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Andy Juniper

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Does Anyone Watch the Super Bowl for the Actual Game Anymore?

Posted: 01/30/2014 11:31 am

As we trundle toward Sunday's Super Bowl game -- Super Bowl XLVIII for those keeping score at home, in Roman numerals no less -- I can tell you three things with certainty. I can no longer handle the hype and hoopla surrounding this event. Bigger is not always better. And I already miss the big game's usual heat.

Kids, you may recall, or your grandparents may have told you, that this hugely hyped game actually has rough and humble roots. In 1967 (Ancient History Alert), the established National Football League merged with the fledgling American Football League and the new league's championship was born.

For the first two years it wasn't even called the Super Bowl. Rather, unimaginatively enough, the Championship Game. Apparently the guys running the league at the time were real literal sorts and had to be restrained from calling it The Championship Game Of Football Played On A Football Field In a Stadium Somewhere. OK, I'm kidding. Granted, Pete Rozelle, the NFL Commissioner at the time, was actually in favour of calling the game...The Big One. Seriously. The Big One. A term nowadays reserved for heart attacks, natural disasters, and the ego of Kanye West.

In retrospect we should be thankful the game was christened the Super Bowl, a punny take on the Super Ball, the synthetic-rubber ball that was hugely popular back in the swinging (and apparently very bouncy) 1960s. Although I personally could do without the Roman numerals that the NFL began using in the Super Bowl's fifth year, the league's deep thinkers are convinced that the 2,000-year-old symbols that no one can decipher add a certain drama and gravitas to the entire event. All I know is that we have a clock at home adorned with Roman numerals and no one in the house has ever been on time for anything.

"What time is it, hon?"
"It's IV o'clock... whatever the hell that is."

Regardless, tickets for those early games went for as low as six dollars. Today, $600 might get you an obstructed view of a vendor's backside somewhere up in the nose-bleed section of the stadium. More mind-boggling is the fact that even with tickets priced that low, some of those games were not sold out. Oh, how things were about to change.

The tide began to turn in 1969 when quarterback Joe Namath, the epitome of cocky and cool, brashly guaranteed his New York Jets would upset the Baltimore Colts. And then Broadway Joe went out and delivered, giving the upstart AFL instant credibility and giving the Super Bowl an injection of much-needed chutzpa, cachet, and that aforementioned cool.

And every year since '69, the game grew. Which was not a bad thing -- I mean, who's averse to growth, progress and prosperity? However, in recent years, I've begun to fear that bigger and bigger may not always be better and better, and that The Big One may well have outgrown itself. To the point where nowadays the actual game has scant hope of living up to the hype and hoopla. To the point where it is in danger of being eclipsed by all this infernal flash, by extravagant commercials and bloated halftime shows.

Did you know that the pre-game for Sunday's titanic tilt between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks starts... on Saturday? Indeed, if you masochistically subject yourself to the entire pre-game preamble, by the time the kickoff eventually rolls around you'll have watched an estimated 140 hours of coverage. And you'll probably know just how many nose hairs each quarterback has. In each nostril. Lucky you.

Meanwhile, television commercials for the game have been sold for upwards of $4-million. For 30 whole seconds. Celebrities were secured to star in these ads: B-Listers for at least $250,000; A-Listers for more than a million. And all ads will assuredly be replayed on YouTube and analyzed to death, much like the game itself.

Historically the NFL has rationally refrained from awarding its annual showcase event to a city in which the climate around Super Bowl Sunday categorically sucks. Ironically, this year -- a year in which everyone north of Mexico has been Polar Vortex-ed and Ice-Stormed and Freezing Fogged (yeah that's a thing) half to death; the one year when we could have all used those therapeutic panoramic shots of palm trees swaying in the breeze under azure skies -- the Super Bowl will be contested in the frozen, snow-covered swamp of New Jersey. Did I mention how I already miss the Super Bowl's traditional heat?

Ah, but I doth protest too much. Don't get me wrong. I love football. And I love The Big One. But at the conclusion of the last few Super Bowl games I found myself contemplating all this crazy coverage overkill for a game that takes around three hours to play and has, according to assorted studies, about 11 minutes of actual action.

And, honestly, I'm already dreading the water cooler conversation come Monday. Hey, did you see the Super Bowl? Oh yeah, I loved the Doritos and Pepsi ads, and Bruno Mars was out of this world.

Ah yeah, but what about the game?

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