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Opinion

February 1, 2013

Sometimes the sideshows to the ‘big game’ are better

Athens — Super Bowl Sunday is upon us with a pretty good football matchup between the San Fransisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens looming at the Superdome in New Orleans.

The game is 47 years old if I know my Roman numerals, and seems to be gaining popularity as the years go by.  Last year, a record 111.3 million Americans, in living rooms, church fellowship halls and saloons, watched the nation’s ultimate sporting event, a battle between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.

Madonna’s halftime show drew even more with 114 million viewers. The audience had grown by another 3 million by the time Patriots quarterback Tom Brady fired an incompletion into the Giants’ end zone on the game’s final play. 

The game is always more fun if you either love one of the teams or can work up a healthy hatred for one of the participants. It’s not much fun when you dislike both teams, as I learned in the college football finale between Alabama and Notre Dame. I don’t dislike San Fransisco or Baltimore, so I guess I’ll pull for the team that’s behind when I get home from church.

One of the big storylines for this year’s game is Beyonce’s halftime performance. Will she blow us away with her great talent or repeat the Charlie McCarthy act she did while performing the Star Spangled Banner at the Obama inauguration? Lip-synching a song is nothing new to American audiences. We used to watch groups do it every week on American Bandstand.

Beyonce said the reason she chose to mouth the song to a prerecorded track was that she didn’t have a chance to rehearse. Hey, it’s the Star Spangled Banner. It hasn’t changed a lot down through the years, unless you count the Rosanne Barr performance at a San Diego Padres game.

Super Bowl halftime shows are probably a great spectacle at the stadium, but they often fall flat on the small screen. Usually the performer is past his prime and looks a lot better from the top row of the stadium than in high definition close up. Recent acts have been aging rockers like The Who, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones. They’re not on Mount Rushmore, but we’re around before Gutzon Borglum picked up the chisel.

Times have changed. The first time the Super Bowl came to New Orleans, the halftime act was Carol Channing. She was a Broadway star famous for “Hello Dolly” for  those of you without Wikipedia.

The most famous Super Bowl halftime happened at Reliant Stadium in Houston back in 2004. That’s when Janet Jackson took the term “showtime” to a new level. “Houston, we have a problem.”

But more than what’s seen at the stadium, the commercials seen at home have become a big part of the Super Bowl telecast. Through the years, the advertisers decided that if they were going to spend millions for a 30-second spot announcement, they’d also spend a few bucks producing the ad. The results have been mixed, but there have been some classics.

The ad featuring Pittsburgh Steeler great Mean Joe Green and the kid wins just about every poll as the best Super Bowl ad of all time. It was a clever idea pulled off to perfection. My favorite, however, was the 2005 cat-herding commercial that mimics an old west trail drive with the drovers herding cats. Anyone who’s owned multiple cats knows how dead on that ad was.

The funny thing about the Super Bowl is I don’t have that many memories about the games themselves. Some moments that stick out include Joe Namath and the New York Jets grinding the favored Baltimore Colts into the turf in Super Bowl III. The score was 16-7, but it wasn’t that close.

Another memory, comes from the Dallas Cowboys’ win over Miami in 1972. When ’Pokes great defensive tackle Bob Lilly tossed his helmet high in the air at the close of the 24-3 Dallas victory, you could just feel his release from the frustration of five straight years of playoff losses.

The 1975 and 1978 Super Bowls kind of boil down to the same image. Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw is back to pass, the throws it deep down field and somebody in black and gold makes an acrobatic catch. Dallas lost both games by four points.

Perhaps the 49ers and Ravens game Sunday will be a battle for the ages and forever lodge itself in my memory. Perhaps Beyonce will stage a spectacular halftime show. I hear she’s been practicing.

Rich Flowers is news editor for the Athens Review.

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