For my money, the party we attended last night was the highlight of a Super Bowl Sunday evening that was fairly ordinary in most respects.
And for many, that’s what this annual American celebration comes down to anyway, an opportunity to be with friends, eat, drink and share a good time. So I’ll make short work of Super Bowl XLV in my traditional (meaning I’ve done it more than one year in a row) Super Bowl Blog Post.
The game: In the interest of full disclosure if you don’t know the writer, I approached last night’s battle between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers with a rooting interest. Pittsburgh is one of two NFL cities that Jayne and I have lived in, the other of course being here in Charlotte. We were in the ‘Burgh from 1992-94, bridging the end of the Chuck Noll era and the beginning of Bill Cowher’s tenure as coach. It was easy to get caught up in the city’s enthusiasm for the team, which made the playoffs in both of our seasons in Pittsburgh – good but not great teams.
Anyway, the Steelers’ 31-25 loss was disappointing, but it’s hard to win a game when your offense commits three turnovers that lead to touchdowns by the other team. You can read more detailed and better analysis elsewhere so I’ll leave it at that.
But first a very random fact: The Steelers’ successful two-point conversion after their last touchdown helped create the first 31-25 final score in an NFL game since Pittsburgh beat the Philadelphia Eagles by that count in September 1952.
The music: A huge deal is being made about singer Christina Aguilera flubbing the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the kickoff. I guess that as a sportswriter for more than 35 years, I’ve heard the National Anthem butchered with so much regularity that, although I noticed the gaffe, it didn’t much bother me. (The best version I’ve heard at a sports event in a long time was delivered recently at a basketball game by a middle-school chorus from Rock Hill, S.C. It was a great argument for keeping co-curricular activities like that in school districts’ budgets.)
I admire anyone who tries to take this song on, no matter how well or miserably they do. It’s a difficult melody, and Francis Scott Key’s early 19th century diction in the lyrics makes it a tough one to recover from if you draw a blank for even a second.
I’ve always loved the story told about the country singer Charlie Rich, who was asked back in 1974 or ’75 to sing the anthem at a World Football League home game of the Memphis team, partially owned by Rich’s longtime pal Elvis Presley.
Rich drew a blank from the beginning, starting something like, “Oh, say can you see when it’s cloudy at night?” and going downhill from there.
Defeated, Rich was greeted with sympathy by Elvis when he joined The King in the owners’ box: “That’s a tough song to sing.”
“It sure ain’t no ‘Behind Closed Doors,’” Rich said, referring to his most famous hit song.
Anyway, Aguilera, who grew up near Pittsburgh in the suburb of Wexford, Pa., looked similarly defeated afterwards. Like Elvis said, it’s a tough gig.
I can’t comment with any degree of authority on the halftime show by the Black-Eyed Peas, who have done maybe two or three songs that I could name. The baby-boomer-heavy crowd I was with, frankly, wasn’t paying a lot of attention. But my students assure me they weren’t very good.
But this does give me a chance to share a link to a song of theirs that I do like. It’s their take on “Mas Que Nada,” the old bossa nova song by Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66, with a guest appearance by Sergio himself, who turns 70 this week, on piano. I don’t know, it just works for me.
The Commercials: I saw a few that I liked. Frito-Lay must’ve spent a fortune for ads in this game and I enjoyed the one with the super-excited pug breaking down the door to get to his Doritos snack. Like most of my Facebook friends, I also found the Volkswagen commercial with the kid in the Darth Vader costume a winner.
Good heartstrings tugging by the carmaker, and a good fit for a day that’s a fun, feel-good occasion for Americans.