It’s been five days since the Super Bowl, just enough time to give us a little perspective. Was it a football game? A concert? A competition for the Clio Award? Or some bizarrely American combination of all three?
Let’s start with the least important: The football game. You might have caught bits of it, squeezed between the ads and the show. Those were the people who ran really fast and wore clothes. For the Super Bowl’s first 30 years, most of the games were boring blowouts. I suspect even the players can’t recall the scores. But the halftime shows and the ads were hard to forget, and often featured a member of the Jackson family having his hair ignited or her wardrobe mysteriously malfunction.
But lately, it’s been the other way around. Ten of the past 16 games have been close – and the rest of the stuff is putting us to sleep. This year’s Super Sunday delivered another exciting game, showcasing two big time quarterbacks battling to the last second. The game even featured a first: one team scored a touchdown against its will. The New York Giants had the ball on the 6-yard line, but they wanted to kill more time before they scored, so New England wouldn’t have any time left to come back. The Patriots didn’t want the Giants to do that, so they got out of the way like bullfighters, and let Ahmad Bradshaw run into the endzone. But he didn’t want to score, so he stopped on the one yard line, turned around, all but begging the Patriots to tackle him, and fell backwards into the endzone. It was almost as strange as the halftime show, when Madonna put forth even less effort. As a commentator, one of my favorite pastimes is not talking about Madonna. I’ve always considered her a mediocre singer and songwriter, whose main talent is somehow becoming rich and famous with less actual talent than the karaoke singers at your local bowling alley. So it’s given me great pleasure to ignore her. But this time, I can’t. I used to think the low point for Super Bowl halftime shows occurred in 1989, when an Elvis impersonator and magician named Elvis Presto – get it – managed to befuddle and bore the crowd in equal measure. But no, that was positively scintillating compared to Madonna not singing, but lip syncing her way through her worn out repertoire and dull dancing. The most authentic element of this year’s Super Sunday extravaganza – when the team with the ball did not want to score and the team that didn’t have the ball did not want to stop them, and the women paid millions to sing didn’t sing at all – was an advertisement filmed weeks earlier. Once again, Chrysler came through with the best two minutes of the entire event, this time thanks to Clint Eastwood. When he said, “People are out of work and they're hurting, and they're all wondering what they're gonna do to make a comeback. People of Detroit…almost lost everything,” he delivered the most honest line of the day – then followed that up with an equally convincing declaration. “We find a way through tough times. And if we can't find a way, then we'll make one…. This country can't be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and, when we do, the world is gonna hear the roar of our engines.” When he finished, I was so riveted I was ready to do some actual riveting. So, a year from now, if you want to see a heartfelt performance, you’ll have to skip the game and the half-time show, and wait for the Chrysler ad. For the second year in a row, no one did it better.