One of the sports world's toughest endurance tests is finally over.
I'm not talking for the players, the coaches, or for sports journalists. I'm talking for us fans who annually commit the better part of an entire Sunday to this extravaganza game.
This year had all the makings of a great one – one of the all-time quarterback matches of all time, with the great contrast in age between the amazing Tom Brady (playing for a new team) and the new face of the NFL, Patrick Mahomes.
Sadly, it didn't play out that way in a lopsided contest where the officiating team dominated the first half, along with a halftime show that was definitely not one for the ages – or the aged. The only “taking a knee” moment didn't happen as a statement of social justice during the National Anthem – it was Tom Brady running out the clock in a game that was over and done early in the third quarter.
Fred Jacobs shows radio personalities how to take their game to the next level in this webinar recording.
Credit to the NFL and its teams for even pulling off this season, given the COVID outbreak. Most observers of the sport – myself included – were skeptical at best last summer this season would even happen, much less finish with a viable Super Bowl matchup. But it did.
And while Raymond James Stadium in Tampa was only about a third full – mostly with health care workers who got a free pass – the league did a masterful job pulling off this event under the strangest of circumstances.
For Tom Brady, the game was a great example of that left-handed vindication for a superstar who changes teams, and finds a way to snag a seventh Lombardi trophy – against all odds.
Any further discussion of who is the GOAT in the NFL can stop at the B's. Tom Brady now has more of these trophies in his rec room than any other team in the NFL. End of conversation.
For Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, a tough day, but we all know we'll see this amazingly talented kid in Februaries down the road for upcoming Super Bowls with higher Roman numerals.
And then there's the social justice piece, which permeated the NFL's theme during the game, including a number of the commercials so many eagerly watch each year. But somehow, the guy who started it all – Colin Kaepernick – was nowhere to be seen.
There's no question this guy symbolizes all sorts of emotion to any conversation about football and patriotism, but that's what these types of historical figures do. As the NFL giddily promoted Tampa's black female coaches, and the game's first female referee, Sarah Thomas, there's still that dilemma of what to do with “Kap” – so he continues to be ignored.
If you think I'm overreacting to this powder keg, let me remind you that Cassius Clay – aka Muhammed Ali – refused to suit up for the U.S. Army in 1967 in his protest of the Vietnam War. It cost Clay his championship belt, and it made him a pariah among millions of patriotic Americans. He was convicted of draft evasion, fined, and sentenced to five years in prison.
CBS's studio team and play-by-play duo, Jim Nance and Tony Romo, weren't exactly on their games either. The drama over Chiefs' Coach Andy Reid's son's tragic car accident earlier in the weekend was chilled, until a “thoughts and prayers” reference by Nance late in the game.
Those are the things that impact the outcome of these events. And while this one was certainly sad beyond sad, it seemingly played no role in the overdone pre- or post-game analysis.
But then there's the halftime show. And I welcome the critics who will most certainly tell me I'm showing my age, including my 30 year-old son who usually despises these musical excesses, but started texting me during the opening seconds of The Weeknd‘s performance.
For the last many years, I've been trying to figure out what this show-stopping event in the natural middle of the game is supposed to accomplish. Is it about the true football fans or more targeted to the partiers in the room who don't know Andy Reid from Bruce Arians (and it's sometimes hard to tell)?
Given the hundreds of millions of people enjoying “The Big Game” around the world, you'd think you'd want to stage particularly well-known and immensely popular performers who will keep fans engaged for the start of the game's second half.
But the NFL has struggled in this department at times, and it came to a head last night. The Weeknd has had numerous pop hits, and is a clever, creative performer. But the idea of the halftime spectacular shouldn't be to leave most fans wondering what they're watching.
Familiarity and anticipation are necessary ingredients for these shows. Because these shows are hard to pull off, it helps when most people know the music of say, Garth Brooks, Prince, Bruce Springsteen (we'll come back to him), or Katy Perry. Love 'em or hate 'em, their very presence commands interest in the halftime show.
Sorry, maybe it's my inner Clint Eastwood showing, but The Weeknd was hampered by his under-40 appeal (and perhaps I'm being generous). While a tired Classic Rock artist poses some of the same problems for the NFL (and there have been some less-than-stellar Super Bowl halftime shows by aging rockers), The Weeknd may not experience the same telltale surge in music sales that follows every one of these contests.
The show was visually intriguing – and certainly dominated social media with the memes and snark. So much of the way these halftime events are accepted seem to be predicated on their first few seconds – yes, a lot like most content where we make quick decisions based on that first impression. And it sure sounded like The Weeknd was hampered by audio problems or mandated his vocal sounded thin and looked lip-synced, even though apparently, they weren't.
You're probably wondering who starred at halftime in that very first Super Bowl in 1967. It was none other than trumpet master Al Hirt and a bunch of marching bands. Nothing controversial that year.
Halftime show at first Super Bowl (1967) was college marching bands and Al Hirt on the trumpet: pic.twitter.com/G2YkRUhCL2
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) February 8, 2021
And then there were the famous commercials – those multi-million dollar productions that often create more buzz than the players on the field. But once again, many fell flat in a year when messaging was important, albeit tricky.
Not surprisingly, many of these highly expensive creative efforts were leveraged on nostalgia (unlike the halftime show), and ended up falling flat. Uber Eats reunited “Wayne's World,” Bud Lite reunited a group of their past “Legends,” a Seinfeldian effort by Tide featured Jason Alexander, Brad Garrett's crime boss sendup for Jimmy John's, and the repetitive “star-studded” spots hyping yet another new subscription streaming service, the unimaginatively named Paramount+.
As predicted last month, the Super Bowl is also a time when brands try to make statements, sometimes important ones about where we are as a society. My favorite of all time was Chrysler's bold “Imported From Detroit” epic, featuring Eminem and the streets of Detroit that ran exactly one decade ago.
The country was reeling from the Great Recession, and the Motor City (yes, my home) was a symbol of both the tough times and a gritty comeback. The fact Chrysler managed to keep this spot under wraps until it actually aired was part of the accomplishment.
For Super Bowl LV, Chrysler Jeep took another shot at statement advertising, this time enlisting Bruce Springsteen to not only license music for an ad but to also start in the heartfelt production about division, reunification, and finding a way to meet in “The Middle.”
You only needed to check your social media feeds to be reminded of just how divided we are in 2021. Reactions to this 2-minute tour de force by the Boss are all over the map, suggesting that despite its great production and Springsteen's lofty intentions, the commercial fuels the tired, divisive, tribal narrative that has sadly become part of our fabric.
Another unforgettable Super Bowl, right?
Well, maybe not, although even NFL commish Roger Goodell told us this was a game we'd never forget. Let's see how this plays out on the airwaves today, as morning and personality shows tackle some of these same issues.
In 1,500 words, I've managed to alienate Kaepernick haters, Springsteen lovers, “Wayne's World” fans, and the legions of Gen Ys and Zs who consider The Weeknd's performance one of the greatest of all time.
Sorry, but we'll save that label for Tom Brady, and congratulate Champa Bay or Brady Bay as it is now being called on a great sporting accomplishment for the team, its owners, and its city.
Hope you enjoyed the Big Game.
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