It's SUPER BOWL SUNDAY! Yay!!!!
Not really. Just making fun of the disproportionate hype and excitement about this 21st century manifestation of "bread-and-circuses."
For many years, I have been critical of the excessive build-up and ballyhoo, idiotic press conferences and mindless interviews of players and coaches current and past; dime-a-dozen sports radio blabfests; host cities with makeshift "theme parks" for the kids; star-studded parties; and a long day of watered down pregame shows and analysis when Super Sunday finally arrives.
By the time two weeks of this bullcrap has taken place, it's "ENOUGH ALREADY!" Let's play the G.D. game.
In the past, way too many Super Bowls were either low-scoring snoozefests (like back in my long-lost youth, when the Pittsburgh Steelers' stifling defense snuffed out the Minnesota Vikings, 16-6 in 1975); or ugly blowouts such as the Dallas Cowboys' 52-17 pummeling of the Buffalo Bills 20 years ago, and the 1990 game in which the San Francisco 49ers (one of today's contestants) annihilated the Denver Broncos, 55-10.
Fortunately, the Super Bowls of more recent years have often been competitive and exciting. The first NFL championship of the new millenium, between Tennessee and St. Louis, ended on the last play of the game with a Titans player being tackled just short of the goal line by the Rams, preventing a touchdown that, with the extra point, would have sent the game into overtime. St. Louis prevailed, 23-16.
Five years ago, heavy underdog New York defeated favored New England, 17-14 when former Spartan Plaxico Burress caught a 13-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left. New England, a 12-point favorite, was seeking to become only the second team in NFL history to go undefeated through an entire season, but their plans were ruined by the Big Blue Bad Boys from the Meadowlands.
So at least the games have been entertaining, but I still maintain the vaunted commercials are just not as great as people say. (Maybe I am harder to please than your average Joe? Quite possibly.)
What really irks me about the Super Bowl is that it is so full of celebrities, fat cats and wanna-be's that it's unlike a typical NFL or college game. Many of these people don't know much about football and don't give a rip who wins. They just want to hang with the "in" crowd, boosting their egos and possibly generating some press for those who hope to advance their careers in acting, singing, finance or whatever.
The halftime shows tend to be way too long, and sometimes feature lame acts like Justin Timberlake (2004) or has-beens such as the Rolling Stones (2006) who end up disappointing tremendously. Frankly, I'm usually asleep before the third quarter is over, but tonight I might try to stay up for the whole game since I am taking the day off Monday.
Football today is more popular than ever, but has also come under increasing scrutiny and criticism for the violence and debilitating long-term effects on so many former players.
Many commentators claim Americans love football because they can't get enough of the violence. I am not so sure. I believe many people feel as I do: This is a fascinating, entertaining game full of strategy, execution and intrigue. It is like a chess game on grass, with large, powerful players.
There is a considerable psychological component -- factors like getting "up" for the game as opposed to being flat, catching your opponent off-guard by calling unexpected plays, and taking stunning risks such as faking a punt on fourth down deep in your own territory.
But the players just keep getting larger and faster. Painful and serious injuries, some of them crippling, are a harsh reality. Thousands of former players and some of their wives have filed a class action suit against the National Football League accusing the league of deliberately concealing information about life-altering brain injuries caused by playing football.
Former NFL great Junior Seau committed suicide last spring, and many of his relatives and friends suspect that frequent concussions contributed to his depression and mental struggles. Expect to hear more of this type bad news in the coming years.
Also expect the Obama administration to step in, trying to regulate football at the professional, college and high school levels.
I don't know what the answer is to reducing and ameliorating concussions and other serious injuries in an inherently violent game. But I suspect we may see some major changes in the coming years.
As for today's tilt, I have a sneaking suspicion the Baltimore Ravens will find a way to win. They seem like a team of destiny, just like the NY Giants of the 2007 and 2011 seasons. Baltimore seems to be on a mission. But then, San Francisco is extremely solid, so a 49ers victory would not surprise me.
Going out on a limb: Baltimore 21-20.