A few Sundays ago, I had the pleasure of sharing one of America’s greatest sporting spectacles with a few of my close friends. Having been an intrigued first-hand witness to Super Bowl Media Day as well as to the tremendous hype and tedious analysis of the upcoming game for the week preceding, I was quite anxious to see the two top-notch teams face off for the precious Lombardi Trophy. However, when I arrived at my friend’s house, I was surprised—no, dumbfounded— to see the Puppy Bowl on the TV and the game “Scattergories” set up and ready to play while the football game would perhaps nonchalantly unfold in the background. While I enjoyed the game here, my parents traveled to an old friend’s house for a huge party, where they would inevitably bet on miniscule tid bits of the game that required no football knowledge whatsoever (as it so happened, an eight-year-old fascinated with saying the name “Hauschka”, the name of the kicker for Seattle, would take home the $200 grand prize). Sitting there, trying to come up with a type of fruit that started with an “M” while the Seahawks trounced the Broncos, I came across a pressing question in my thoughts: Is the Super Bowl really about football anymore?
Much like I did, 111.5 million Americans flicked on Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday night, making it the most watched program in the history of television; the game, however, has become more of a justification for social gathering or mindless gambling and increasingly less of a proper representation of America’s favorite sport. The game itself was a show of horrors, as the Seattle Seahawks dominated in the most boring way possible: with defense. Denver’s “number one offense” was quickly put to shame, as the game literally flew right over future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning’s head just 12 seconds in, spurring an eruption of jokes from Twitter that quickly became more entertaining than the game itself. All Americans could hope for to keep the game exciting was some sort of record-breaking offensive performance, but the perfectly balanced Seattle offense assured that no offensive player tallied more than 70 yards from scrimmage (which, with a 43-point offensive outburst, is an impressive feat in itself). In actuality, it was Manning that broke the record for most completions in a Super Bowl with 34, despite only 8 points to show for it. The only unprecedented feat that the Seattle offense could boast was their ability to avoid any sacks or turnovers. Boring.
While the game quickly lost viewers’ interest, at times it seemed that the only incentive to keep the TV on was the possibility of a legendary commercial. Each year, the advertising industry makes drastic attempts to outdo the previous year’s ads, and whether they appeal to the gut-busting laughs or the heart strings, almost every Super Bowl commercial is a can’t-miss. In my case, the group of people with whom I spent the night muted the TV during the game, only to listen closely to the often bizarre and confusing commercials in fear of missing the ad of the century. Although a brilliant advertising ploy by the commercial industry, these seldom-effective ads are not only making people go “Huh?”, but they’re also taking away from the importance of the game.
Another well-intended idea which has uncontrollably erupted into a media phenomenon is the Super Bowl Halftime Performance. It’s hard to believe that we are just a decade removed from poetic Rock stars such as Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty taking this stage and simply singing their hearts out, as we now see dizzying light shows and uncomfortably impressive pyrotechnical displays that must accompany this brief performance in order to match the previous year’s ostentatious nature. Bruno Mars brought us back to the good old days with fantastic music, an unexpected drum solo, and just a pinch of excellent dancing—could this be the year that the Halftime Show finally redeems itself from the atrocious Black Eyed Peas catastrophe? This question soon would be answered with a firm “no”, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers drained the class from the performance by taking the stage entirely shirtless and playing a song ridden with vulgarity and unimpressive flailing of middle-aged body parts. Regardless of the show’s quality, it’s showy tradition has gradually detracted from the game, and this year has been no exception. Care to guess who played in the Halftime Show of Super Bowl I in 1967? University of Arizona’s Marching Band.
It remains a shame that so many industries have ravaged the Super Bowl by taking advantage of its millions of viewers. I’m sure that everyone remembers the Super Bowl which featured Janet Jackson’s scandalous “wardrobe malfunction”, but where’s the love for the New England Patriots, who won in a thriller that year thanks to a last-minute field goal? And who could forget the famous E*Trade talking baby’s first appearance in the Super Bowl of 2010? Then again, who could remember that the Saints beat the Colts 31-17 for their first Lombardi Trophy in the franchise’s history? Football’s pinnacle of success has been infiltrated by commercialism, and the game has evolved into an entirely different entity than what it was intended to be.