Super Bowl: commercials were sub-par and halftime, an abomination


By Steve Feitl
   Obviously, I’m not the only person in America who’s caught on to the fact there’s something special about Super Bowl Sunday.
   With an estimated 89.6 million people watching the game at any given minute, it’s clear there’s plenty of reasons people tune in.
   Some are hard-core football fans who wouldn’t miss the game, even if it was broadcast by the Hallmark Channel — No. 191 on my digital cable box. Some want to check out the commercials advertisers grab up for 30 seconds a pop at a $2.3 million clip. Some want to witness the spectacle of a halftime show with six headliners and MTV backing.
   With the game this year featuring two defensive-minded squads in the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots, there seemed to be a strong likelihood that the entertainment portion of the broadcast very well might — as it often does — outshine the reason for the event itself.
   With that in mind, I offer these minute-by-minute notes of the big game and its festivities:
• 5:58 p.m. — Alliteration rules as the phrase "fearless finality" is repeated numerous times during the open of the official pregame show. This of course was preceded by the four-hour "other" pregame show, Phil Simms’ All-Iron Team show, MTV’s "TRL at the Super Bowl" show, and the "Nickelodeon Takes Over the Super Bowl" show — all of which aired on CBS during a seven-hour stretch Sunday.
• 6:21 p.m. — We’re still minutes away from kickoff, but we’ve had the first good commercial, featuring Jessica Simpson and Miss Piggy duking it out. It’s as true at 28 years old as it was at 8 — Muppets make great television.
• 6:37 p.m. — In the first big play of the game, sure-footed Patriot kicker Adam Vinatieri misses a field goal attempt wide right. How sure-footed is he? He’s only missed three indoor field goals — all of which have been in Houston’s Reliant Stadium.
• 6:38 p.m. — Aliens apparently love to use Federal Express.
• 6:38 p.m. — A dog retrieves a bottle of Bud Light with a swift bite to the crotch. Pretty safe programming for the beer manufacturer, since it’s that same line of comedy that kept America’s Funniest Home Videos on the air for all those years.
• 6:44 p.m. — Bears apparently love to drink Pepsi.
• 6:54 p.m. — H&R Block offers the Willie Nelson Advice Doll. I now know why Willie Nelson is so patriotic. Because only in America can you pay a $9 million settlement on $15.6 million in back taxes and then become a commercial spokesperson for a tax advice company.
• 7:08 p.m. — The first quarter ends in a scoreless tie. And to think, all the people that drew 0 and 0 in their box pool were upset with their numbers.
• 7:12 p.m. — A donkey interviews for a Clydesdale gig. Budweiser strikes again.
• 7:37 p.m. — Vinatieri’s second field goal attempt is blocked. He’s only missed four indoor field goals — all of which have been in Houston’s Reliant Stadium.
• 7:44 p.m. — Patriot quarterback Tom Brady finds Deion Branch for a 5-yard touchdown pass and the game’s first points, ending a 26 minute, 55 second scoreless drought — the longest in Super Bowl history. I guess those fears about a defensive struggle have been realized.
• 7:55 p.m. — Panther back Stephen Davis runs for 5 yards, putting Carolina into positive yardage for the first time all game. I guess those fears about a defensive struggle have been realized.
• 7:58 p.m. — The Panthers score for the first time in the game with just 1:09 to play in the first half. I guess those fears about a defensive struggle have been realized.
• 8:08 p.m. — New England adds a touchdown before the half.
• 8:12 p.m. — Carolina adds a field goal before the half. Well, it was a defensive struggle for 27 minutes.
• 8:16 p.m. — Analyst and former Miami Dolphin Dan Marino declares "Antowain Smith ran good," in the first half, thus disproving a long-standing theory that quarterbacks should be the most intelligent players on the field. He ran well, Dan. He ran well.
• 8:20 p.m. — Jessica Simpson introduces the halftime show. She doesn’t sing. The show starts on a high note.
• 8:25 p.m. — The Super Bowl party I’m attending lets out a collective groan as Shawn Combs bastardizes 1980s cult hit "Hey Mickey," with his own "Hey Diddy" version.
• 8:33 p.m. — You’ve all heard about it by now — Janet Jackson’s partial nudity at the Super Bowl. In the hours after the game, CBS, MTV, the NFL, and Justin Timberlake all swear it was an accidental "costume malfunction" and not a publicity stunt. OK, I’ll bite. Let’s assume that this had nothing to do with getting free publicity for Janet Jackson’s new single released Monday or outdoing Madonna kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at MTV’s last big public event. Maybe it was coincidence that Jackson was wearing decorations as undergarments and that the last line Timberlake lip-synched was, "I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song." But if all that is true, I just have one question for all parties involved. Just what was Timberlake trying to do then?
• 8:35 p.m. — Various NFL players and personnel sing "Tomorrow" on a NFL Network commercial, and its vastly more entertaining than any musical performance on the halftime show.
• 8:42 p.m. — A streaker delays the start of the second half. See what Jackson and Timberlake started?
• 9:04 p.m. — Someone at the party voices the first complaint about the general commercial quality – or lack thereof.
• 9:22 p.m. — The game is over as the Patriots go up 21-10, with 14:49 to go in the game. Much like the first quarter, the third quarter was scoreless. I guess those fears about a defensive struggle have been re-established.
• 9:31 p.m. — Apparently women love designated drivers. Hey, that’s actually a pretty cool message. No jokes this time.
• 9:32 p.m. — Sitting through a first half of mildly amusing commercials: free. Sitting through a terribly lip-synched halftime show: free. Sitting through a second half of really boring commercials: free. Being relieved by an amusing Simpsons MasterCard commercial: priceless.
• 9:35 p.m. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives his car down the field for a touchdown and proceeds to do donuts in the end zone in his commercial for Nextel. Yeah, like that wouldn’t draw a flag for excessive celebration.
• 9:51 p.m. — Carolina takes the lead for the first time in the game, going up 22-21, with just 6:53 to play. The 85-yard touchdown pass is the longest in Super Bowl history.
• 10:05 p.m. — New England takes back the lead and converts the two-point conversion for a 29-22 advantage with just 2:51 to play.
• 10:07 p.m. — A mostly silent commercial for the Cadillac SRX is just as annoying the second time around.
• 10:12 p.m. — Music fans around the world check their rock ‘n’ roll history books as Pepsi takes responsibility for Jimi Hendrix picking up his first guitar.
• 10:16 p.m. — The Panthers tie the game at 29-29 with just 1:08 to play. The first 27 minutes had 0 points. The next 32 have had 58. Who knows what the final 1 will bring?
• 10:26 p.m. — Vinatieri lines up for the go-ahead field goal with less the 10 seconds to play. Just a reminder: He’s only missed four indoor field goals — all of which have been in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. But he didn’t miss this time.
• 10:28 p.m. — Carolina kick returner Rod Smart is tackled returning the last-second kickoff. No mention is made of his XFL "He Hate Me" persona. There’s actually no time to do so because the game’s over. Patriots win, 32-29.
   So to recap, the commercials were sub-par, the halftime was an abomination, and the game took its rightful place as the centerpiece of the evening.
   I guess those fears about a defensive struggle were unfounded.
Steve Feitl is the managing editor of The Lawrence Ledger.