Monday, February 6, 2017 at 6:47 AM

Patriots Stun Falcons to Win Super Bowl 51

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

The National Anthem

Here is what I wrote about this ritual last year in “Broncos Tame Panthers to Win Super Bowl 50,” February 7, 2016.

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Whitney Houston set what might be an unsurpassable bar with her rendition at Super Bowl 25 in 1991. Arguably, last year, Lady Gaga came as close as any singer has since then. Of course, you could be forgiven if you were surprised — not just by how elegant she looked, but also by how well she sang. I was not.

Lady Gaga literally personifies the triumph of packaged and formulaic acts over talented performances. Which is rather a shame because this girl can sing.

(“2011 MTV Music Video Awards,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 30, 2011)

Brava, Gaga!

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The NFL duly vindicated my take by inviting Gaga back this year to headline the halftime show. It also validated the transformation she made over the past year – from a performer who relies on vaudevillian costumes and gimmicks to one who relies on her voice and musical talents. I hailed her transformation in “Ovation! Gimmicky Gaga Is Now Singer ‘Joanne,’” November 29, 2016.

As for the anthem, country singer Luke Bryan did the honors. Unfortunately, after Gaga last year, his rendition was about as newsworthy and entertaining as Jackie Evancho singing it at Trump’s inauguration – after Beyoncé sang it at Obama’s.

And, as if following Gaga wasn’t daunting enough, Bryan got upstaged even before he opened his mouth when three performers from the musical Hamilton sang “America the Beautiful.” By the way, was it just me or did he drone on forever …?

The Game

When the Falcons were up 21-0 with only 5 seconds left in the first half, I suspect only their most anxious fans worried about the Patriots overcoming that deficit in the second half.

Meanwhile, the game announcer was doing his best to quell their anxiety by continually remarking that no team had ever comeback to win a Super Bowl game from two, let alone three, touchdowns down.

As it turned out, those anxious Falcons fans were right to worry.

A new standard has been set, as Tom Brady of the New England Patriots became the first quarterback in NFL history to win five Super Bowls, leading his team to a 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

It looked like a blowout in Atlanta’s favor, with the Falcons racing to a 28-3 lead, but Brady, who had endured a great deal of pressure for much of the game, held tight and reeled off 25 consecutive points prior to the overtime period, getting a great deal of help with a circus catch by Julian Edelman that will help erase the painful memory of the Patriots once having been sunk by David Tyree’s helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII.

Then in the first overtime in Super Bowl history, the Patriots got the ball first, and as they have done so many times in Brady’s career, simply marched down the field, going 75 yards on 8 plays, winning the game on James White’s 2-yard touchdown run.

(New York Times, February 4, 2017)

Truth be told, watching the Patriots comeback from one, then two, and then three touchdowns down tonight was every bit as shocking and nauseating as watching Trump win Ohio, then Florida, and then Pennsylvania on election night.

But the real story of this game is how both teams allowed the other to score so many unanswered points. It was surprising enough that the Patriots allowed the Falcons to score 21 unanswered in the first half. But it was dumbfounding that the Falcons allowed the Patriots to score 31 unanswered in the second. With that, the Falcons didn’t deserve to win.

Of course, after Julian Edelman’s pinball catch, you knew the Patriots were destined to do to the Falcons what the Giants did to the Patriots in Super Bowl 42. No doubt every Football fan remembers David Tyree’s “helmet catch,” which kept a touchdown drive alive and helped the Giants stun the Patriots — who were on the threshold of completing a historic 19-0 “perfect” season.

That said, I feel obliged to note how much the Deflategate saga hovered over this game like a Damoclean sword. And fans understand all too well why this Patriots victory amounted to that sword chopping Commissioner Roger Goodell down to size. What’s more, their owner Bob Kraft clearly had revenge in mind when he proclaimed it the sweetest of them all.

Mind you, I felt the wrath of that avenging sword too. After all, nobody wrote more commentaries endorsing the way Goodell punished Brady and the Patriots for Deflategate than I: “NFL on Brady’s Appeal: He Cheated, then Lied, and then Obstructed Justice,” July 29, 2015, is probably damning enough in this respect.

Nonetheless, as one who never fails to give a man his due, I hereby join all fair-minded sports fans in hailing Tom Brady, with no asterisk, as the greatest quarterback, and Bill Belichick as the greatest coach, in NFL history.

Congratulations, New England!

The Halftime Show

I cheered Lady Gaga above for finally getting rid of her vaudevillian schtick and letting her talents entertain. Therefore, her awkward Michael Jackson poses and Cirque du Soleil stunts smacked a little of falling off the wagon. With respect to the latter, it didn’t work for Pink when she performed at the 2014 Grammy Awards, and she has not only the body but the voice for trapeze.

Still, above all, Gaga demonstrated that, among today’s pop stars, her voice is second only to Adele’s. And that was entertaining enough for me. I even liked the subtle anti-Trump statement she made by opening her gig with a stirring rendition of “This Land Is Your Land.”

The Commercials

Forgive me, but I can do no better than to reprise what I wrote about the commercials last year in “NFL Conference Championship Sunday: Hail, Broncos! Hail, Panthers!” January 25, 2016.

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I would be remiss not to comment on the annual hype surrounding Super Bowl commercials — for which companies are paying $5 million for a 30-second spot this year. Frankly, we are treated to so many previews that, by game time, they hold about as much interest as those eye-rolling commercials for erectile dysfunction.

I gather companies release them early to become trending topics online. Except that, like most topics on social media, people suck them up and spit them out in a viral flash.

Not so long ago, even die-hard fans waited with bated breath to see them air during the game; and the best ones trended, in real life, for days and weeks thereafter. These days, most people just see them as opportunities to go to the toilet.

Which raises the question: Why pay millions to run a commercial on TV during the Super Bowl, only to have people ignore it, when you can pay pittance to release it online during Super Bowl week, and generate viral interest? Surely it’s only a matter of time before this fact dawns on companies.

Then, of course, there’s this: I have watched many funny, even interesting Super Bowl commercials over the years. But none has ever moved me to purchase the product being advertised. You?

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Ditto this year!

Except that Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” – with its riff on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” – deserves honorable mention. It not only made wholly prescient political allusions to Trump’s travel ban, but also reinforced America’s founding truth about being a nation of immigrants.

Also, fellas, as one who has always done his share of domestic chores, I can personally attest that doing so will not fire up your woman’s libido as advertised in that Mr. Clean commercial.

Mind you, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do your bit. It’s just that you’ll probably get to enjoy her bits more if you do so regularly … without expecting to get lucky every time.

Related commentaries:
Lady Gaga
Broncos tame Panthers
NFC Championship conf
Deflategate
Brady cheated

* This commentary was originally published last night at 11:22

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