Lines Composed During a Super Bowl

Given the behavior of most recording “artists” who are called upon to enact an enterprise of great pitch and moment—I mean sing our national anthem—it would be well if all public address announcers were trained to say: “And now, to honor herself, five-time Grammy Award winner …” and then give the genius’s name.

But since mastering the words of this difficult and scarcely-heard song is almost too much to ask of these learned singers, I would suggest that more instrumentalists be retained to perform this daunting task of self-aggrandizement. (One thinks wistfully of the elegiac Hornsby-Marsalis anthem at the 1991 NBA All-Star game, a mournful wordless rendition that seemed appropriate for a nation engaged in yet another expensive blood-letting campaign abroad.)

It is true a trumpeter, say, or a flautist or even a tromboner might botch the notes a little, but notes are easier to remember than words, because notes don’t have any words to them, whereas words have both notes and words—and sometimes even meanings, as when the phrase (which consists of words) “o’er the ramparts we watched” means “above the battlements we were looking at.”

I think most people would agree that all of this is rather a lot to keep in your head while you’re trying to draw attention away from the flag that a hundred thousand people are supposed to be looking at.

And now that the Super Bowl half-time show has officially become a contest to see if the current act can harness the weirdness to out-weird the previous one (congratulations to the Black-Eyed Freaks for their undisputed success this year), it is time to raise the stakes. Next year: a farting contest aboard a replica of the Good Ship Lollipop to honor surnymically-challenged celebrities, featuring Cher, Bono, Madonna, and The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Winner gets first dibs on “Smith.”

Here’s a rule concerning future commercials: live up to the standard of the Volkswagen-Darth Vader ad or keep it to yourself.

And under no circumstances will it be okay to show the plastic gel structure that, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, went by the name “Joan Rivers.”

Now it may be that I have let nostalgia have its way with memory, but it does seem to me that there was a time when professional sports required no especial tarting up. The graphics were more modest, the music less sensational, and the pre-game show didn’t start until the actual day of the game itself. True enough, the men behind the mics spoke seriously then too, as if what they were saying mattered to some degree, and some of them (I mean those recruited from what that wit of bygone days, Howard Cosell, called the “jockocracy”) even seemed slightly bothered by the question everyone at home was asking: why do you need a neck that thick to support a head that empty? But there wasn’t quite as much—how shall I put it?—build up. There was some talk, but not much, and then a lot of football.

But now there’s so much talk. One feels as if one is in a beauty salon—or at some teen-aged girl’s slumber party.

I realize the Super Bowl isn’t only for men, and I’m slightly jealous of those men whose wives actually give a damn about football, but what a guy wants to do on Super Bowl Sunday is make his plate of nachos, drink his beer, and watch a publicly-owned team from a small market beat another storied franchise formerly piloted by a pretty good quarterback who had a disastrous post-football career as a country singer. That’s what a man wants. (And then a little something later on when, after having behaved for four hours like a frat boy buying his degree in marketing, he’s bloated on melted colby cheese and smelling of malted barley.) He doesn’t want pro football pimped and talked about endlessly. Not if he’s a real man he doesn’t.

So far I have been speaking generally about The Event, but let’s not beat around the bush when it comes to the particulars of a Super Bowl. We can do nicely without the Bill Belichicks and Rex Ryans of the world on the sidelines. This year we had a pair of distinctive Opposing Generals. You felt as if you could live with whatever final score you got (so long as the question of the moral character of the quarterbacks didn’t come up.)

As I look ahead to future Super Bowls, my thoughts turn naturally to the Church Fathers. I think it was St. Gregory of Nanziansus who said we may even hope for the salvation of the devil.

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