Some thoughts on Super Bowl XLVI

A record-setting number of people watched The Big Game yesterday, so I’m sure everyone and their grandmother has something to say about the proceedings. Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist sharing my own take on a few aspects of yesterday’s Super Bowl.

The matchup

Really, was there a worse possible matchup? Both teams have won Super Bowls within the past seven years. Both teams have overexposed personalities. Both teams come from spoiled sports cities (particularly in the past decade).

I guess America’s gut reaction is to root against the dynastic Patriots whenever possible. I definitely get it: They give off an air of arrogance. They’ve won huge during the Tom Brady era and sometimes acted like spoiled brats. And there’s Spygate, Gisele, Tom Brady’s hair, etc. etc. So many easy reasons to vilify them.

On the other hand, I’m a Redskins fan and thus predisposed to cheering against the Giants. Plus, the Giants have won much more recently. Eli isn’t all that more likable than Brady, nor is Coughlin than Belichick. Lastly, if the Giants won, it would mean a) they have more trophies than the Redskins do, and b) Devin f-ing Thomas has a ring, but London Fletcher/Santana Moss/Lorenzo Alexander do not.

So, despite proclaiming at the beginning of the playoffs that the Patriots were the last team I wanted to win, I found myself completely on the fence, dreading any outcome.

I decided to choose a preferred team based off of which winner seemed a more appropriate fit for football history. Here’s a list of some of the implications of the Patriots winning vs. the Giants winning. Out of each pair, which one feels better, more correct?

  • The Patriots tying the Cowboys and 49ers with 5 SB wins vs. The Giants tying the Packers with 4 SB wins
  • Tom Brady tying Joe Montana with 3 SB MVPs vs. Eli Manning tying Brady, Terry Bradshaw, Bart Starr with 2 SB MVPs
  • Countless features about Tom Brady securing his status as a top 2 or 3 QB ever vs. countless features about Eli now officially being “elite” (whatever that means) and, whose legacy is better — Peyton or Eli
  • Poetic cap to a decade-plus of great football vs. a repeat little Giants over big bad Pats

I thought about each of these and decided that the former felt better in every case. I’m okay with the Patriots being the best football team of my formative years. I’ve come to grips with that. Let them put the whipped cream (Super Bowl) and cherry (Brady SBMVP) on their dynasty sundae.

To solidify my pick, the media spent this past week going over and over and over the “can the underdog Giants win again?” stories. Really? The line is 2.5 points, and they’re playing at a stadium that hugely favors them, and they have superior momentum, and you’re calling them the “underdogs?”

There have only been two real Super Bowl underdogs in the past ten years: The Giants in ’08 and the Patriots in ’02. This game was as close to a toss-up as there will be. Don’t compare it to 4 years ago.

I really just hate it when everyone in sports, media and fans, all pile on the same person or the same team — especially when the team/player isn’t winning big. Yeah, I’m that guy who defiantly cheered for Michael Vick (pre-re-emergence) and LeBron James (post-Decision). The Patriots haven’t won a title since 2005. That’s about a generation and a half in sports terms. So why is everyone acting like they won last year?

In summary, I wouldn’t have minded the Patriots solidifying their legacy — would’ve seemed apt, in fact — and I think the Patriots are overhated, the Giants underhated.

The game

It was pretty entertaining. Came down to the wire. Couldn’t ask for more.

A few isolated thoughts:

  • The butt touchdown was a hilarious way for the Giants to take a lead. It’ll be uncomfortable for the Giants to show that go-ahead touchdown without blushing a little bit. Ahmad Bradshaw will probably always feel a little embarrassed when it comes up at parties for the rest of his life.
  • So, what were the odds on Brady-called-for-intentional-grounding-safety as the game’s first score? Anyone out there make that bet?
  • Good God was Cris Collinsworth annoying. He’s my least favorite sportscaster, so maybe I just listen for the dumb things he says. I know that he does much better than I could. And he sometimes makes very salient points. But when he says Welker makes catches “100 times out of 100” (he had 122 catches and 5 drops this year, so he makes them 96 times out of 100) and tries so desperately to make Manningham’s impressive-but-not-extraordinary catch seem like a Tyree-peat, it makes me want to hit the mute button.
  • After a kicker-heavy postseason, and the Patriots’ history with kicking game-winners, everyone assumed kickers would play a vital, decisive role in the Super Bowl. But all the field goals were few and routine. If any kicker had a tangible influence on this game, it was the Giants’ punter, Steve Weatherford.

The commercials

The ads were more or less what I expected: A couple great ones, several good ones, plenty of forgettable ones. Off the top of my head: None made me laugh harder than Hyundai’s cheetah turning on its trainer, none made me smile more than King Elton John’s Pepsi, and none stood out as classic more than Clint Eastwood’s Chrysler/Detroit defense (even if it was a bit over-dramatic).

The halftime show

This kind of lip-synced, overproduced, gaudy display is a different kind of performance from Bruce Springsteen or U2’s authentic-feeling show. But it can be great nonetheless. And I thought that Madonna’s show was, almost unequivocally, a great one.

First, the music is iconic. “Music” and “Vogue” are relics of pop eras past and still enjoyable. Her new song is an overt Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne rip, but enjoyable enough. These three combined provided a nice, kaleidoscopic take on the past quarter century of girl-pop.

And then there was “Like a Prayer” which is one of my favorite songs. Uplifting, anthemic, subtly sexual — it’s a fantastic song made especially memorable by the background choir. The performance yesterday was definitely a high-point of the show, even though I could have done without Cee-Lo Green’s appearance.

Madonna and crew pulled out all of the stops, with a wide variety of guest appearances and elaborate spectacles, all covered in a fine glaze of strangeness: The Dustin Diamond/Will Ferrell slack-rope jumper, the Babylonian theme, the “World Peace” message following Madonna’s dramatic disappearance.

The one thing I can’t decide whether or not improved the show was Madonna’s appearance. She was trying so hard to be sexy — and kind of pulling it off. She’s almost 55, with a body and face that have been artificially (thought artfully) enhanced, so the fact that she looked and danced like she was 25 years younger was some combination unsettling, impressive, incongruous, wonderfully weird. I just can’t figure out what the balance of those was.

The unexpected delight

After the game was over, I went on twitter, and I didn’t emerge for about a half hour. Apparently people watch the game with their computers/iPhones out, because there were a few hundred tweets from the game to sift through. I didn’t think I’d want to, but the Madonna, Clint Eastwood, Eli Manning, Butt Touchdown, “Anything good on TV?,” Danny Woodhead, etc. jokes were actually quite hilarious.

Rather than post them all, I’ll just point you to Ken Jennings’ (yes, the Jeopardy guy) twitter feed. He had a couple of my favorites.

Dan S.

Dan is the editor of Earn This. He co-founded the site in 2009.

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