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Who, Us Bloodthirsty?
Posted on Jan 31, 2011
By Mark Heisler
The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate, it’s the sand of the Colosseum.
All Super Bowls are called great, from the actually great like III (Joe Namath guarantees, delivers first AFC victory) to yawners like XL (or 40 for those not fluent in Roman numerals, Steelers dispatching Seahawks in Detroit’s Ford Field).
Super Bowls are like inaugurations or State of the Union addresses, emblematic of our way of life, if only ceremonially.
Of course, we all know it’s just a game and all the faux Roman pageantry is a facade, like the layout at Caesars Palace or the knockoff Doric columns ringing Jack Kent Cooke’s Fabulous Forum.
You can see the progress we’ve made in human history. Combatants no longer fight to the death or are fed to wild beasts.
Aside from that. ...
As the blood in the sand of the Colosseum, Rome’s state-funded, state-of-the-art arena with luxury suites built by the Emperor Vespasian in the year 72, 116 years after Julius Caesar’s death, was said to embody Rome, so the Super Bowl embodies Western society in so many ways.
Want to know how the economy’s going?
In actual dollars, the Super Bowl is an infinitesimal piece of a massive gross national product.
In fact, it serves as a showcase, showing not only how the economy is performing as a whole, but what sectors are driving it, what companies no one knew existed (Go Daddy?) are on the make and how creative and indulgent sponsors and ad agencies feel.
This season’s ad rates for 30 seconds go to $3 million, up from last year’s $2.8 million in a soft ad environment, prompting Intel, Papa John’s and KGB to drop out.
If you missed KGB’s spot with a sumo wrestler wiping out a skinny guy wearing the traditional mawashi, or as we would call it, thong, who’s trying to find “I surrender” in Japanese on his handheld via Google, it’s a search engine—not the dreaded Russian intelligence service.
It’s a mistake anyone could make, such as USA Today, which links this KGB to previous stories on the other KGB.
The other KGB, of course, isn’t likely to buy a Super Bowl spot ... at least in the immediate future, say, before LV (55).
It’s hard to remember where we are on the Roman calendar, but from III to this year’s XLV (45), the song remains the same.
Unfortunately, it’s preceded by two weeks of hype so momentous the game would have a hard time living up to it if it had The Second Coming at halftime.
This year it’s only the Black Eyed Peas with the NFL once again secure enough to go without superstars such as Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake (2004), Paul McCartney (2005), Prince (2006), the Rolling Stones (2007), Tom Petty (2008), Bruce Springsteen (2009) and The Who (2010).
Besides, rock divas are even wackier than football divas, pulling stunts such as Jackson’s breast-baring, nation-horrifying “wardrobe malfunction.”
Two years later, Prince played an oddly shaped guitar with a long appendage curling upward from its body so that when they dropped a sheer curtain, it looked as though he was masturbating in silhouette.
Cue Middle America for the usual horrified reaction.
To quote Hank Williams Jr., the famed rowdy who nonetheless stood up for the values candidates in the last presidential election, “Are you ready for some football?”
(New generations are a pain, all around. Hank Jr. wrote a song telling Hank III, his even-farther-out son, “Take the old man’s advice, be nice and lose the F word.”)
Happily, aside from all this Social Significance, there’s a game involved, or there will be eventually.
This involves those iconic franchises, the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, a dream matchup.
OK, a good matchup.
All right, it’s better than Steelers vs. Seahawks.
The dream matchup would have pitted the Chicago Bears, whose first owner, George Halas, all but invented the NFL, against the New York Jets, princes of the Johnny Come Lately American Football League, who slew the Baltimore Colts in III, elevating it from ceremonial mismatch to marquee event overnight.
Pittsburgh is a small big city and Green Bay a hamlet you might never have heard of if it hadn’t somehow hung on to its team in the American Professional Football Association, while those such as the Decatur (Ill.) Staleys, the A.E. Staley Food Starch Co.’s team, moved to the city and became the Bears.
New York, of course, is the market of markets, pulling in fans from all over, if only to root against its teams.
Chicago is the No. 3 market but drips soul, as demonstrated by its fans who set about deconstructing quarterback Steve Bartman, er, Jay Cutler after Da Bears’ loss to Green Bay.
Cutler had been a vast improvement over recent Bear quarterbacks, which still leaves a lot of room between him and Tom Brady, but was ineffective before being forced out with a knee injury.
After that, when TV cameras showed him on the sidelines, he didn’t demonstrate enthusiasm, or undergo surgery on the spot, or even an MRI so everyone could see he was hurt.
NFL players from all over tweeted insults that would set off riots if voiced about teammates in their own locker rooms.
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