Remember when you were a kid and you would go to your tree Christmas morning and see all these great presents wrapped up and sitting there? And then you would open them up only to find underwear and socks? That was how the Super Bowl felt. Underwhelming. From a botched national anthem, a weak slate of commercials, a sleepy halftime show and a final score of Pittsburgh - 25, Green Bay – 31 that doesn't really indicate how the game was never that close, the whole thing just left me wanting more.
I applaud whoever made the decision to have the performers actually perform live instead of lip synching. However, when you do that, you end up with what happened…a fumble on the lyrics by Christina Aguilera. A real shame, because her rendition up to that point was strong and beautiful, yet will only be remembered for the flub.
As the game started, it seemed the Pittsburgh Steelers took a page from their game with the New York Jets, but it was the wrong page. The Steelers came out flat and didn't look ready to play for the entire first quarter. Much in the same way the Jets looked unprepared for the entire first half when they played in the conference championship game two weeks ago. Just like the Jets, the Steelers were playing catch up the rest of the game and were never able to get back in it. Yes, they threatened here and there, and at one point, it was even a three-point game and the Steelers seemed on the verge of making something happen. However, the Steelers kept shooting themselves in the foot with three turnovers that led to 21 points for Green Bay, and a really dumb penalty to ensure they were on the losing end. With Pittsburgh down by six and just over two minutes left, they took a kick-off from Green Bay for a chance at one final drive. For Keyaron Fox, a little used substitute who had 17 tackles all regular season to commit an unnecessary roughness personal foul at that point to get in an extra shove on a Packer and cost Pittsburgh 15 yards is inexcusable. I would bet Mr. Fox will be looking for new employment starting today. Additionally, NFL Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu was a non-factor the entire game. This is a guy who caused havoc to offenses all season long, but throughout the playoffs, and especially during the biggest game of the year, he was just another player. Added to that was the inability of Ben Roethlisberger to get anything going with the offense. Ben threw two interceptions and the offense looked out of synch for most of the game. Beyond that, they only showed flashes of life and excitement here and there. Lastly, adding to Pittsburgh's woes was one of the ugliest field goal attempts I think I have ever seen. Saying "wide left" does not do justice to the missed 47-yard attempt that would have brought the Steelers to within one point near the half. But that was the story all game for the Steelers - Shots at getting close, but not able to seal the deal.
Pittsburgh's failures however do nothing to diminish how well the Green Bay Packers played. Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers was workman-like and had his offense humming the entire game. The Packers moved the ball effectively on the ground and through the air and while there were no big plays for fans to go nuts over, Green Bay did what they did all season, which was come to play and execute their game plan to perfection. The bigger story though for Green Bay was just an extension of their regular season and that was having to overcome injuries to stars and still find a way to win. Defensive back and team leader Charles Woodson went down and was out of the game, and Pittsburgh still couldn't make consistent headway. Number one receiver Donald Driver went down, so Rodgers found solutions in Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings, who combined for three touchdowns. Quite simply, Green Bay came to work and went about their business in a non-flashy, understated way and got the job done.
Halftime entertainment was supposed to pep things up with the appearance of the Black Eyed Peas, the first act in eons that might be familiar to your kids as opposed to the geriatric performers of recent memory. Again, I applaud the live singing over lip synching. However when you have a multi-million dollar production on the line, you would think someone would remember to turn on the microphones before the start. Muffed up sound aside, the Peas looked stiff and tentative, and given how large an arena they were playing too, that didn't come off well. The most exciting part of the show was the brief cameo by Usher, who in his minute or so of stage time woke the whole place up to remind us this was supposed to be a party. Seeing rock guitarist Slash in another cameo was nice, but even he looked bored in his brief time on stage.
Lastly, the one thing fans and non-fans can usually agree on pre-game are the commercials, and how they will be so wonderful. Not so fast. For the most part, the spots aired during the game were just blah. The spot that got the best reception in my house was the NFL's own commercial that aired at the end of the third quarter and which celebrated football fans by using scenes from classic TV shows and having the characters dressed up in team regalia through the magic of computer animation. Seeing "The Fonz" with a foam finger and the cast of the Sopranos wearing NY Jets track suits, among other visuals, was genius. Beyond that, other commercials worth mentioning include the Bud Light/Dog Sitting commercial, the Doritos spot with the "crumb eater", the VW Passat ad with the mini Darth Vader and the trailers for Captain America and Thor. I would like to see the E-Trade baby grow up and have Danica Patrick and Go Daddy just go away at this point.
So another Super Bowl is in the books. With the uncertain labor situation in the NFL, it may be a while before we see any sort of game action again, but my fingers are crossed that come late summer 2011, we'll see teams suiting up again and working hard at training camps so the battle for ownership of the Vince Lombardi Trophy can begin anew.