At approximately 6:25 PM EST on Sunday in Miami, an expensively clad foot will meet a prolate spheroid sending it skyward; kicking off the nation’s most-celebrated single day of sport. Across the country, folks will gather for their annual feast of football’s finest but will be forced also to endure side dishes of poor punditry, bathroom humor, and really bad music.
Baseball, of course, is America’s pastime, but when the game’s great pastures are covered by winter frost, those who do not hunker down to the hot-stove to warm themselves with dreams of horsehide glory, move on to pigskin pursuits. And although MLB seems determined to have it otherwise, the World Series retains a sort of stately aura which the NFL’s title game surely lacks.
Let me admit right off that, as a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, I have paid more than casual attention to things post-season this year. Since my rooting interest in the Sunday games is typically over by Halloween, I generally cringe when Super Bowl Sunday comes along. Whereas I will always watch the Fall Classic closely no matter who is in it, February football leaves me cold.
The reasons for this disdain of the Super Bowl? Let me name just a few. Firstly, there’s the pompous way the Bowls are titled. Except for those of us who are crossword puzzlers or old movie fans who love to watch the credits roll, nobody can actually decipher the numbering system. Seriously, who but the most hardened of fans can quickly recall — without counting backwards — who won, say, Super Bowl XXXIV? (It was the Rams, by a score of XXIII to XVI). Roman Numerals should be reserved for popes, not football games.
Then there’s the stupidly that the game is always played at warm weather or domed-stadium sites. It makes little sense that teams should expend so much energy in pursuing “home-field advantage” when it is rendered meaningless in the ultimate contest. Can anyone who watched the NFC title game last week — with the whirling snow, visible breath trails and chunks of sod embedded everywhere — not agree that this is the way football is supposed to be played?
And what about the interminable halftime “entertainment”? For the first twenty or so years, we actually had football-type and family-friendly fare at intermission; college marching bands with a dash of Americana like Up With People, or the occasional appearance of Jazz artists when the game was held in New Orleans. That is, until SB XXV and the appearance of the unctuous New Kids on the Block; it’s been all downhill since then.
Yet the NFL, that paradigm of virtue which courts the most vulgar of advertisements for its weekly games, actually banned MTV, who produced the infamous wardrobe malfunction debacle, from future halftime shows. A welcome start to be sure, but the thing is, I don’t know anyone who actually saw the incident occur live; so insipidly tiresome have the shows become.
Equally annoying will be the incessant chatter of the TV analysts; always the same no matter their network affiliation. When a plodding, usually white, tight-end or flanker makes a catch, he will be referred to redundantly as a “possession-type receiver.” Or similarly, we will learn that a punter is lining up to kick from “deep in his own endzone,” or that a team is pinned down on their “own” five yard line; as opposed to the other team’s, I suppose.
And in the ultimate Claude Rains moment, the League has declared that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is barred from airing tourist ads for fear that the game might be associated with gambling. I kid you not. So exasperating are the gales of hypocrisy and hype, that one is tempted to forgo the game altogether.
But this fan will shelve all of the hoopla and hyperbole in order to actually focus on the game this year. So far, most of the talk has centered on quarterbacks. Has Peyton Manning really gotten the monkey off his back just by making it to the big game? Most sports pundits seem to think so, but I’m not so sure. Just ask Jim Kelly or Fran Tarkenton.
Is Rex Grossman the worst Supe QB ever? Many think so but they are not Bears fans, who know this is irrelevant. Let’s face it. The Bears have not had a great quarterback since the middle of the last century. How many teams can claim a career passing record that has been unsurpassed for 56 years? And what Bears fan can forget the immortal Bobby Douglass (the second “s” is for “sack”); the left-handed, blonde savior out of Kansas, whose 34-year-old single season rushing record was only eclipsed in 2006 by Michael Vick, who ran because he wanted to and not because he had to?
No, in spite of apoplexy Rexy, the Bears will be triumphant because of defense and special teams. But should the redoubtable Rex come to play the way only he knows he can, it is possible that we will win in a rout. And since there’s a rumor that it’s still possible to do so, bet on it.
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