A Good Night

So . . . that happened.

I could go on at length about the Super Bowl yesterday, but football analysis is not why you visit this quiet Internet precinct. I do have some thoughts about the spectacle as seen from my end of the couch (as distinct from the game itself), following a word from our sponsor.

I’m relieved they didn’t blow the whole budget on animation.

For those who care to proceed, this post continues on the flip. For the rest, stop back tomorrow, when we’ll return to our regular programming.

We tuned in about 4:30 yesterday, early enough to see Fox’s reading of the Declaration of Independence. I was unaware until yesterday that this is the fourth time Fox has done this on the Super Bowl pregame, having started in 2002, just after the 9/11 attacks. I consider myself a patriotic American who loves his country, and as an erstwhile social studies teacher, I feel the significance of the Declaration in my bones, but this was awful. Awkwardly done and painfully long, it wasn’t even the whole Declaration—they omitted the “facts submitted to a candid world,” the list of grievances against George III and Parliament, which was the entire point of the document. (I was mildly surprised Fox didn’t find a way to work in the one about “imposing taxes on us without our consent,” given the political bias of their news division.) Given the context, it was one of the most pointless things I have ever seen on television.

People bashing Christina Aguilera for fluffing a line of the National Anthem should talk to somebody who’s actually sung the song in public, as The Mrs. has. When you sing it in the seats, as she reminded me yesterday, you don’t have to worry about your pitch or your breathing, and you don’t have the pressure of people watching you. She says it’s a wonder singers don’t screw it up more often. When the tradition of anthem-singing before sporting events began, it was almost certainly intended as a communal expression of patriotism in a public setting. We’re all supposed to sing it together. But when a singer turns the song into a performance, all we can do is watch. Sometimes, a personalized performance becomes transcendent—think Jose Feliciano at the 1968 World Series or Marvin Gaye at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game—and gives us a unique insight into the nature of our national life. Most of the time, however, it’s just showbiz.

We watched only a couple of minutes of the halftime show, preferring the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet instead, although I watched about five minutes of it this morning before got tired of feeling like I was being smacked with a rubber hose at 140 beats per minute. What strikes me about the Black Eyed Peas, not just here but whenever I hear them, is their remarkable vapidity. I have been led to believe that Will.I.Am is deep, but you couldn’t tell by “I Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow.”

The commercials were as unremarkable a bunch as I can recall, overloaded again this year with violence, and with sexual innuendo that wouldn’t pass muster in any other setting. The NFL’s promo featuring sitcom clips doctored with team logos was the only memorable one.

The Fox announcers did a good job—Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are more effective the less they talk. When the game was over, Fox couldn’t be bothered to carry any more than a perfunctory trophy presentation before getting on to an episode of Glee, so it was left to NFL Network to cover the postgame celebration, and they did a fine job. NFLN’s Rich Eisen has become one of the best sports anchors on TV, and Deion Sanders is a far better broadcaster than you might have guessed he would be. (Much love to NFLN and Fox for not dwelling on Brett Favre last night—although ESPN did, as everybody knew they would.)

Each of us has pictures we’ll carry forever as memories of the night: injured cornerback Charles Woodson trying to cheer a play but having to grab at his injured collarbone; linebackers coach Kevin Greene telling miked-up linebacker Clay Matthews just before he caused a game-changing fumble in the fourth quarter, “It is time”; Greg Jennings and his daughters on the NFL Network set. But the best picture might have come from our friend Jeff of AM, Then FM, who’s been working ridiculous hours as a newspaperman in Green Bay these last few weeks, but who took a moment late last night to enjoy the celebration, posting on Facebook: “Just went up to the roof at the paper. Downtown Green Bay at 10:45pm: Cathedral bells ringing, green and gold fireworks shot off, car horns honking, people cheering.”

The Black Eyed Peas got one thing right: it was indeed a good night.

(A better perspective on the spectacle than mine is here. Buy the Green Bay Press Gazette’s Super Bowl book here.)

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