For the first time, the NFL’s Semi-Pro Bowl occupied the Sunday before Superbowl. The game featured NFL players that won’t be in the Superbowl playing touch football.
The NFL experimented this year by scheduling the irrelevant All Star game on the empty Sunday before the finale of football season. The goal of attracting more viewers and spectators was successful. The same venue where the Superbowl will be played drew a crowd of 70,697, the largest for a Pro Bowl since 1959 in Los Angeles.
Although the game was on opposite the 52nd annual Grammy awards, an equally meaningless event, it was unlikely to have shared the same target audience. Just as the Grammy’s honored some of the more successful, but not necessarily the best musicians, the pro bowl showcased the same caliber of players. Thirty-four players, almost half of the original roster, chosen for the Pro Bowl missed the game because they were still nursing injuries from the season, or because they are scheduled to play in the actually important Super Bowl.
Every year players bail on the Pro Bowl because it is not worth being maybe injured for no reward, since the honor is in being chosen, not in playing. Last year the NHL All Star game occupied the vacant weekend before Superbowl. This time last year I wrote about how All Star games would be better off as skills competitions. I still believe it.
During halftime, Chris Berman interviewed the Superbowl quarterbacks Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, reminding viewers who the
starters of the Pro Bowl were supposed to be. Of course, the two poised team leaders didn’t reveal any worthwhile thoughts about anything because they are gentlemen and, more evidently, opponents who will be competing against each other for the Lombardi trophy.
The Pro Bowl’s new time feeds in to the Superbowl hype nicely. This year’s championship build-up has a couple of causes pinned up against each other. New Orleans has been playing the Katrina card all season. The fine line between using the Katrina catastrophe to inspire a team and their fans has been blurred through overkill. After all, a team of rich players toting the resurgence of the city they play in without some sort of fund-raising or donation efforts being linked to the team’s wins weakens a real connection between the storm of four years ago, and the Saints’ current success.
In an attempt to bring media attention and bandwagon fans to a cause of their own, Colts’ offensive weapon Pierre Garcon totes Haiti as Indianapolis’ cause, since his family lives in the devastated country.
What would have happened if the New York Jets had upset the Colts in the AFC Championship game? Would the Jets pull a 9/11 card? After all, there are still no new towers and no justice from the aftermath of terror. Had Minnesota played a quarterback who could run a handful of yards in the end of the 4th quarter of the NFC Championship, and won the game, Minnesota would have been able to play the most rational cause card: themselves. The Vikings have never won a title and lost four Superbowls in eight years. They are their own tragedy, the only one that could actually be fixed by a Superbowl win.
The subplot that is bringing the most legitimate excitement to the Superbowl is the return of the Superbowl of Commercials! The most expensive and over-the-top television advertisements used to be found on Superbowl Sunday. But the past few years have disappointed, allowing football fans the bathroom and food breaks that we previously denied ourselves. This year, however, has brought controversy on the commercial front.
Tim Tebow’s scheduled anti-choice advertisements have been a hot topic of conversation, with petitions floating around as abundant as comments about Tebow’s lack of performance during the Senior Bowl.
Also stirring up passionate opinions is the Man Crush controversy. The dating site for gay men submitted an ad that CBS rejected, calling the networks politics into question. The thirty-second piece of marketing genius featured two football fans making out after brushing each other’s hands reaching for chips. Even though this is not very shocking, because only the back of one guy’s head can be seen during the kissing, the real offense is that one of the men is in a Packers jersey, while the other is in Vikings garb.
Both commercial hot topics bring up interesting discussions about network politics. Who knows what surprises the big game’s big sponsors will bring. Perhaps Eli Manning will finally star in his own hilarious commercial, since Peyton isn’t available.