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Trying to make sense of all the Super Bowl madness

Left Shark, one of the Super Bowl's biggest stars.
Iain Heath
Left Shark, one of the Super Bowl's biggest stars.

Super Bowl Sunday has become an unofficial national holiday.  Everybody can celebrate, no matter what your religion – or even if you don’t like football.

So, let’s break it down, starting with the ads, which cost $4.5 million a pop. 

For that kinda dough, you better not waste a second – but they wasted whole minutes.  The ads were depressingly serious. We saw dads driving racecars instead of raising their sons, and got a heartwarming story about a cute little kid who won’t be able to get cooties or learn to ride a bike - because, well, he’s dead. 

That was Nationwide Insurance’s friendly way of letting us know that accidents happen, and they can be fatal, even for cute little kids.  

What the heck?  This is a national holiday!  I take global warming seriously, too – but not on Super Sunday. 

The best ad, I thought, was Honda’s. It had no pyrotechnics, cutting edge computer graphics, or famous actors.  No, they talked about their car, and why you might like it -- that’s all.  But they didn’t mention a deadbeat dad or a dead kid – so, they win.   

Superbowl 49 also featured “DeflateGate”: a never-ending investigation of the New England Patriots’ balls, and if they were big enough. 

Before this scandal the NFL didn't care much about inflated balls.

After the kind of hard-hitting investigative journalism that brought us Watergate, various brilliant members of the fourth estate determined that, just maybe, the footballs Tom Brady uses were just a little deflated – from the perfectly fine 12.5 pounds per square inch to the possibly lethal 11.5 pounds per square inch.  And it’s just possible Brady deflated them intentionally.  Or he had the ball boy do it, during a 90-second trip to the bathroom, all caught on tape.  Or the ball boy was just going to the bathroom.  We’re not sure.  But we’re certain this is very serious stuff!

Before this scandal the NFL didn’t care much about inflated balls. If it did, it would have kept track of all everyone’s balls, and made all teams use the same ones.  But it doesn’t.  It lets both teams hold their own balls, and do whatever it likes with them, within reason.  But now the NFL has to care, because a few reporters say so. 

I can’t recall something so insignificant getting so much attention.  Deflategate is the Left Shark of football scandals.

Speaking of which, did you catch that Left Shark?  

I don’t think anyone or anything -- not Tom Brady, his super model wife, or his allegedly deflated balls – got as much attention as the Left Shark.  What did the Left Shark do?  During the endless half-time show, he stood to the left of Katy Perry, on the kind of feet sharks don’t usually have, while the shark on the right was dancing. As for the shark on the left, we’re still not sure exactly what he was doing, but whatever it was, it definitely wasn’t the same thing as the shark on the right. 

I think the Left Shark, inside the costume, might have been on fire, and was waving for help.  Perhaps Left Shark’s balls were deflating.  Or, just possibly, the Left Shark was an actual shark, gasping for water. 

... if it wasn't for Tom Brady's allegedly illegally grippable balls, or the Left Shark's Attack of Nerves Unrelated to Dancing, we'd be talking about a genuine domestic violence epidemic among NFL players.

You might say all this is so much Super Bowl silliness, and you’d be right. And the NFL should be grateful for it, because if it wasn’t for Tom Brady’s allegedly illegally grippable balls, or the Left Shark’s Attack of Nerves Unrelated to Dancing, we’d be talking about a genuine domestic violence epidemic among NFL players, or the seriousness of concussions going undiagnosed – including in the Super Bowl game itself.  Or we’d be talking about the NFL being the only major league that doesn’t provide players guaranteed contracts -- which is one reason two-thirds of them are broke when they retire.  Or we’d talk about NFL teams receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer money for shiny new stadiums, while the league itself is registered as a non-profit organization that does not have to pay taxes. 

And perhaps it’s a good thing we weren’t talking about all that.  If we did, Super Sunday would be as depressing as a Nationwide Ad. 

And who’d want to watch that?

John U. Bacon has worked nearly three decades as a writer, a public speaker, and a college instructor, winning awards for all three.
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