National Commentary

Superbowl Forty-Six

Don’t you hate it when they keep reminding us during the Superbowl that this year’s was Number 46? For those of us who remember the first one, it is just one more reminder of the years slipping away…

But for all those Superbowls where the excitement was limited to the novel commercials and halftime show because the game, itself, was too boring, this one made up for a lot. A rule of thumb is that anytime the outcome of the game hangs on the final play, no matter how remote the chances of executing it, is a great game.

This one marked an almost bizarre repeat of the 2008 meeting between the same teams, another nail-biter with spectacular plays that have gone down in the annals of the all-time greats of sport – the “Immaculate Reception,” the Willie Mays catch, the Michael Jordan buzzer-beater and countless more.

Superbowls are snapshots of the state of American culture. Those who prepare those commercials and that halftime show aim at the cutting edge of not only where things are now, but where they’re trending.

They know that the game is one of the few times when such a magnitude of viewers will include not only hard core couch-potato football beer guzzlers, but a demographic cross section of who they work with, are married to and count as all varieties of friends. In short, almost everybody.

An astute sociologist could write a revealing history of America since the late 1960s based on keen observations from the annual Superbowls, alone.

From this point of view, what do we make of Superbowl 46, er, XLVI? Aside from the game, itself, that is, although careful attention to banter at Superbowl parties can prove enlightening. For example, among the ladies, and the gay men, I observed there arose comparisons and mild arguments regarding the virtues of the two quarterbacks, with no reference to their game performance statistics. Both are highly-regarded “eye candy,” as, of course, were quite a few others on the field.

Tom Brady is more the all-American Adonis type and Eli Manning more sultry with big deep eyes and provocative lashes. Brady is more Jane Mansfield, Manning more Bette Davis.

(Just to remind the football-addicted couch-potatoes, not everyone was admiring the same things watching the game Sunday, notwithstanding the secretly harbored yearnings of undoubtedly more than a few grizzled jocks, too. Yes, shocking as it may seem to say, for a lot of viewers, sports, as with entertainment, generally, are little more than “soft porn”).

Leaving deconstruction of the game, itself, to the unbelievably banal and incessant 24-7 world of commentators and replays (really, don’t people have anything better to do with their time, and their minds?), what about those commercials and Madonna’s halftime extravaganza?

On Madonna, surprise, surprise, the world is full of Madonna haters! It has always been thus, though from my point of view, and of millions of others, too, the show was an amazing hoot. Here’s what my friend, Simon Van Steyn, wrote on his Facebook page:

“I’ve seen many sublime shows in my time, but this ranks up there with the best of them. Tight choreography, gorgeous cinematography, luxurious costume and set design, 22nd century graphics, and a wicked variety show concept – all deserving accoutrements to Madonna’s virtuosity. Her ostentatious technique, blazing beauty, and euphonic songs reminded me of just how immaculate she is.”

Simon is in the production business, and knows whereof he speaks. And there was a message there as the show progressed from despotism to democracy and into world peace.

As for the commercials, I loved Elton John and Melanie Amaro, the leopard turning on his trainer and the sweet polar bears evoking some strands of Beethoven. A lot of others were overly strained for attention.

As for the Clint Eastwood spot, it was surprisingly moving, and as for the right wing finding partisan fault with a tribute to the revival of a great American industry, how did it those bums get away with that disgusting anti-union ad that also aired?

The cultural takeaway from the whole experience was that the volume seemed raised, the environment charged, and the stances firmed.