This is how the Super Bowl (generally, and this one specifically) should be. Most of this will never happen. And that is unfortunate.
For starters, we got the teams right. We finally get to see the two best teams in the NFL face each other in a strength-against-strength winner-take-all to determine not just who the Super Bowl champion is, but who the best team actually is. No more of this “the team playing the best football at the end of the season makes the run and wins it all”. Forget that. I don’t want my juggernauts to run out of steam and choke in the playoffs. Would it have been cute to see a Bengals vs. Panthers matchup? Sure – actually, no. No, it wouldn’t be. This is the biggest thing in American sports, and the Bengals and Panthers should be nowhere near this game. We’re talking about a sport in which being big, mighty, and completely unsubtle is (usually) hailed. Forget underdogs and these Wild Card teams that make it through the postseason and end up winning it all. There were really only three teams in the NFL this year that deserved to make it to the Super Bowl, and they all made it to the Conference Championships. So, well done, NFL. Thank you for an actual Championship Game.
Unfortunately, we decided to have this game take place in New York. New Jersey, actually, which is even worse. I can deal with inclement weather, as that’s the nature of football, but do we really want to mess with the chance of a blizzard? Sub-zero temperatures? Gale-force winds? It could turn out to be great if the winds and precipitation stay reasonable. But if players can’t plant their feet because of snow on the ground or Peyton Manning’s ducks become even duckier in the swirling winds, then there’s no way we can really say the results of this game aren’t marred by the weather. Weather is part of football, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s just play at the Rose Bowl every year.
After this year, we need to hand over the Super Bowl broadcasting rights to NBC.
But we’re stuck with FOX. Which could be a lot worse (CBS). Thankfully the Packers are not in this game because the Green Bay fan-base HATES Troy Aikman and Joe Buck. I mean they can’t even stand to look at those guys. Ideally, this is what FOX should do: poach Brent Musberger from ESPN (like they did with Erin Andrews and others) and make him the play-by-play guy with John Madden doing the color commentary. Then, a few minutes into the game, the camera shows Katherine Webb, bundled up in a few layers of parkas that don’t allow for any body shape or facial features to be readily distinguishable sitting next to a lump of jackets that looks mysteriously like A.J. McCarron. And the only way that we knew that’s where Katherine and A.J. would be is because Musberger borrowed the Madison Square Garden spy in the sky technology to track her. Frustrated by the bundle of Eskimo gear, Musberger quits and John Madden calls the rest of the game on his own.
Skip any sort of intro music video or anything like that. Normally these are kind of cool (and can be really, really cool) but people don’t really need any help to get excited for the game. And if they do, they’re probably sitting there talking obnoxiously or eating chips. Or both.
Hopefully they do useless pregame sideline “interviews” and decide to put a microphone in front of Richard Sherman’s face. And then, when everyone says “ssshhhhhhh!!!!! let’s hear what this idiot has to say!” he will give a level-headed response since he’s not just getting done making the biggest play of his career in a violent game. He will say something like “I’m focused on the game now, I’m confident in my abilities and those of my teammates. See you on the other side.” And that will be it. Nothing more about Richard Sherman until the end of the game (unless of course he makes a play). Don’t give special attention to him just because he’s one of the four players people watching this game care about (and the one of those four that people care about for the wrong reasons).
Nothing political. Except for the National Anthem. There are two (right) ways to do this. The first and less desirable option involves two tons of fireworks, hologram dragons, flaming leopards running across the field, loud electric guitars, and enough flags to outfit Ching Shih’s fleet. The second option is to go completely simple. Completely. One man or woman, no music, not too much showiness, singing at a decent tempo, with no effects. They don’t even have to be famous.
Here’s a few commercials we need before halftime:
- Jameis Winston does a commercial for Rosetta Stone. At the end of the commercial he poses with the Heisman and gives the camera a blurred-out hand gesture. Half of us smile, the rest of you enviously complain about not understanding English.
- There’s a trailer for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Most people watching scratch their head while we who appreciate Wes Anderson smile and get a little giddy.
- We bring back the Miller Lite Man Law and Budweiser Wassup commercials.
- Kevin Michael Richardson reads a haiku.
The first half should feature a steady, efficient Broncos offense. Peyton takes care of the ball as he avoids Richard Sherman (which limits Demaryius Thomas’ contribution) but dinks and dunks down the field with passes to Julius Thomas and Wes Welker, which set up some twenty yard gains to the likes of Decker and Caldwell. He checks into a number of running plays, allowing Moreno and Ball to establish the run. However, the Seattle defense remains stout on their half of the field, forcing a few field goals. On offense, the Seahawks come out swinging, immediately going for big plays. On their first possession, Wilson finds Baldwin for a long touchdown pass. The next possession, still looking for big plays, Wilson throws three straight incompletions and they go three and out. One of these passes is broken up by Champ Bailey. For the rest of the half, the Seahawks try to establish the run, and we all get to enjoy the amazingness that is Marshawn Lynch running. Not necessarily because of broken tackles, but just because of the actual running itself. It’s hilarious. He looks like a huge shaggy dog when he changes direction and tries to accelerate. Imagine a Komondor or a Bouvier des Flanders playing fetch and you’ve got the idea. His sprinting form is horrible, and made worse by his flailing dreads and the fact that his visor and loud-colored uniform make him look like a strange Daft Punk fan. Truck-sticking fools is just a nice bonus. Halftime score is 16-14, Broncos.
On the way into the locker room, Erin Andrews catches up with Pete Carroll and asks him about the first half. Carroll takes out a handful of Skittles, pops them into his mouth, and chews them intensely while staring into the camera as a sign of solidarity for his silent running back. We have an epiphany along the lines of “Oh, maybe guys like him are quiet for a reason and we should let them be. Like maybe these guys go nuts because we don’t leave them alone. Maybe we can’t have the best of both worlds with a polite Richard Sherman and a boisterous Marshawn Lynch….”
Time for the halftime show. I’m sure Bruno Mars will sing very well and yes he has lots of fans but sorry Bruno we’re kicking you off the show. It’s time we start doing shows that are actually, you know, interesting. And interesting to lots of people, because EVERYONE watches the halftime show.
There are actually a surprising number of options if you ditch the idea of a featured act from the realm of popular music. The first thing to think about is including stringed orchestras, brass bands, or choirs, and not just small groups of backup musicians, but I mean 25-50 piece ensembles. This gives the performance grand scale and spectacle, as well as a much greater selection for music. Why not start a show with “O, Fortuna” or “Requiem for a Tower”?
The other thing to do is to use lots of different featured performers. Not two or three, which has become commonplace as of late, but five, six, seven, maybe eight. This way you can cover more genres and please more viewers, as well as use more popular songs, rather than having to go five or six songs deep on a single artist. The thing to remember is that the show should not be about the performers. The United States, in general, does not look forward to the Bruno Mars experience. They want a show that is a testament to the greatness of American art and entertainment.
So I guess you want an example of one of these shows? Okay, here goes:
- Big brass band and choir backs up Aloe Blacc for “The Man”.
- George Strait sings the first verse of “Wake Me Up!” and we go into the electro-pop hook by Avicii.
- Move into “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons.
- Instrumentals start and Alicia Keys gets another chance at “Empire State of Mind”.
- After the beat starts, choir sings the hook for Eminem‘s “Survival” after which he raps the second half of his first verse.
- The Edge finishes “Survival” with a guitar solo.
- Imagine Dragons leads a minimalist rendering of “We Will Rock You”, encouraging the stadium to join them.
Lighting and effects vary from act to act. A multi-platform, multi-level stage would help transitions.
Can you give me one really good reason why that wouldn’t work?
We move into the second half.
We see some commercials like this:
- A super-serious commercial that gets everyone really quiet.
- A sports apparel commercial featuring Sho Baraka’s “Ali”.
- The Taco Bell chihuahua returns.
- A teaser trailer for Finding Dorie.
- We make it through an entire Super Bowl without any commercials that are completely stupid or sexually charged.
As for the game, Marshawn Lynch turns the tide, as he, along with a more confident Russell Wilson, march Seattle down the field drive after drive. The Denver offense slows as the Seattle defense makes a few big stops on third down, including a goal line stand. Manning starts to look frustrated, but not flustered. Neither team turns the ball over. Entering the fourth quarter, the Seahawks lead 28-19. Needing a spark, John Fox puts Trindon Holliday in to return a punt, even though he has lost the duties to Decker and Welker because of his fumbling tendencies. Holliday fields the ball at his own 25…. and drops it. However, in a random act of football fate, the ball bounces back up to him. He picks it up and scampers for a big return to the Seattle 35. Manning and the offense, energized by the big play, promptly score to make it 28-26. The Seahawks struggle back down the field, but manage a field goal to put them up by five with about seven minutes remaining.
And then Peyton Manning takes over. Almost effortlessly, he guides his team down the field, despite the fact that the snow begins to fall. He throws a touchdown pass with four minutes remaining. The defense holds on, not really allowing the Seattle offense any chance to make a play or move the ball into field goal range. The Broncos win, 33-31.
The Broncos have to win this game. No way is Seattle winning a better story. Here’s why:
- Peyton Manning is truly one of the five best quarterbacks to ever play, and winning would help to remove any remaining doubt about that.
- A loss would be even more harmful to Manning than a win would be beneficial. It would cancel out his historic season.
- Seattle doesn’t need a Super Bowl win. They’re already awesome. Clean air, culture, Starbucks, proximity to Portland, Macklemore, the Sounders, etc.
- A loss will galvanize the citizens of Seattle so that when they get an NBA team again they will make it the best franchise in the nation. They’ll do really well as it is, but this way they will go above and beyond to set the standard for an American sports franchise.
After the game, no dumb questions are asked of any players and coaches. Roger Goodell is banned from the trophy presentation.
Peyton Manning retires two weeks later.
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Soli Deo Gloria