Thursday, February 08, 2007

Super Bowl XLI - Full House

McHenry, MD -- 2/4/07

Bob Saget knows what he's talking about. Seriously.

For those of you who don't watch How I Met Your Mother on Monday's, and if you don't have DVR, I don't blame you (24, Prison Break, Heroes, Studio 60 - that lineup is tough to crack). There are some valuable lessons to learn, and not just from the former Doogie Howser. The end of each episode includes a moral-of-the-story narrative from the former Danny Tanner, and this week, his prose seemed apropos for my Super Sunday blog:

"I don't remember who won. Hell, I don't even remember who played. What I do remember is that we drank beer, we ate wings, and we watched the Super Bowl together."

See. Bob Saget knows what he's talking about. Save for the people of Indiana, Ill., the crowd at the Mandalay Bay sports book, Reggie Wayne's geometry teacher and one proud relative of Adewale Ogunleye from Staten Island, the Super Bowl is not just about the game. It's about good friends, five-layer nacho dip and an unparalleled anticipation for commercial breaks.

For the fourth year in a row, I made the trek to the far reaches of Western Maryland, in what could technically be called 'Steeler Country', and spent Super Bowl weekend in a cabin at Wisp Mountain. A weekend full of frigid wind chills, poker chips, potato chips and potato wedges. Homemade potato wedges, I might add. My friend Cantor (I'll use last names since there were two Jason's in the house) and I pulled up chairs to the table and started cutting potatoes around 4:00 in a scene reminiscent of the back room at Satriale's in The Sopranos.

By 6:00 the afore mentioned nacho dip was gone, the SalesGenie.Com Pre-Game Show came to an end (seriously,, our three-quarter pound old-bay infused burgers were on the grill and we were ready for some football! Or at least another 35 minutes of pre-game. The opening segment was impressive, with vignettes from around the country showing friends and family of Bears and Colts players offering their support, with the top performance going to Julius Jones of the Dallas Cowboys. The brother of Bears running back, Thomas Jones, did sport a Bears jersey in the video, however, when the list of all time great Bear 'backs was being recited, he chimed in nicely with a salute to his Cowboy predecessor, Emmitt Smith. Coincidently, Emmitt also made a brief appearance on How I Met Your Mother, but his appeal seemed to be equal parts football and dance.

The pre-game festivities continued in Miami with Gloria Estefan, an obvious choice. Not so obvious - the Ostrich dancers from Cirque De Soleil. Even more surprising, Solomon Wilcots interviewing Brain Urlacher on the field moments before kickoff. Something tells me Urlacher wasn't pleased with that press request.

As it came time for Sherman (Jason No. 2) to flip the burgers, the first of the real Super Bowl commercials came on - a party at Chad Johnson's house for the NFL Network. Apparently Chad has friends in high places with the likes of Martha Stewart, LL Cool J, Reggie Bush, Janet Reno, Jimmy Fallon, and the kid from Two and Half Men all enjoying the game. My favorite line, however, was delivered by the guy talking to David Beckham, who upon learning that Becks was using the 'I play football in LA' gimmick at the party, tells him that it might be tough in this crowd, but "I like the angle." Speaking of which, the second-best line of the day was the tagline for the Combos commercial, "What your mom would feed you if your mom was a man." How do you sell that to a client?

Time for the kickoff. Two words - Devin Hester. One more word - peak. As in the game, my weekend, the NFL season and Jim Nantz all peaked as Hester ran past Adam Vinateri on his way to scoring the first-ever opening kick for a touchdown in Super Bowl history. Of course it was the second such accomplishment in a month in a championship football game as Ted Ginn Jr. preempted Hester in the BCS title game in January. Unfortunately for both speedsters, their ultimate highlight will simply serve as a dramatic opening to their opponents' Championship DVDs.

The rest of the game felt soggy, mostly because the rain drops on the cameras never seemed to go away. I know I'm still a television production novice, but even I carry lens cleaner on the field. I don't know if HD cameras are impervious to aloe, but a Kleenex might have been useful. Of course the stormy weather played havoc with the action on the field as well with six turnovers in the first half. But, the biggest turnover was yet to come.

And I'm not talking about Oprah deciding to appear in a commercial with David Letterman, although that was weird. I am of course describing the Rex Grossman interception returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. And now here comes my Ravens reference for the day. Tell me that didn't look exactly like the pick Peyton through to Ed Reed when No. 20 was ruled out of bounds before beginning his run-back. How come CBS, Tony Corrente, and the rest of the football-watching world gave Kelvin Hayden a chance to return it for a touchdown? The only clean camera in the stadium managed to get a close up of his feet tip toeing around the sideline before taking off for the score. The play stood as called, but at least it was called that way. If only.

As I mentioned before, the game loses some of its luster when surrounded by the pageantry of Super Bowl Sunday. The halftime show and commercial onslaught tend to overpower the senses during the game and this year provided a few key memorable moments.

I don't know what it means that my favorite part of the Prince performance was his 30-second Foo Fighters cover, but I think it has something to do with not liking Prince and really liking Foo Fighters. My recommendation to the NFL is to actually get Dave Grohl and the boys to play in Arizona next year. But that's just me.

This year was also the year of consumer generated content. CGC for those in the know. Two Doritos commercials, one for Chevy, and a highly touted spot for the NFL were all written way off Madison Avenue, and pretty far away from O'Donnell Street as well. The results were surprisingly good and the Doritos 'Cheesy' spot even made a few top ten lists.

Of course the 'trained professionals' still had their say and featured such 'stars' as Kevin Federline (for Nationwide), Mapasaurus (for Garmin), and some poor soul labeled Turkey Neck (for FedEx). Special effects experts also shared the stage with some spectacular graphics for Coke's Grand Theft Auto reincarnation and Don Shula and Jay-Z's 21st century game of magnetic football. That was pretty cool and would look great next to those Ravens recliners we saw for sale in Miami.

As the fourth quarter wore down, the poker chips came out, and my friends awoke from their burger-induced coma. Although the game was coming to an end, the weekend still had a few hours left and I had to seek revenge on Marc, our host for the weekend, who pulled an 'eight' on the river the previous night to knock me out of our game. And even though we expected the Colts to win on Sunday, we were committed to the immortal words of Mr. Saget:

"Because sometimes, even if you know how something is going to end, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy the ride."

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