Super Bowl XLIII
This is my girlfriend's first Super Bowl with me, and I'm not sure if she knew what to expect. It's a major event and I've been talking about it for a month. She's been right next to me when I've watched most of the playoff games, but she wasn't sure which two teams would be playing. And she probably spent more of the championship game than I actually looking at the TV.
See, the playoffs are about watching the game closely and trying to break down offenses and defenses and maybe having some chips and dip on the side. But the Super Bowl? It demands a higher level of snacking, as would any broadcast that's like seven hours long and usually completely free of drama. This year's telecast was a bit of a letdown. Since Pittsburgh allowed Arizona back into the game in the fourth quarter, I wasn't able to prepare the cheesecake brownies I had on the schedule for the postgame. First quarter was chips and salsa, nothing too ambitious. You don't want to begin a whole day's eating with the heavy stuff. Then for the second quarter I made vegetarian wontons (from the Linda McCartney cookbook). Halftime was fresh hummus and toasted pitas, then for the fourth quarter homemade deep-fried chicken poppers. (If you don't have a deep fryer, I don't know what you're doing watching the Super Bowl.)
The entertainment itself was, as is also tradition, not anywhere near as good as the food and the company. By the second quarter I had given up the commercials -- not all of which were even new, thanks a lot, new economy -- after three back-to-back ones featured monkeys or other animals. Everybody liked Alec Baldwin though. Later there was a promo for 3D "Chuck" (that stupid show is still on the air?) and it had to be explained that Adam Baldwin is not a Baldwin in the same sense that Alec, Billy, and Stephen are. Springsteen was exactly what the NFL has been aiming for with halftime shows since Nipplegate, sturdy, no-frills, and of little appeal to anyone under 30. I was pleased that he did "10th Avenue Freezeout" in addition to some of his more obvious warhorses. And I also like that instead of a bunch of people with streamers and unitards running out on the field they just had old people, regular Springsteen fans. I kind of miss the old format, because although invariably hideous, at least before Timberlake the halftime spectaculars had some surprises to them. All suprises of the "What the heck were they thinking?" kind, but at least it's better than "Oh. 'Glory Days.' Who saw that coming?"
The football game was frustrating. Arizona's coaches basically gave up on the first half by trying to run the ball, which was stupid. It's not the first game of the season or a matchup against a team you've played before, it's the Super Bowl. Stick to what got you there. In the second half things began to get unwatchable, as referees influenced by a crowd that must have been 14 to 1 Pittsburgh fans started taking over the game. The Steelers' big drive of the second half, before the final one, was helped along by three personal fouls on the Cardinals, two of which were completely bogus. Then, one play before Larry Fitzgerald's first touchdown, a Pittsburgh rusher took SIX COMPLETE STEPS after the release of a Kurt Warner pass and absolutely leveled the undefended Arizona quarterback. It was a textbook roughing the passer call. But there was no flag, and there wasn't a flag on the following play even though the coverage was pushing Fitzerald with both hands before the pass got there.
Come to think of it, the major play of the game -- James Harrison's 100-yard interception return -- was fishy itself. I didn't think the ball ever crossed the plane into the end zone, and I also think the refs were under pressure to get the review done quickly so the halftime spectacular could get under way. In any event, it's for the best that Arizona was able to come back and make a game of it in the end. You can question some of the calls in the second and third quarters, but you can't question the final drive Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes put together. Arizona never should have left them that much time, with a defense that had been whiffing on tackles and overpursuing Roethlisberger from the outset. After Fitzgerald busted past the secondary with less than three minutes left, he should have taken a knee at the five-yard-line or something.
So I was 0-for-the-weekend in big sporting events, as Georges St. Pierre easily grinded away at a poorly conditioned B.J. Penn, who seemed to have added all the weight he did to move up a class right in his belly, and forced a resignation by grounding and pounding Penn for the almost the entirety of the fourth round. Well, I'm more of a baseball guy than an NFL or UFC expert anyway. And if you're really expecting top-shelf analysis of the world's most violent game, come back for my "American Idol" recaps.