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The Other Side of the Super Bowl

This year, I spent the Super Bowl in a dirty living room in Toronto, drinking beer with a half-dozen people who like to watch football, a few who had no idea how the game is played and one hardcore fan-girl from Pittsburgh. She was very, very angry by the end of the day and didn’t appreciate any of the Roethlisberger-is-a-rapist jokes. Life was tough for serious Steelers fans last Sunday.

I’ll leave the analysis of the game to my able colleagues. If I were to offer my opinion on the game, it would be like an autistic person giving dating advice—but here are a few thoughts on Sunday’s entertainment.

It seems like such an odd pretense to bring people together, but Super Bowl Parties really have something for everyone. You can drink during the day, play Call of Duty during the pre-game, gamble on outcomes and watch grown men beat the hell out of each other in pursuit of shiny, shiny objects. And if none of these things catches your fancy, I think we can all enjoy Troy Polamalu’s hair. But the two biggest draws to the Super Bowl—other than football—are the commercials and the halftime show.

Sadly, I was watching the game on the only TV still rocking the rabbit ears in 2011, so I wasn’t privy to the fancy American commercials reminding me to Viagra Snickers my Budweiser. So I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there.
On the other hand, I have many things to say about the halftime show.

I was blown away by how simultaneously intricate and terrible the show was. The Black Eyed Peas sang through auto-tune (except Fergie, who desperately needs it), and danced around on a giant poké ball light-stage while the cast of Tron ran around in a circle. Then, Slash showed up and played guitar while Fergie sang and rubbed up against him as if she might gain some talent through osmosis. It was depressing for everyone involved, and it might take me a while before I can bring myself to break out Appetite for Destruction again. Then they rapped (Sang? Spoke? Auto-tuned?) over some Dick Dale, and Usher showed up. It was ridiculous, painful and well choreographed. I’ve never actively wished Axl Rose would show up anywhere until Fergie sang Sweet Child o’ Mine.

Then again, maybe not.

Visually, the halftime show was as stunning as it was baffling. I concede that the show was technically great, and probably took forever to figure out all the lighting cues for the masses of human pixels making hearts and whatnot. But it all just leaves me with the feeling that Will.I.am thinks he’s the villain in a Sci-fi movie. His army of block-headed dancer girls still terrifies me. (This was hilarious. If you couldn’t make it through the video up there, they were near the end.) Overall, the halftime show seemed to be aimed at the demographic who love football, the Black Eyed Peas, Tron and getting high. So probably about 3 people.

But enough about the halftime show. The best part of the night came before the game even started.

More amazing than the commercials, the halftime show—or even the game—was the introduction of the teams by Sam Elliot. If you aren’t familiar with him, he’s the leather-voiced cowboy who wandered into modern times and started acting in movies. His moustache alone makes him superior to both teams. The only way this could have been better is if Sam introduced the Steelers and Morgan Freeman introduced the Packers.

This is the flip-side of the unnecessary cameo coin. Sometimes it really is just depressing, like watching Slash play Sweet Child o’ Mine during a Black Eyed Peas medley while Fergie butchers the vocals. But sometimes, the gratuitous celebrity cameos become much greater than what they actually are, just because of how unexpected and overwhelming they are. Sam Elliott made this game larger-than-life before it even started, and I can’t express how cool that was for those of us who couldn’t care less which team won, but still wanted to watch an intense battle.

Sam Elliott probably doesn't know who the Black Eyed Peas are.

Congratulations to the Packers for their victory this year, but I’ll rest easy knowing that no matter which teams are in the Super Bowl next year, the day will always be full of excess, good times and a bit of football on the side. As long as the NFL sees the Super Bowl as  a chance to lure in non-fans with goofy diversions and flashing lights, Super Bowl parties will be strange, interesting and entertaining.


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  1. February 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm
  2. February 15, 2011 at 12:24 am
  3. March 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm

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