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Column – The Super Bowl: More than just the game

I had every intention of writing about something different to kick off my weekly column, but after watching Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast, I decided to write somewhat of a companion piece to my colleague Greg Clark’s column that appeared in the February 3 issue of The Coastland Times.

While I agree with many points Greg made – namely, that it should be about the game – the fact is, the Super Bowl is now about the spectacle whether we like it or not. Odd things that seemingly have nothing to do with football are celebrated. Maybe it has to do with savvy marketing execs attaching their brands to a broadcast which, even with waning viewership, attracts millions of watching eyes. Or maybe it’s just because in the dregs of winter, even non-football fans are just looking for an excuse to celebrate something. In any case, here we are – commercials and all, so let’s discuss.

I did not have a dog in this fight, but the Rams were my team of choice this year for no other reason than my husband was pulling for the Patriots – yes, I’m that kind of person. In this defense-heavy game, I’ll admit I got a little bored. I like touchdowns and high-scoring games, so my attention went elsewhere. Mostly, I googled players I was unfamiliar with and companies whose commercials caught my eye. I did get a good eye-roll in when, after a play by the Patriots, the camera panned to Gisele Bündchen and the commentator exclaimed a few times “Gisele is happy!” Well, great. As long as she’s happy.

The commercials were a bit of a letdown. Many more companies seem to have shifted to focusing on social issues – and good for them – but some of the messages may have been lost in trying to be heartfelt or clever. I had to look several of them up to see what it was they were even pushing. Verizon piggybacking on a reunion of first responders and the person they saved. Budweiser’s ever-popular Clydesdales running through a field/wind farm. Carrie Bradshaw and The Dude eschewing their signature drinks for Stella Artois. That one didn’t even really say why. I’m a fan of both Sex and the City and The Big Lebowski, but felt that the opportunity to feature both of these iconic characters was wasted. The real highlight was The Dude mispronouncing Artois.

Bumble was another commercial with a big name attached (Serena Williams) pushing a message: make the first move, don’t wait for other people to empower you. I can get behind that, but what is Bumble anyway? I looked it up. It’s a dating app that can now also be used for finding friends, business networking, etc. According to their website, it seeks to equalize relationships by having women make the first move. To me that doesn’t make things equal, it just changes the dynamic, but whatever. It’s their mission statement, not mine.

I honestly thought the best commercial was the one for the NFL itself. It was fun and appropriately over-the-top – just what I expect in a good Super Bowl commercial.

The halftime show, well, I’ve seen worse but I’ve also definitely seen better. We’ll just call it the Maroon 5 show because Big Boi and Travis Scott didn’t get enough stage time to really judge. Adam Levine’s torso tattoos got more visibility than either of those two combined. Speaking of, it must have been a lot hotter in Atlanta that it was here, because Levine just kept pulling off layers. Maybe that was to distract from the performance.

My two cents on halftime performances: Prince and Bruno Mars put on far superior shows. Yes, I’m sure there are ones that may have been better, but those are the two that I remember as standouts. Prince was both a classic and contemporary at the same time and knew how to put on a show. Bruno Mars and, really, his whole entourage, are true entertainers that put on an active and engaging show for their Super Bowl halftime.

Let’s not forget the end of the game. The thrill of victory for the Patriots and what’s the first thing to greet Tom Brady? A literal swarm of photographers pushing every-which-way. It was hard to watch. Then came the play-by-play on who he was hugging. Seriously. I was hoping that was just the reporter scraping to find something to say – she was getting smooshed by photographers, too, and probably distracted – but the hug topic came up again. Watching the CBS This Morning interview with Julian Edelman on Monday, one of the anchors asked the wide receiver what his post-game hug with Brady was like. Do we really have nothing left to talk about?

Either way, love it or hate it, the spectacle that is the Super Bowl is likely here to stay. Greg’s right, it used to be about the game. Now it’s about the whole experience.

Theresa Schneider is general manager of The Coastland Times. Reach her at theresa.schneider@thecoastlandtimes.com.

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