By Bill Tamburrino
I had reservations about mentioning the Super Bowl in this column.
TimeOut is usually dedicated to topics that are sports-related. One of the major themes of TimeOut is that sports are a microcosm of society. However, in the case of the Super Bowl, society tries to be a microcosm of the Super Bowl and every element of society gets involved.
For starters, the Super Bowl was named after a popular toy of the 1960s, the Super Ball. I was at what eventually became known as the first Super Bowl but was originally called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. At least 35,000 empty seats were disguised as fans in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was not very super for the Kansas City Chiefs who lost to the Vince Lombardi-coached Green Bay Packers 35-10.
From 35,000 empty seats have changed to every seat the house filled. The marketers of the game have found ways to get even the most anti-football football widow interested in the game. Commercials used to be when people got up during the game to get a refill or snack. Now the commercials play a part as big as the instant replays. Everything from ladies in fancy underwear to domestic beer with horses playing football is hawked during time-outs.
More pizzas are sold and/or delivered on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. Ironically Peyton Manning is in on the pizza hype.
The commercials are under as much scrutiny as the game and then there are post-game shows and ratings on them.
Las Vegas is sold out on Super Bowl Sunday. This year’s biggest bet is on how many times Peyton Manning will say “Omaha” in his audibles. Most people don’t know what Omaha means but the real gamblers know. The real Danny Marshall knows (not RHS coach Dan Marshall but the real Danny Marshall). Dan Plough knows. The real Mike Jordan knows. Omaha is a poker game, a high low split game. When Manning yells “Omaha!” he is changing the play from a long pass to a short pass of under-8 yards. You heard it here first.
They bet on the coin flip, the first time-out, the first first down, the first score and what kind of score it will be, and how many penalty yards each team will have. Some casinos bet on the scores of every quarter. Name it. No bet is out of the question. The take is in the billions.
I wonder if they bet on the game’s lexicon — the jargon or clichés the announcers will use.
“Plays” is a favorite word of announcers, commentators, coaches, players and thespians.
“We got to make more plays.” “Big time players make big time plays and big time games.” “He plays the harmonica.” “I tried to let him make a play on the ball on that interception.” “Play Misty for me.” “Best play on Broadway.” “Best play by Broadway Joe.”
My favorite new word in the sports lexicon this year is “grind” — “We are a blue collar team and we grind it out,” “We will grind it out on the ground,” or “Life is a grind.” Count how many times “grind” is used on Sunday. My over/ under on grind is 39. After all, a Seattle team is playing and Seattle-based Starbucks has a plethora of grinds.
The teams will hold more media days and press conferences than practices during the week of the Super Bowl. The coaches will work on the game plan all night, every night until game day. My guess is that Denver’s game plan will involve Manning throwing passes. Seattle will rely on Richard Sherman ranting at media. The guy was a straight A student at Dominguez High School in Compton. He was a high school All American in track. He graduated from Stanford with a degree in communications and is working on a master’s degree. Do you really think his rant was impromptu and not carefully planned? Nobody can act that stupid unless they are very smart.
The pre-game hype started two weeks ago and Sherman threw gas on the fire. The Pre-Game Kickoff, Gossip, Expert Opinion from Some Guys that played in a Super Bowl and Some Guys that didn’t play in a Super Bowl Show starts at midnight. Past Super Bowl MVPs will relive their one big moment on the stage. Several former players will be interviewed from prison. The network will do “up close and personal” spots about players, coaches, fans, beer venders, ladies who are trying to keep Victoria’s secret, and football-playing horses. After every segment there is a commercial, a refill and another snack.
More weight is gained in American homes on Super Bowl Sunday before the game than any other day of the year.
The game is often anti-climatic. The team with the most points will win because its players grinded it out more and made more and better plays than the losing team. If you miss the game, the post game analysis shows will run for fourscore and seven days. Then we will start getting the hype for the NFL draft and we will get to see Mel Kiper and his one of kind hairdo.
I love Super Bowl Sunday. It is an American institution. America has gotten the entire world interested in our game, a game we invented and play. It is bigger than the Olympics, the Winter Olympics, the World Cup and every other over hyped sporting event. It is about imposing one’s will on another. It is capitalism at its best (or worst). Most of the world doesn’t understand it but watches because it is American. Love or hate us, we don’t care. It is what America is all about.