There are many things to talk about before the Super Bowl on Sunday.
There's speculation on where Alex Smith will go now that Colin Kaepernick is the new starter. There's curiosity over whether Roger Goodell will be treated with open arms after mishandling the Bountygate issue. There's the talk about the Harbaugh brothers and how their emotions will be facing each other. There's differing opinions from players, former players, and experts as to whether President Obama said the right thing about having second thoughts about letting his son play football if he had one. There's some controversy over Ray Lewis after his response to a Sports Illustrated cover story alleging that he took performance enhancing drugs and comments from a 49er cornerback saying that gays weren't welcome in the locker room in a time when there's more tolerance of gays in America today.
But there's a topic around the Super Bowl that's not being discussed: The party atmosphere surrounding the game itself. Sorry Randy Moss.
Listen, when it comes to the Super Bowl we know that when there's over 100 million viewers whether they are die hard fans of the game (and the NFL has legions of them) and the causal sports fans or people who may not be much into football but still watch because of the fact that it's a big event. There's bound to be a lot of advertisers clamoring to spend millions on ads that have become a part of the game's telecast. I don't have a problem with that. I mean, heck, if I was a marketer or head of a Fortune 500 company I'd tell the best advertising agency money can buy to push our products for the Super Bowl.
But as a fan I wonder whether we need the celebrities and the extra parties surrounding the game itself. I'll be quick on Beyonce for a second. I don't think she should apologize for lip-syncing the national anthem at the end of the inauguration last week as some of the military band alleged she did while admitting they didn't play their instruments at all. I just think she should explain herself on what really happened. Maybe she will before or after the halftime show. I think she's a great choice for the show. She and her husband Jay Z are huge sports fans and they're more than welcome but does the Super Bowl need much of the pomp and circumstances that make the Super Bowl spectacle than sport?
This growth in excess in Super Bowl party week didn't start with the now-famous Apple "big brother" ad in 1984 nor did it start when Bugs Bunny started doing cameos with Michael Jordan in his Nike Air Jordan ads. It started 20 years ago when Michael Jackson replaced many conventional halftime shows that were as traditional as the Lombardi Trophy a year after Fox (before it got into NFL TV broadcasts) sucked out viewers from the halftime show thanks to a special halftime skit from "In Living Color". The Wayans brothers' produced special didn't beat out the Super Bowl halftime show or the game but it grabbed enough viewers that the NFL was suddenly in a panic that they needed something to keep fans in the game if it was a blowout at a time when a lot of them were.
That time comebacks and last-minute drives like Joe Montana's in Super Bowl XXII against the Bengals were a rarity. But in Super Bowl XXVII, the King of Pop's appearance was so buzz worthy it not only kept many viewers in, more people watched that than the game itself: which was a blowout. The only moment other than Jackson's show that was remembered during the Cowboys blowout of the Bills was Leon Lett showboating before he strolled into the end zone only to have the ball swatted out from Don Bebee.
The games have been more exciting since then. No team representing a conference dominates the big game anymore. There's more parity in the league and there has been a growth in great last-second moments in the past 16 years.
There's John Elway's dive for a first down against three Green Bay defenders in his Super Bowl XXXII win that eluded him for so many years. We've held our collective breath watching the end of Super Bowl XXXIV seeing Kevin Dyson stopped one yard short of bringing the Titans and Rams into overtime. New Orleans jumped for joy when Tracy Porter snatched a Peyton Manning pass that secured a Saints win and Drew Brees embracing his little son Baylen in his arms. And we'll always wonder to this day how David Tyree held on to the ball using his helmet to keep the Giants's game winning drive alive to stop the Patriots from becoming the second undefeated team in NFL history.
Does that mean the NFL will stop using celebrities in the game telecasts? Nope. They've doubled down on that. The headlining halftime acts have cameos during the show like the Black Eyed Peas with Usher, Shania Twain with No Doubt, and Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson that ended in the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" which took away attention from a thrilling forth quarter in Super Bowl XXXVIII with the Patriots edging out the Panthers.
That led to the NFL replacing present hit-makers with classic stars like Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen, and the Who. After that though, music's present stars were back and Madonna's halftime show according to Nielsen had more viewers in the show's half hour that the Giants-Patriots rematch itself. For the most part we haven't seen shocking moments in the halftime show since Janet Jackson's boob was exposed though there was some discussion about M.I.A.'s middle finger last time.
All in all, the commercials, the celebrities, the parties, and the week long media coverage are now a part of the Super Bowl week.
I'm flattered as a fan that people call Super Bowl Sunday an unofficial American holiday. But I sometimes wonder if the Super Bowl needs all of that.
Beyonce is a great halftime show act and the commercials get better every year (and i'm sure Kate Upton will look great as she's been for a couple of years now). But for the most anticipated sporting event of the year to have a lot of show around the biggest game of the year it makes me wonder if the NFL should stop doing a lot of additions to the Super Bowl and think more about not obsessing with expanding the season.
It also makes me wonder if the the Academy should add more nominations to it's categories instead of just motion picture so that Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, and Samuel L. Jackson won't get snubbed.
The Oscars tweaks with who's hosting like putting edgy Seth McFarlane on the show, but can't they just focus on expanding the nominations. Well, that's another story.
The Super Bowl needs no more fixing. The commercials can stay and I'll give a pass to Beyonce even though controversy over what really happened at the end of the inauguration will no doubt bring in as many viewers as Madonna show did last year. But we should focus on The Harbaughs, Ray Lewis, Kaepernick, Randy Moss (haven't forgotten you), Michael Oher, Terrell Suggs, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, and the players on both teams who fought for seasons past and all year through injuries and adversity to play on Sunday.
It is a celebration all right. But it's a celebration of athletic achievement. A celebration of sport. After all for a league that is still popular despite a lot of controversy off the field with the replacement referees, Bountygate, the murder suicides, and the issue of concussions, the NFL (Goodell included) is thankful that the game itself is what fans want to be taking about even though Beyonce and Kate Upton will be taking much of that conversation away no matter who wins.