The Super Bowl commercials stunk. The halftime show was excruciatingly bad. The game, though the Patriots won in exciting fashion, 13-3, had little in the way of action for three quarters.
Thank heavens for Gladys Knight, the classy Empress of Soul, who sang a heartfelt, rousing national anthem. She was the day’s MVP, every bit as spectacular as Patriots star receiver Julian Edelman.
And, ho-hum, the Pats won again, over the St Louis — oops, I mean Los Angeles — Rams. When I was a Red Sox-obsessed kid, everyone hated the New York Yankees because they won all the time. To the rest of the country, our New England Patriots have become the Yankees. In 1986, when the Pats were walloped by Da Bears in the Super Bowl, I was depressed for days. Had our hometown heroes lost to L.A. Sunday, I would’ve shrugged my shoulders and said, “Oh, well. They’ll be back next year.” By lunchtime today, Boston will have had more duck boat parades (2) in the past few months than inches of snow. Insane.
Like the Rams’ offense, this year’s batch of TV ads underperformed. Corporations ponied up $5.25 million for a 30-second spot, but nearly every one was uninspired. The NFL’s lampoon of famous football players misbehaving at a black-tie banquet was amusing. A Verizon ad featuring Chargers’ coach Anthony Lynn meeting the first-responders who saved his life after a car crash tugged at the heart. Hyundai’s commercial starring Jason Bateman as a hell-evator operator who stops at unpleasant floors like “Root Canal” and “Jury Duty” had its moments, as did a Stella Artois beer commercial with cameos by Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges, reprising their Carrie Bradshaw (“Sex and the City”) and “The Dude” Lebowski roles. My fave was the Alexa ad where Harrison Ford scolded his cute Boston terrier because every time the dog barked the Alexa device ordered another bag of kibbles.
The best ad, though, was an oldie-but-goodie by Geico — a camel walking through an office asking “What day is it? Hump day!” — that was shown after the game had ended. My young coworkers praised the Bud Light/”Game of Thrones” commercial, but I had no idea what it all meant.
I expected outrageous cameos that never materialized. When motorist Christina Applegate lost her mind and turned around to yell at her backseat passengers, I prayed Al and Peggy Bundy would be sitting there. That would be genius. Alas, it was just a couple of obnoxious M&Ms.
As bad as most ads were, the halftime show was misery: dull and contrived. Pop band Maroon 5 and overly-inked frontman Adam Levine slogged their way through snippets of a few hits, assisted by rapper Travis Scott and hip-hop star Big Boi. Boring! When the first notes of “Moves Like Jagger” sounded, I hoped Mick himself would dance onto the stage. No such luck. An appearance by Andre 3000 would have boosted Outkast partner Big Boi’s performance as well; everyone would have been talking about it the next day.
The National Football League can’t help but embarrass itself. Did you watch the kinder/gentler Pro Bowl last weekend, when the AFC and NFC all-stars did battle? Tackling was prohibited. No crying in baseball; no tackling in football. What the heck! Football without controlled violence is about as much fun as watching boxers dance around the ring and avoid each other for 15 rounds. Mascot Pat Patriot took a harder hit from New York Jets safety Jamal Adams in the buildup to that game. There was more roughhousing in the Puppy Bowl, for cripes sake.
With all the news about the NFL’s concussions protocol and fears of a superstar athlete suffering a career-ending injury in a meaningless game, I understand Goodell’s logic. We all remember when Pete Rose barrelled into Ray Fosse in Major League Baseball’s 1970 All-Star Game; the catcher was never the same.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted a referee blew a pass interference call that helped keep the New Orleans Saints out of the Super Bowl. He’s even talking about changing overtime rules, because the poor Kansas City Chiefs didn’t have a chance to even the score after Tom Brady and the big bad Patriots won the coin toss in their AFC Championship game and marched down the field to victory.
The NFL is not alone in being scaredy cats. Even the U.S. Golf Association is tinkering with longstanding rules. It’s now OK to touch or move loose impediments (leaves, twigs) in a bunker. The game should be made tougher, not easier. A few ornery hungry gators in a sand trap should do the trick. That would make me watch golf on TV.
Anyway, Super Bowl LIV will be held in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium on Feb. 2, 2020. Americans in every region except New England will groan and yell “Let somebody else win! I hate the Patriots more than ever” while the GOAT wins his seventh Super championship, thanks to Edelman, Gostkowski and, fingers crossed, Gronk.