LOUISVILLE (WAVE) – On Sunday, millions of Americans will gather around their television sets to watch another tribute to wretched excess, something we do better than anybody on the planet.
Yes, it’s another Super Bowl, the game that decides the championship of the National Football League. But, of course, is has grown into much more since its relatively modest debut in 1967.
It has become a cultural phenomenon, an exercise in hedonism in which we celebrate the pillars of our society – money, sex, ego, violence, partying, commercialism, gambling, show biz, and the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Most true football fans prefer to watch it in the privacy of their homes, surrounded by family and friends who are more interested in the game than the hype. Others, however, attend Super Bowl parties, where the following is guaranteed to happen:
- Someone will watch some singer absolutely butcher the national anthem, and then proclaim, when it is mercifully over, “Oh, that was so beautiful.” These singers and their fans have disrespected the flag far more than Colin Kaepernick ever did.
- Some guests will talk loudly during the game, annoying everyone within earshot, and then fall silent to watch the commercials, after which they will begin talking again.
- The halftime show will be lavish and gaudy with a zillion strobe lights, clouds of smoke, and a bunch of young dancers making gestures that were known as “lewd” back when George Halas invented the Chicago Bears.
- Some who are on the losing side of their wagers – and you can literally bet on just about everything to do with the Super Bowl – will get overserved and become mean-tempered.
- There will be some crashing bores who will spend the game second-guessing the coaches and throwing out the football terminology they have learned from watching far too many games on TV.
The secret to managing all this is to just keep reminding yourself that it’s just another football game. But that isn’t quite the truth, either, because reputations and careers can be made or broken depending on how a player performs on the most scrutinized stage of all.
Ordinarily, I pay scant attention to people who make a habit of complaining about the officiating. But this year they have a case. The infamous pass-interference no-call near the end of the Saints-Rams game was the most egregious error of a season filled with sloppy calls and tape reviews that seemed to last longer than it takes to read War and Peace.
At this point it’s way past time for me to mention that Super Bowl LIII – got to love those Roman numerals, right? – will be played between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on CBS.
There is really only one story line in this one: Can Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the most successful coach-quarterback tandem in NFL history, work their magic one more time?
Since Brady joined the team out of Michigan in 2001, he has guided them to a record eight Super Bowls, winning five. At 41, Brady’s statistics were down a bit this season, which is to be expected, but he’s still as good a leader as he ever was.
The sharpies who make the gambling line have established the Patriots as 2 ½ to 3-point favorites over a Rams team that has one of the most vicious defenses in the NFL. That’s mainly due to Brady’s aura of inevitable victory.
Actually, Brady is the perfect poster boy for the Super Bowl because he has it all – fame, money, super-model wife, perfect children. But he also has a smugness about him that many find easy to hate.
Even more unpalatable is Belichick, who has all the personality of a snarling pit bull. He may be better than Lombardi, Shula, Walsh, and anybody else who has ever coached pro football, but he will never be remembered with any particular fondness – except, of course, for the Patriots’ fans who worship him.
If experience counts in the Super Bowl –and it does – the game would appear to be a mismatch. Rams’ Coach Sean McVay was 30, the youngest coach in league history, when he got the job two years ago. And Brady’s counterpart, Jared Goff, is a third-year player out of California-Berkeley who is relatively unknown compared to Brady.
Still, the Rams can score. Goff threw 32 touchdown passes to only 12 interceptions, and running back Todd Gurley, who starred at Georgia, is one of the NFL’s best. Western Kentucky fans will be hoping that Tyler Higbee, a 6-foot-6 tight end who played for the Hilltoppers, will make a big play or two.
The national anthem will be sung by Gladys Knight, and the over-under or her time is 1:45. I’m taking the under with a degree of trepidation, considering five of the last six have gone over 1:45. Aaauuggghhh.
The headliner of the halftime show will be a group called Maroon 5. Also performing will be Travis Scott, a rapper, and Big Boi, a hip-hopster whose hits include something called, “Hey Ya.” Since I have not heard of any of them, you can bet I’ll find something else to do at halftime, such as, oh, pounding my head with a hammer.
And, finally, Rams 35, Patriots 31.