Well we are now three days out from the Super Bowl and I finally have some time to focus on a recap of the most important things. I am a Pats fan, so will basically leave the game alone. No question that the Giants were the better team going in, but the Pats still should have won the game.
Betting spreads: Going into the game everyone was asking how Vegas could possibly have the Patriots as the favorites when the Giants were not only a better team but were playing better. I agree with both points, but those who were spouting such ideas have no idea, apparently, how point spreads are created. Vegas is not concerned with who will win the game. They don't actually care. What they want to do is to get equal bets on both sides, so that in the end they don't lose money, but in fact make money. That is why the betting line will move as the event gets closer. If the bets are not coming in 50-50 then they will correct for it. I know that most "analysts" know this information but don't talk about it because they think it makes for good television. It doesn't, it just makes them look ignorant and makes me want to throw my remote at the screen. (And the United Methodist Church is opposed to gambling in all its forms, so don't do it.)
Commercials: The commercials this year did not live up to past years in any way shape or form. In fact most were just bad. There were a couple of good ones, but they were by far the exception to the rule. Even the Budweiser ads were bad. The one commercial that most people are now talking about was the "Half-time in America" ad featuring Clint Eastwood. I will address this specifically at another time, but I didn't really get it. If it's half-time, I guess that means there is only another 30 minutes left for America?
Half-Time Show: In an interview before the game began, Madonna said she did not think she was chosen because she had become mainstream. If she is not mainstream, then who is? It was also obvious that at 53 she can no longer do the dance moves she used to do. I watched the show but completely missed M.I.A. giving the finger, obviously I was not paying close enough attention, probably because I had no idea who she was. But seemingly every year there is something that happens that gets people upset. I think they actually like this because we are still talking about it. But here are two simple solutions to solve the problem.
First, put a decency clause in the performers contracts that says if they do anything indecent (like showing a nipple or flipping the bird) they will be fined an insane amount of money. I'm thinking in the $2-$5 million dollar range, with the money to be given to a charity in the host city (and not an NFL run group). The second thing is to just get rid of the whole thing all together. A normal half-time is 12 minutes. Why can't the Super Bowl half-time be the same. Show us the talking heads and then let's get back to the game. Why do we need a "spectacular"? And if we do somehow need this do it before or after the game. That would ultimately solve their problems.
Pregame: Why is it that the pregame is four times as long as the game itself? There is not that much to talk about. If they do need something this long, they could do some really interesting things (see my suggestion below under analysts) that would truly help.
Analysts: This is more to ESPN then others, but why do I have to continue listening to failed NFL coaches talk about strategy. Eric Mangini, or the "mangenius," was only a genius when he was on Bill Belichik's staff. He was 33-47 as a head coach, so why do I have to hear him talk?
Second, please make sure the people calling the game understand the rules. Al Michaels seemed general shocked that an intentional grounding in the endzone results in a safety. Did he not know this?
Third, and this could be a perfect thing to do during the pregame blather, the Super Bowl is the one time during the year when you know there will be lots and lots and lots of people watching who know absolutely nothing about football. So, it would seem to me this is the perfect time to do some education, do a football 101 during the telecast (like saying what a safety is and what that means) so that those who don't know the game can learn something, and maybe then want to watch more because they actually are actually learning the game. Or maybe coordinate with Lifetime or the O channel, and do a show specifically targeted as women so they can know what's happening and become better fans. I know it's thinking outside the box. The NFL thinks they will always be popular and they don't need to educate or attract new fans. Just ask the MLB, or the church for that matter, how that works.
Strategy: Okay, so here is a bit of football. I liked Belichick's decision to let the Giants score. The question is why he didn't do it as soon as they reached the 7, rather than waiting until second down. In the infamous 4th and 2 decision against the Colts several years ago, I wrote that he should have let the Colts score right away rather than trying to stop them. He did make a crucial error in his challenging a play, but letting them score was exactly the right move.
Heckling: Gisele Bundchen is receiving some flack for calling out the Patriot receivers by saying that they were dropping balls they should have caught after someone heckled her on the way out of the stadium. First, she is correct in her statement. I said immediately after the game that Manning's receivers helped him out, and Brady's didn't. But, second, and more importantly, why is no one commenting on how uncalled for heckling the family members of players is? Heckle the players all you want, they are being paid (although this sometimes goes over the top as well). But families should be totally out of bounds. When did this become acceptable behavior?
Timing: Finally, can someone explain to me why the game is on Sunday? I know that traditionally NFL games are on Sunday, but now they are on Thursday night, and also on Saturday, especially during the playoffs, so why not move the game? Doing so would also allow people to be able to recover before going back to work on Monday.
Now we move into several weeks when football is over and baseball has yet to begin. These are the worst sports weeks of the year.