Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
To celebrate CC2K's inaugural Sports Week, we're flashing back to one of the few sports-related articles to appear on the site: Tony Lazlo's reaction to the broadcast of Super Bowl XLII and the New York Giants' historic upset of New England.
Fox dedicated the bulk of their Sunday broadcast lineup to football-related Super Bowl coverage that included an unnecessarily awkward red carpet and an array of programming that was indistinguishable from the commercials.
The game also featured a decent set of commercials, which I'll get to later.
First, let's talk about the pregame coverage, which started a good six or seven hours before kickoff. I rolled out of bed in time for "Howie Long's Tough Guys," where the former NFL star introduced his favorite tough guys in pairs – one a former star, one a current player. I liked the package well enough, but Long always seemed to be within a few feet of a damn hybrid SUV, even though he was on a fucking ranch.
I remember gagging at an episode of CSI where a valet told the show's two lead investigators that he had found a body "in a PT Cruiser with heated seats," but Long's package completely fooled my brain's commercial-detection mechanisms by matching the color, definition, density and color of the actual show to the commercials that came with it, in which Long pitched for that damn hybrid SUV! Argh!
Then came Fox's promise to "bring Hollywood to the desert" with the first-ever Super Bowl red carpet. Enter Ryan Seacrest looking like the chess club president in a football locker room. Sure enough, it took one of the football commentators (Jimmy Johnson, I think) about three seconds to joke, "Ryan, the only way I though I'd ever see you on an NFL show was as a cheerleader!"
Seacrest, who I'm sure had been ready for that shit all day, gamely laughed and said, "Hey, this isn't my first barbecue."
Fox cut away to the red carpet periodically, where Seacrest did his best to interview prominent NFL front-officemen and the occasional celebrity, including Hugh Laurie, a Brit who was attending his first American football game ever. Seacrest pressed him for a prediction, doubtlessly at the behest of Fox. Fittingly, Laurie plucked the right team from the ether: "The … Giants," Laurie said to massive cheers.
Seacrest posed similar sports-related questions to everyone on the red carpet, including Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson and John Krasinski – and there's the problem. Earlier in the broadcast, Seacrest himself said that he was doing a red carpet "because you can't talk about Xs and Os for four hours."
Fair enough – Fox included Seacrest for the ladies (or non-football fans) stuck watching all the pregame nonsense. So why force any sports talk into it? Personally, I'm a full-time geek and a self-loathing, die-hard college football fan (more on that later), and I like to keep my geek entertainment away from my jock entertainment. I don't like mixing them, and I doubt Laurence Fishburne did, either, seeing as how he couldn't assemble a coherent thought about the game, and why should he? Not surprisingly, Krasinski was one of the few sports fans on the carpet, and the diminutive Seacrest still asked him for a prediction, even though the much taller Krasinski was wearing a Patriots cap. Seacrest just couldn't see it.
Ryan, buddy – I feel your pain.
Anyway, on to the commercials. I didn't see all of them, but I'd like to recognize a few strong entries and mention two terrible ones.
First, the losers:
Sobe Life Water. In this spot, supermodel Naomi Campbell walks onstage holding the product, which is some kind of invigorating drink.
Then a bunch of lizards join her. She takes a sip of the drink, but an errant drop electrifies the lizards, and they all start performing the dance routine from "Thriller." I am not making this up.
Besides this spot's disjointed, bewildering imagery, as a geek I object to using "Thriller" to promote a life-giving drink. That shit was full of zombies, dude!
Sales Genie. Holy fucking shit. I couldn't believe my eyes or my poor widdle ears. This company ran a couple of spots, both of which featured down-on-their-luck sales reps who turned to the company for better leads.
So what's the problem? In both of the spots I saw, the struggling sales reps were blatant ethnic caricatures – a middle-eastern (presumably Indian) guy working at a call center, and a family of Asian pandas. Watch below and be prepared to mouth "what the fuck" to yourself.
Now, the winners:
GoDaddy.com. The powerful domain registry nicely spoofed all of the hoopla surrounding wardrobe malfunctions, as well as their own racy Super Bowl ad from 2005. This year they sent fans directly to the Internet to see a "racier" spot featuring auto racer Danica Patrick.
You can watch the Internet-only spot at GoDaddy.com.
Iron Man. Jon Favreau and his creative team have yet to disappoint with any move they've made with Iron Man. The casting, the design and the promotion have all been spot-on, from the first teaser poster to this excellent spot:
Under Armor. I've seen a few spots for this sportswear company before, and I've always chortled at the lead actor's intensity. Previous spots have shown the overmuscled super-athlete delivering pep talks to his teammates – usually something like, "We must protect this hooouuuse!"
But this is the Super Bowl, so gone are the low-tech locker room settings in favor of a sweeping tone and oversaturated Michael Bay lighting. In this spot, various superathletes train against industrialized backdrops – giant fans, factories, towering cement buildings. One sprinter fights against a giant web of resistance bands. Speed skaters practice their stride on a surface of ice and stone.
The spot ends with the superathletes packing into a city center to hear the overmuscled lead dude proclaim, "The game has changed! It all starts today! You are the new prototypes! We are Under Armor! The future is oooours!"
You know what got me about this spot? It reminded me of Morpheus' big speech in The Matrix Reloaded – the way it should have been.
Finally, I'd like to offer my condolences to all New England Patriots fans. No, I'm not a secret Giants fan. Yes, I was cheering for New York, but that's only because I tend to pull for the underdog in games I don't care about, and CC2K's Rob Van Winkle is a Giants fan.
My point is, I'm not gloating, and neither should any sports fan, even if you despise the New England franchise.
I mentioned earlier that I’m a self-loathing college football fan. I hate myself for loving college ball because I think football should be illegal – it's way too violent – and yet I can't help but go insane every fall cheering for my team, the Tennessee Volunteers.
Any Tennessee fan can tell you how infuriating it is to follow this team, from the shoddy play in bowl games to the shitty passing game to general lack of discipline in the program.
And then there are the shocking, needless losses. I still get pissed when I think of the 9-6 loss to Alabama in 1990. Fuck, our own announcer couldn't even believe we had blocked a field goal to actually complete a stunning comeback at Notre Dame in 1991, so he called the game for the Irish and had to correct himself on the air.
But one loss stands out.
In 2001, Tennessee steamed through their division of the Southeastern Conference with only a last-second loss to Georgia. Tennessee's success set up an early December showdown with our archrival, Florida. The winner would go to the SEC title game to play for a chance to face Miami in the national championship game, which happened to be the granddaddy of them all, the fucking Rose Bowl.
For you college football non-maniacs out there, the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences traditionally play in the Rose Bowl – a monopoly only recently broken by a Byzantine new arrangement in the college football postseason.
Before the Big Ten/Pac-10 arrangement, Tennessee had played in two Rose Bowls – and we had never scored a point.
So back to the Florida game. Surprise: That wasn't the crushing loss. Tennessee upset Florida in a thrilling 34-32 contest – a win tinged with a weird, guilty sense of relief that the 9/11 terrorist attacks had delayed the game, typically played in early September. No one said it, but every Vol fan knew that the Tennessee team of early September wouldn't have won that game.
Nope. The crushing loss came in the SEC title game, where a streaking LSU team – on the rise to its current prominence – dismantled a Tennessee team it had already lost to that season. LSU ran away with it in the second half, 31-20.
Earlier, I mentioned "shocking and needless" losses. Of course, it's all about perspective. LSU's victory in the 2001 SEC title game may have been shocking to them, but it certainly wasn't needless. It set the tone for the program's success in the later years of this decade.
But for us poor Tennessee fans, still stuck with only one pristine national championship in 1998 – our 1951 national championship squad lost its bowl game – blowing a chance to play for it all in the Rose Bowl threw me into a daze for weeks.
I remember staring at the 2002 Cirtus Bowl at some mansion in Malibu on New Year's Day, slack-jawed, hungover and fending off the advances of a reedy-faced, pockmarked, meth-addict girl. If memory serves, Tennessee obliterated one of my favorite rhetorical piñatas, the Michigan Wolverines, 45-17.
It didn't fucking matter.
So hang in there, Patriots fans. NFL teams start their summer workouts in a few short months, and you're the reigning pro-football dynasty. I'm still waiting for my Rose Bowl.
Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.