By: Eric Thomas
The NFL has been at the top of the heap for a long time, it’s the USA’s most popular game by a wide margin. The league boasted a reported $9.5 billion in revenue in 2012 alone. Professional football exists on a plane by itself, so none of their missteps are going to be that costly. They have the goose that just keeps dropping golden eggs. While fantasy baseball is only played by über-nerds who are openly laughed into shame by most of society, your grandmother has a fantasy football team and plans to spend the off-season throwing darts at a poster of Arian Foster.
This particular Super Bowl season has been the most hubristic in history: a cold weather city, a revamped Pro Bowl where two legends pick teams and play fantasy football with real stars, and the week between that seems to grow longer every year, even thought technically it doesn’t. Maybe it’s just the recent Antarctic climate outside, where the wind whistles past the windows with a lethality reserved for documentaries about Roald Amundsen, or maybe I’ve been holed up and isolated in a small room with a dog that barks constantly, chucking a tennis ball off a wall to keep my mind active and listening to advice from bartender named Lloyd—his real name is Delbert—while he makes oddly specific suggestions on how I should handle my affairs—this should worry the dog—and maybe that’s making time seem like it is going slower, but this has been an awfully long lead-up to a Super Bowl. By the time the Seahawks and Broncos actually kick-off this game I can’t imagine I will have anywhere near the level of excitement as I’ve had for Super Bowls past.
The dilution of the NFL just keeps on marching on. Now the Commish is suggesting more games, more playoff teams, and other bad ideas that slowly drain the NFL of its essence. NFL is the best when it’s in its original undiluted form: a blast of pure oxygen that comes at you with punishing force from several cities when you sit down on Sunday.
It’s the only thing when codgers are absolutely right. It was better in the good old days. Every effort to thumb out the NFL’s product piecemeal robs the game of what made it special. Here are five ideas that are ruining the Super Bowl:
1. Hype Week — Aren’t you tired of talking about the Super Bowl? If you are, it’s because the NFL decided that you weren’t paying enough attention to the Pro Bowl, so they added an extra week between the championship games, and made the Super Bowl a week later. The Super Bowl became an American holiday, a singular event where all of the collective oxygen is vacuumed from the cultural zeitgeist and directed at only one thing so that nothing else can even exist. Do you know what’s on at the same time as the Super Bowl? Puppy Bowl. That’s where the Animal Channel puts a webcam on the side of a fake football field and films puppies playing around, and at the end, they release several large snakes which eat the puppies. Just kidding. They don’t release snakes and eat the puppies, but if they did, you’d have no idea. That’s how meaningless EVERYTHING ELSE is during the Super Bowl. But the NFL, knowing full well that an entire COUNTRY plans its calendar around their schedule, still moved their manufactured American holiday back an extra week so that YOU would be more likely to watch the most awful spectacle in all of sports, the Pro Bowl. It’s probably impossible to actually ruin the Super Bowl, but hype week almost does. By the time the Seahawks and Broncos kick on Sunday, many football fans are over it. You can’t hold American’s attention for two weeks anymore, unless you’re a famous female pop star who’s decided to be outrageous to resuscitate her career because she has a new album out.
2. The Halftime Show — Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing this year, which is probably the best band the game’s had in a while, so you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be back to Barbara Streisand next year when Flea shows up on stage naked. The past few years have featured Beyoncé, Madonna, the Black Eyed Peas and other half-hour circuses that now lie buried in my sub-conscious alongside all my other trauma. These are unbelievably talented, popular artists, but the sheer amount of spectacle involved usually leaves my jaw agape. Colorful lights, dancers, fireworks, costume changes, live animals, plastic surgery, narcotics and the tears of a thousand stage hands mix into something that leads to an almost chilling effect where the football game that follows is a mere afterthought seen through the gauzy film of smoke that doesn’t quite dissipate in the stadium until a few weeks before the next season starts. How many people leave the Super Bowl party after the halftime show? Doesn’t that prove that it’s a little too much, when friends and family who were once enraptured in the actual game feel the need to quit while they’re ahead? Non sequitur: all I can think about during the halftime shows is that GG Allin would have been awesome, especially if no one knew who he was before he walked out of the tunnel. I digress.
3. The Commercials — This is blasphemy, but I’m sorry. It’s gone way too far. The average price of a 30 second commercial has risen past the stratosphere and into parts of the cosmos normally only acknowledged by Scientologists, so companies now have to up the ante in making them into levels where the commercials themselves are almost laughable examples of western culture excess. They’re multi-million dollar productions now; resplendent with amazing cinematography, celebrity cameos, epic scenery and tear-jerking drama—30 second feature films lasered directly at the country’s Twitter attention span. When Joe Buck says, “We’ll be right back,” America leans in, ready to blast by a caffeinated stream of images, and goes to get a beer when the game comes back. By the time the first quarter is over you’re almost in a coma from ocular overload. You start wondering if the Super Bowl itself is itself actually an evil plot devised by particularly forward thinking Amish terrorists who’ve decided to rub our collective nose directly in our decadent lifestyle, and devised a spectacle so spectacular that it registers actual pain on the viewer just to watch it, and every year that goes by only serves as another step toward the crescendo when finally the terrorists throw the switch and the sights and sounds turn lethal, causing all viewers to keel over, legs shaking from the overdose, gasping for breath while holding an open hand to our chests, mouths opening and closing like futile goldfish outside the bowl until we all finally die from aneurisms triggered by a massive overload of our synaptic nerves. Sorry. Got a little carried away with that one.
4. Thursday Night Football — It has nothing to do with the Super Bowl, but if I’m going to make a list of things that are wrong with the NFL, I have to include Thursday Night Football—it’s awful and I hate it.
5. Winter — Winter is ruining everything this year, but in case you haven’t heard, the Super Bowl is going to be played at an outdoor stadium in New Jersey (it’s gotten very little coverage). The forecast of the game has been a hot topic of discussion in the past few weeks, some pundits openly wondering if the game might be moved because they really don’t want the Super Bowl to be in a place that’s cold. When the Super Bowl was Detroit, there was a never-ending cascade of stories (bellyaching) about how Detroit was cold, as if this was some kind surprise to the sports writers and personalities that arrived in the city. They also wrote articles about how many people were smoking, proving that they’ve never been to the bars in restaurants in any of the cities where they write columns. While the complaining of cold weather in Detroit was just whining on the part of the pundits, this does have actual implications this time. The game should be played on neutral ground and in neutral conditions. Wind shouldn’t catch passes; the frozen ground shouldn’t influence the ability for cleats to claw into the ground. Just have the thing inside so it doesn’t become a story from now on, in a warm climate, so that lazy sports writers who already have an amazingly easy job will not complain.