Friday, June 23, 2006

Some Thoughts on the Super Bowl

I am a genetically mapped New York Giant football fan which pretty much makes me just like millions of other DNA doomed dummies who for some unexplainable reason innately pledge their allegiance to a set of colors, numbers and helmet symbols for eternity. Like Canadian geese, we partner with a team for life, through thick and thin, good times and bad, seasons ending in playoffs and seasons ending with top five choices. It is the football gene and if you have it, you understand. Alas, if only marriage could work the same.

The fact is it isn’t like marriage. It is not that we are “in love” with our teams and our teams “in love” with us. If that were true, it would be like a relationship, requiring everyone’s needs to be met, resulting in fans dropping the souring attraction of one team for the empty promises of another. Nope, love is not involved. It’s a pathetic, sad, lonely one way street that is determined at birth. You are what you are: a Steeler, a Charger, a Seahawk, a Bengal, a Buccaneer. Some of us taste sweet victories frequently, while others wallow in self pity perpetually. It is no different from some people being tall and some people being short. It is my hope that someday stem cell research will produce a treatment to help some of my suffering brothers; for example, change a Cardinal fan into a Cowboy fan, giving them some hope of enjoying a winning season before they die.

It is our game. We don’t particularly delight in watching our teams flounder amidst a room full of fence sitters, people without the gene. You’re either with us or against us. And when it is late October and all we can think about is replacing coaches, players and team ownership, our shoulders slump as we prepare to endure the inescapable long November and December weekends in silent lonesome agony.

It is a terrible, terrible existence; worse than that experienced by other sport fans because there is so much time for so few games. This imbalance gives the true football fan plenty of time to trick one’s mind to think with a few breaks here and a few calls there that a 1-7 start can miraculously turn into a 9-7 wild card berth, only to be soundly crushed eventually by the shear weight of the challenge.

But no matter how bad the season, we can all unite for that final game, the Super Bowl. We can all find a reason to like one team over another. Usually it is the result of some convoluted thinking that somehow our team is vindicated if the right team wins. For example, I was really pulling for the Seattle Seahawks in this last Super Bowl. Why? Because the NY Giants should have beaten the Seahawks. Everyone knows that. So if the Seahawks beat the Steelers, I could rest easier knowing we could have been there too. We could have been somebody.

Unfortunately, the Super Bowl has become tedious to watch for the genetically mapped fan. It seems as if the game is diced up and wedged into a five hour colossal commercial to the world of American self indulgence. The game is sixty minutes of play that normally takes two and a half to three hours to get through. The Super Bowl somehow shoehorns in two more hours from start to finish, thirty minutes right off the bat for scatting through what I think is the National Anthem, and then an additional ten minutes to flip the coin.

Every year it gets a bit more dramatic, a bit more long, a bit more embarrassing and a bit more intolerable. Just play the game! The players have worked so hard for this single game and the NFL pulls it out from under them with all the self serving promotion. For instance, this year they introduced a series of ten second clips throughout the game of despicable Super Bowl Trophy fondling, where key players from each team pose individually with the trophy—caressing it, kissing it, and worse. You can’t do that! Why it’s … it’s … it’s the epitome of putting on the whammy. They might just as well get the evil eye. Some of those guys are going to lose and when they do, they will have to live with the idea that they cursed the team with their ill-advised trophy antics. They’d have to hold a gun to my head for me to do that. If the Giants ever get to Super Sunday again, to a player they better never ever touch that trophy, let alone even set eyes on it, before it is duly earned. The whole thing made me sick! I couldn’t even eat another wing dripping in blue cheese sauce.

And what is going on with the half time extravaganza? Can we calm that thing down? Can we see more “x’s” and “o’s” and less screaming clueless teenagers making a grown man cry. The game has become the opening act for a concert, rather than the other way around. There seems to be more concern about costume malfunctions than referee malfunctions, which there were plenty of. I suppose I could put the extra time to good use, like paint the house, but I don’t want to. I want to stay involved in the moment of the battle. But these Vegas shows are killing my patience. And as bad as it is for the fan, it must be brutal keeping players focused in the locker rooms.

Having said all that, we know that most of the added time is due to the commercials. Ah, the commercials. It is all about the commercials. How can they extend the game to make a few more bucks on commercials? Why don’t they give each coach ten time outs? Why don’t they have two minute warnings every minute? Pretty soon, they’ll have to start the game noon Saturday and have it end midnight Sunday. And the commercials aren’t even that entertaining anymore. It’s killing me. The madness has to stop.

So here are some ideas to get the game that the real fans support so tirelessly back on track. First, eliminate the extra week prior to the game and shift the season so that the Super Bowl is played on Presidents Day weekend. Second, fix the refereeing by employing full time referee teams. Third, use the half time to honor the latest Hall of Fame inductees, or our troops, or Super Bowl MVPs of years past—make it about the game or something noble, not about pop icons. If you want to have concerts, have them before the game starts. Finally, rein in the commercials.

What the NFL executives have allowed the Super Bowl to become is what is so unappealing about America to people who have no other lens. Everything is bigger than life. Everything is glitzy. Everything is so self important. It’s a bad, media contrived face to the world. Please bring our simple, humble game back. Please let the players play the game they earned to play. Please stop the insanity.

I’m beggin’ ya … please!

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