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Stupor Bowl – Running Out the Play Clock until You Can’t Stand It


Super Bowl VXKS€¥πLSKF∑IIIII will be played on Sunday (nothing like Roman Numerals to lend needless gravitas to a sporting contest), and one has to assume that the NFL is pleased with the match up (if there are five people out there who still don’t know who’s in, and I’m guessing four of those five could be Potholeview readers, it’s the New England Patriots and the New York Giants).

The Patriots are the most successful team of the past ten years and feature a quarterback, Tom Brady, who is guaranteed to go directly into the Hall of Fame, and is arguably one of the greatest to ever play the game. The Patriots’ success, and perceived arrogance (their coach, Bill Belichick, has even been taken to task in past years for the dismissive way he has delivered post-game handshakes to opposing coaches), has made them both loved and hated in a way that only envy-inducing, repeated success can engender. The Giants don’t have the same dynastic pedigree, but of course represent the largest media market in the country, and feature a strong quarterback (Eli Manning, younger brother to future Hall of Famer Peyton—Eli’s status still TBD, although probably assured if he wins on Sunday) who has improbably managed to lead his team to victory in large part by setting an NFL record for fourth quarter touchdowns.

All of the above would be good enough for the ratings obsessed NFL, but the bonus (as all sports fans have been endlessly reminded) is that this game is a rematch of 2008 when the Giants ruined the Patriots’ quest to achieve that rarest NFL team accomplishment—a perfect season (18-1 became the Patriots’ record that year, with that lonely loss being the one that counted most—the Super Bowl). This angle has been played up, with killjoys reminding viewers that aside from Tom Brady there are only six other Patriots players left from 2008, with only 16 total still playing for the Giants (16 may sound like a lot until you remember that NFL teams carry 46 players).

Yet whether this natural rivalry and rematch existed or not, the NFL was still obligated to hype the game, as it does every year. If there is no real reason to watch the game, the NFL will create one. It is, I believe, one of the few TV events (isn’t that more accurate than sporting event?) that seems to be watched as much for the commercials (all the major advertisers debut their best, and often most expensive, spots during the game) as for the event itself.

There is probably no better signifier of the NFL’s success in marketing the Super Bowl than the fact that the game/event/advertising opportunity has successfully insinuated itself into American culture, and the Super Bowl party’s place on some calendars is almost comparable to that of Thanksgiving (the only day that leads Super Bowl Sunday in food consumption [“USDA Offers Food Safety Advice for Your Super Bowl Party”. U.S. Department of Agriculture]) or the Fourth of July.

I don’t begrudge the NFL promoters their success in making the Super Bowl the crown jewel of American sporting events. But there is one part that seems unnecessarily cruel and vexing, whether you follow football or not: the NFL introduces a two week break between the conference championships and the Super Bowl (if you’re a fan you want to see football but are made to wait an extra week, if not you are subjected to the inescapable cascade of media coverage for two full weeks). The hollow claim may be that this allows players’ bodies battered over an entire season to recover for the most important game, but for nearly every other game the NFL schedule dictates weekly games. Obviously the primary concern is getting an extra week of promotion in.

There is at least one last thing that the Super Bowl is known for, and that is the half-time show. With the fairly recent exception of Prince (2007), it’s nearly a given that it will be awful. In that regard, this year’s show will not disappoint. One word: Madonna. Yes, the NFL is rolling out our favorite octogenarian pop star, never mind that no one knows if she’s released an album since 1986. So after several weeks of waiting for football we’ll get to endure an extra half hour of pre-recorded ‘music,’ after which Madonna will get back on her Hover-Round, roll off stage, and we can sit back and enjoy the second half of commercials.


  1. Okay. I get it though I am not a sports fan. Too bad you wrote it before you heard Madonna. She was great. Or at least looked great. All inflated and ready to pop. I guess retirement sounds scary.

  2. I know that my comment comes months later, but I did enjoy your article and I wanted to share this feeling with you. When can I read something else by you? You have not written too much lately. That’s a pity.


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