It's Hard to Settle for Anything Less Than Excess
By Norman Chad
Considering that ESPN's nightly "SportsCenter" runs 60 minutes and the nightly "CBS Evening News" runs 30 minutes, which means it takes twice as long to cover the world of sports than it does to cover the world itself, perhaps it is unnecessary to pose the obvious question of the day:
Seven hours for a Super Bowl pregame show?
Why? Why? Why?
Hey, why not? What were you going to watch before the game anyway, "This Old House" on Channel 4?
In case you haven't noticed, this is the Age of Excess. (The Age of Reason had Voltaire, the Age of Excess has Van Earl Wright.) And, in the Age of Excess, the Super Bowl is the Taj Mahal. (By the way, as always, where there's excess, there's ESPN, and the various arms of the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network -- that's right, you probably forgot that the "E" in ESPN stands for "entertainment" -- weighed in with 150 hours of Super Bowl programming the past fortnight.)
If the Super Bowl's such a big deal, Duane Thomas once asked, why do they play it every year? Can you imagine how long of a pregame show Fox might've had for something that really mattered? Heck, if the folks at Fox Sports covered the first man on the moon, they would've sent Jerry Glanville to Pluto as a sideline reporter.
Technically, according to Fox, the 11 a.m.-to-2 p.m. block yesterday was the pre-pregame show and the 2 p.m.-to-6 p.m. portion was the real pregame show. (Similarly, according to the lawyers, the 1984 to 1989 block of my marriage was "pre-divorce" and 1990 to the present is the actual divorce.) Any way they account for it, there was a lot of commercial television -- and I think the key word here is "commercial" -- to watch.
Well, I'm paid to watch it, you're not.
For those of you who opted not to tune in the seven hours for free, here is precisely what you missed:
Ronnie Lott said, "When you're in a Super Bowl, you get a chance to be seen by the whole world."
James Brown asked Jamal Anderson how he would describe Terrell Davis to a Martian.
Jason Priestley showed us chocolate martinis at the Hotel Astor.
The Broncos' team bus arrived at the stadium, then the Falcons' team bus arrived.
Thankfully, there was an enjoyable All-Madden Millennium Team special, in which, through technical wizardry, John Madden had a conversation with Vince Lombardi. (If it were CBS's Super Bowl, we would've gotten Sam Wyche chatting with Lou Saban.)
Man, it was a long pregame.
I'll be honest with you -- I don't need to see that much of Bill Maas on a weekend.
Plus, I've always felt there's a fine line between a "pregame" and a "telethon." (Actually, the goal on each is the same -- to accumulate as much money as possible before going off the air.)
Have I mentioned the commercials?
Let me say this: The Big New Yorker from Pizza Hut tastes like New York-style pizza about as much as the Old Country at Busch Gardens feels like old Europe.
And, yeah, like I'm going to order the 24-ounce porterhouse steak at Sizzler.
Incidentally, I hope Yahoo! got a volume discount on all its ads.
Anyway, Cher sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" in blue jeans. (What, she can't wear a cocktail dress? It is our National Anthem.)
Mercifully, the game finally began at 6:25. (The Super Bowl kickoff is always a little late, like a Delta flight.)
Fox had 31 cameras on hand -- one for each player on the field, plus nine to cover Shannon Sharpe's mouth.
We got the familiar, soothing voices of Pat Summerall and John Madden. At this point, these guys are so venerable they're one of recorded history's three greatest couples -- Adam and Eve, Starsky and Hutch, Summerall and Madden. Heck, Summerall has said, "First down," more than the America Online guy has said, "You've got mail."
Unfortunately, these days Summerall also makes more mistakes than a House manager. But we forgive him; Summerall and Madden just sound right even if, on occasion, they speak wrong.
This is how the game unfolded: The Falcons ran a few plays, then there were a bunch of commercials. After that, the Broncos ran a few plays, then there were a bunch of commercials. This continued for quite some time.
There were terrific back-to-back ads for American Express (Jerry Seinfeld) and the WWF (sex and violence). There also was silver-spooned Bud man August A. Busch III uttering the Madison Avenue line of the century: "Prohibition was an extremely difficult period for the Busch family." (Now, that's a revelation -- the ban of beer hurt a company that sells beer. Huh.)
Unfortunately -- though, perhaps, not unexpectedly -- Fox was in commercial for a Keanu Reeves movie when the ball was snapped on John Elway's 80-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith in the second quarter. I'm telling you, Marx and Engels may have had a point about capitalism being the most destructive, corrosive force known to mankind.
At the end, it was Denver 34, Atlanta 19, Fox $155 million in ad sales.
There was a postgame show, but I turned it off for fear of being sucked into the abyss of the post-postgame show. Besides, I wanted to yahoo.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company