Before the Super Bowl, I had huge issues of conscience about watching when I wasn’t being paid to cover it. However, it worked out because I witnessed the worst “strategy” I can recall from any major sporting event.
“They’ll just give it to the big guy,” I said as the Seahawks lined up on the 5-yard line with time to run four plays. Of course, Marshawn Lynch would lug it in. But the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator and head coach agreed on a second-down pass from the 1, and it was picked off, boggling the sports-savvy watchers, two of them Fleahawks fans.
I’ll leave the details to reporters who were there. I just want to say that in over 50 years of covering sports, I have never seen a decision that bad.
I’ve seen botched passes in the final seconds of basketball title games, pitches that got away in the World Series. I saw Harold Snepsts of Vancouver fire a cross-ice pass that wound up on the lethal stick of Mike Bossy, in a Stanley Cup game. I saw the referee totally miss (or ignore) the blatant Hand of God punched “goal” by Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup. I wasn't there, honest, but Babe Ruth, a very heady player, was thrown out trying to steal second for the last out of the 1926 World Series.
I can also think of coaches and managers making personnel decisions that backfired – Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in too long and paying with his job in 2003; the Dodgers’ choosing Ralph Branca instead of Carl Erskine in 1951; the bullpen coach, a fine man named Clyde Sukeforth, was scapegoated; my man Butch Van Breda Kolff kept Wilt Chamberlain on the bench in the final moments of an NBA championship game because Wilt had said he had a sore knee; Butch paid with his job. What happens to a very good coaching staff that puts the ball in the air with three downs and more than a minute to go, at the goal line?
The game was better than all the other stuff. John Travolta’s favorite singer sounds like chalk scratching on the blackboard. The half-time show was an open invitation to walk the dog, even if you don’t have one. And the commercials went nowhere. I laughed harder at Flo in a Salem-witch gig on the Progressive ad Monday morning.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I watched the Super Bowl. It’s like eating fried foods -- makes you appreciate healthier fare.
Pitchers and catchers!
(Here's what I wrote Saturday when facing my dilemma.)
After consulting theologians, ethicists, lawyers and soothsayers, I have concluded that I will not be committing a grave moral sin if I watch the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Since I normally denigrate pro football (and college football), it would seem hypocritical to watch the big game. However, I can justify it on these grounds:
1. I will be watching with actual fans. Laura and Diane moved back from Seattle recently with an attachment to the team they fondly call the Fleahawks. They know about the players and the coaches and bring real sports knowledge to the strategy. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Super Bowl with fans. I’ve either been in the neutral press box or, semi-secretly, watched at home, purely for the sociological experience. To watch with authentic fans should be, how to say this, interesting.
2. I’m really only watching for the commercials. This has been my rationalization in other years when I hunkered down at home. The game takes forever, often is a dud, but I am entranced by the new and expensive commercials, sometimes crude and stupid, sometimes even touching, like the Eminem automobile spot a few years back, using Detroit’s struggle as the theme. Plus, I love the energy and pulchritude – young women in bathing suits in the frozen North. Most commercials I see on a certain liberal-bias news-chatter channel refer to maladies of the aging – things that don’t work very well anymore. This will be a relief to watch healthy young folks.
3. This could be a morality play. What with the deflated footballs, one could work up a good-vs-evil theme here, although that is always tricky when football coaches are involved. Still, feel free.
4. Let’s be honest: the athleticism is tremendous. The only football I watched all season was a Seattle playoff three weeks ago. I watched a receiver propel himself toward the corner, rotate in mid-air, and plant the ball on the flag for a touchdown, just before he crashed to earth. Huge defensive linemen performed balletic turns. Quarterbacks read defenses with half a ton about to fall on them. I get it.
5. The Super Bowl is essentially a rite of passage into spring training. The Los Angeles Dodgers stage workouts in their pastel stadium and photos go out all over the world, spreading the good news that darkness will pass and light will return. Pitchers and catchers in a few weeks. Hang on.
6. Plus, the snacks will be good.
My wife says football is still stupid, people destroying their brains and bodies. The league never much cared until forced to, recently. Hard to forget that. Still, for therapeutic purposes, I have granted myself a dispensation to watch the Super Bowl.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.