitive balance to the game?

While the experts are pondering that, here are a few other semi-random thoughts about the spectacle.

Points to Coke for their pre-game re-run of the multilingual “America the Beautiful” commercial from the 2014 Super Bowl. But I had the same sense of a false note this year as I did then at the decision to switch back to English for the “God shed his grace on thee” line. Fear of a backlash from the rabidly outspoken Christian fringe at the merest hint of the suggestion that non-English speakers might have valid religious beliefs?

Why am I not surprised that Fox hyped the heck out of their coverage of the Daytona 500? After the fifth or sixth commercial, their attempts to convince viewers outside of the nation’s heartland, where NASCAR reigns, that an automobile race is even more important to Life, Liberty, and the Purfuit of Happineff than the football game they were nominally watching got more than a trifle pitiful.

And then there were the commercials for APB. Apparently the world needed a weekly TV show glorifying the militarization of the police and celebrating the ability of the ultra-rich to literally purchase public servants. Fox certainly thinks so.

Was I the only person bothered by the fact that right after the tribute to football players from historically black schools, we got a commercial for Mexican avocados in which it’s the black conspirator who doesn’t understand the concept of secrecy?

And, speaking of being bothered, Kia, what the heck were you thinking with that Melissa McCarthy ad? If we’re to believe you, environmentalism is dangerous to life and limb. And if we shouldn’t risk ourselves to save whales, trees, and polar ice caps, why should we bother spending the money on your new hybrid? How about giving us some idea of what makes the Niro better than every other low-emission vehicle out there?

Mixed messages from Anheuser-Busch as well. Big props for not pulling their pro-immigration Budweiser ad, which they had to know was going to trigger calls for a boycott even before the events of last week. But then they literally brought back the ghost of Spuds MacKenzie. Couldn’t they have let the poor, alcoholic pooch rest in peace? There’s got to be a better way to sell light beer than with a “Christmas Carol” rip-off.

And then there’s Lady Gaga.

Kudos for carrying the entire halftime show herself. First time we’ve had a single act do the show without supporting acts since The Who in 2010.

For that matter, I believe she’s the only female performer to go it alone in the history of the Super Bowl. I only have data going back to 2000 handy, but the solo performers since then have been Paul McCartney, Prince, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen. Add the bands that didn’t need supporting acts, and you get the all-male U2, Rolling Stones, and The Who.

It’s about time the Super Bowl Halftime Show got an anything you can do moment.

But more importantly, she gets big props for invoking “This Land Is Your Land” on Immigration Weekend and bigger ones for ramming “Born This Way” down Mike Pence’s throat–live on Fox!

So I’m willing to ignore the thousands of acres destroyed in mining all the rhinestones that went into her costumes–land that is, of course, the native habitat of the innocent nauga.

But maybe I’m being hasty. There’s something to be said for her final outfit (for those of you who missed it, she finished the show wearing much-Bedazzled shoulder pads and sparkly shorts). It could be a great thing for the NFL if it caught on. No, not with the cheerleaders. With the players.

Reduce the amount of armor they wear, and the players might be a little more cautious about hurling themselves headlong at each other and the ground. That ought to cut down on injuries just a bit.

And–be honest now–who wouldn’t want to see Tom Brady dropping back to pass in that uniform?

Gone Too Far

There are a lot of good reasons not to watch the Super Bowl–Jackie has fifty of ’em. The problem is that I’m not sure that would accomplish anything.

Wait, let me amend that. You’ll feel better. It’s worth doing on that basis alone.

But, let’s face it, the game will go on. I’m convinced that even if everybody in the world boycotted the game this year, it would still be played next year. The phrase “too big to fail” gets thrown around far too often, but this does seem to be a legitimate usage. Blame the commercials and the halftime show.

The halftime show has taken on a life of its own. I know–and you probably do too–people who tune in just for the halftime show. Blame Janet Jackson for making it “must see TV”–and M.I.A. and Katy Perry’s Left Shark for keeping interest up. Even people who don’t turn on the TV on Super Bowl Sunday hit the Internet to find out what new controversy each new show produces.

And the commercials. Talk about the tail wagging the dog! Jackie points to a 2014 survey that found “78 percent of Americans look forward to the commercials more than the game“. Seventy-eight percent. Let that sink in. If the survey bears anything like a correspondence to reality, it means 87 million people watched the 2014 Super Bowl for the ads, compared to only 24 million who tuned in for the game.

That’s great news for the advertisers, of course, and as long as people hit the Internet to check out the commercials, the advertisers really don’t care if they boycott the game itself. And people do. The tag “Super Bowl commercial” has acquired a cachet all out of proportion to any actual value the ads have.

I’m being serious here. According to USA Today, last year’s top advertisement was Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” spot. Ask yourself two questions: “Do you remember that ad, and, if so, did you remember it before you clicked the link?” and “Did the ad make you want to buy Budweiser beer, or even think about buying it at any point in the past year?”

Unless you and all of the other 114,399,999 Americans who watched the Super Bowl last year can answer yes to both of those questions, Budweiser wasted their advertising money. Even leaving aside the cost to make the ad (because I can’t find any numbers on that), the Super Bowl placement cost $9 million, or a bit under eight cents per US viewer. Did the ad make you buy enough Bud for Anheuser-Busch to make eight cents profit?

Decline of civilization, anyone?