A few minutes after Tampa's Super Bowl winning coach got doused, a friend wrote: "So, which was worse: the game, the officiating, or halftime?" He forgot to ask about the commercials, not to mention ABC's nonstop promos for whatever other junk it has in store for the nation.
Still, the original question is an easy call. Halftime is always the lowest point. Excess, tackiness and unspeakable grossness all piled one on top of the other. Not that anyone I know watched a single second of it. So what went on must have even been more unspeakable. For one bright shining moment even ABC must have sensed the problem, for it broke away to announcers Madden and Michaels who calmly discussed what Oakland would have to do to get back into a game that ended thirty ticks before halftime.
Thus if a purported 800 million Americans and anti-Americans watched the game around the globe, it would seem that most of these viewers didn't stick around for the second half. One can only imagine the panic of ABC honchos as their beloved domestic ratings plunged. But a 20-3 halftime score is not what they had in mind.
Next year, perhaps, the network doing the honors might want to insist on having control over the refereeing. Sunday's first half was relatively penaltyless, which clearly hurt Oakland. An officiating crew in sync with television requirements would have made sure to slow Tampa's juggernaut until well after intermission.
It's hard to complain about the refereeing, in any case. Sure there were a few missed calls, but they tended to balance out, e.g. the pass interference in favor or Tampa on a toss that landed well out of bounds vs. Oakland's first touchdown that still may be being bobbled as we speak. But it wasn't the officials' fault that an Oakland defensive lineman kept jumping offside. And probably for the first time this century there were no calls for late hits on a quarterback.
Plus referees figured in the most amusing of the moronic beer commercials, this one about a ref ostensibly checking out an instant replay on the screen under the leather hood when in fact he's ogling some young women in bathing suits. This and many other ads could have only driven the feminists insane. You know that once they're done with Augusta they'll demand to control Super Bowl ad content as well.
Which leaves us with the game, once all the stupefying excess before, during, and after didn't interfere. All things considered, it's a miracle that the game proceeded as well as it did. Both teams started out shaky on offense, but strong on defense. Already it was a bad sign that Oakland got no more than a field goal after its first (and last) interception. By the second quarter Tampa's offense was humming, while Oakland's only became shakier. If you didn't know the game was over at the half, it might have dawned on you after each team's first possession in the third quarter: Oakland, three and out; Tampa, a 90 something yard drive that ate up more time than it takes to eat a relaxing five-course dinner. Now that's football.
To its credit, Oakland rallied a bit, but only after Tampa was caught wondering which finger the Super Bowl ring goes on. A blocked punt, a dropped field goal snap, and suddenly there was Jerry Rice the incomparable catching his last pro touchdown.
But poor Oakland paid terribly for its late rally, as Tampa returned two more interceptions for TDs well after the two-minute warning. The game, as they say, wasn't as close as the lopsided score. But, thank God, it was played on real grass and under an open sky. Next year, let's make sure the Dixie Chicks are brought back to sing the National Anthem, though we might need another crew to provide the military flyby at its conclusion. This year's was unforgivably late. Then again, maybe it had another mission in mind.
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