Monday, February 5, 2018 at 6:43 AM

Eagles Soar Over Patriots to Win Super Bowl LII 41-33

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

The National Anthem

I usually comment on this ritual just to pooh-pooh it. Because I invariably measure each performance against the rousing rendition Whitney Houston gave at Super Bowl XXV in 1991. And no performer has ever measured up. I doubt any ever will.

Perhaps this is why Pink attempted to preempt criticism and bank sympathy by leaking stories about battling the flu. To be fair, she did better than I would’ve expected even if she were perfectly healthy.

Never mind that her voice might’ve sounded better if she were singing upside down from her now familiar circus wires.

Lucky for her, most viewers were probably too busy looking to see which, if any, football players were kneeling. After all, thanks to President Trump, this sideline protest became the focus of most games this season.

President Trump on Sunday morning renewed his demand that NFL owners fire or suspend players who kneel during the national anthem in protest, again urging that fans should boycott the sport to force change.

(Washington Post, September 24, 2017)

This explains why players began kneeling as much to give the finger to Trump as to further their declared intent of protesting police brutality and racial injustice.

But not a single player kneeled tonight, which was very sensible as it punted Trumpian distraction. In fact, the only people who kneeled during the anthem were the ones holding that gigantic, unfurled flag. Oh, the irony.

The Game

After the teams matched each other with impressive opening drives that ended in field goals, I thought it was going to be another one of those close games, which the Patriots invariably win.

Then the Eagles ended their second drive with a 34-yard bomb for a touchdown, but they botched the gimme extra point. Except that the Patriots ended their second drive by botching a gimme field goal.

I knew then that my Eagles were destined to win. Nick Foles affirmed this when he upstaged Brady by showing how a quarterback is supposed to catch a pass on a trick play. Brady fumbled his catch off his fingertips; Foles caught his for a touchdown no less, bringing the halftime score to 22-12.

Everything had lined up for the New England Patriots to once again storm to a last-minute Super Bowl victory, but Brandon Graham, a standout defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles, shot through the offensive line and his strip sack of Tom Brady ended the threat, handing the Eagles a shocking 41-33 upset in Super Bowl LII and the team’s first championship since 1960.

(New York Times, February 4, 2018)

It was a fun game; that is, if you’re into those all-star games where the defense lets the offense drive and score at will. It’s almost shameful that these teams racked up 1,151 yards between them, the most in NFL history – by far. Brady passed for 505 of those yards, the most for any playoff game; Foles, for 373.

Incidentally, with all due respect to Gisele, the most interesting question this off season will not be whether her husband Tom will return next year after this loss. It will be whether backup Foles will return as the starting quarterback for the Eagles after this win.

With all due respect to him, I don’t think he will. Moreover, I don’t think he should. After all, starter Carson Wentz had an MVP run of regular-season games before he got injured. And, but for that run, Foles would not have had the opportunity for his once-in-a-lifetime run of playoff games.

A healthy Wentz has earned the right to start and only bad play should cause him to lose that right. Besides, let’s not forget that Foles began this season as a journeyman backup quarterback for good reason.

Sorry, Nick.

I will only add that I was all too mindful that the Patriots trailed the Falcons 3-21 at halftime last year and still came back to win 34-28. So the mere thought of this made me sick to my stomach. Which brings me to Justin Timberlake’s performance.

The Halftime Show

Whether fronting the boy band NSYNC or imitating the king of pop Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake has never impressed me as a singer. I mean, what does it say that background vocals and instrumentals are always the best parts of his songs?

Ironically, he is never more entertaining than when he sings for sketch performances (of bits like “Dick in a Box” and “Motherlover”) on comedy/talk shows like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show.

Therefore, Timberlake paying any kind of tribute to Prince could only strike me as a vaudevillian spoof. At least he was sensible enough to play Prince’s own vocals over his when he performed “I Would Die 4 U.” But this hardly compensated for the wanton disrespect he showed last week. This punk threw an alcohol-fueled listening party for his latest album at teetotaler Prince’s Paisley Park … because he could afford to. The friggin’ nerve!

Yes, they played this game in His Purple Majesty’s beloved Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is why it smacks of tone-deafness that the NFL failed to nab Bruno Mars for this gig. After seeing his tribute to Prince at the 2017 Grammys, league officials should have pursued any means necessary to sign him – even if that meant canceling contractual obligations to Timberlake. I doubt any viewer would have begrudged Mars making his third halftime appearance, for such a worthy tribute, instead of Timberlake making his second.

Apropos of which, you probably recall that “Nipplegate” stunt he pulled off with Janet Jackson during their Super Bowl performance in 2004. What you may not know is that he let her suffer all the backlash.

It is widely believed that Timberlake’s career continued to skyrocket after the performance, while Jackson was, as one Jackson family member told People, ‘blackballed’ from major performances.

(Vanity Fair, February 4, 2018)

This is why my lack of interest in him as a singer is surpassed only by my lack of respect for him as a man. Incidentally, a browse of most female Instagram accounts will put the puritanical social mores of just 14 years ago into disrobing relief.

But the irony is not lost on me that, in this #MeToo moment, it is he and not she who has been so redeemed as to be invited back. No doubt this is why Janet responded with such indignation and shade to frenzied speculation about her joining Timberlake as his surprise guest. Notably, she didn’t even mention his name, but these words spoke volumes:

I will not.

— Janet Jackson (@JanetJackson) February 3, 2018

So, yeah, I spent most of his halftime show taking a leisurely bathroom break.

The Commercials

The most memorable Super Bowl commercials of all time have no celebrity faces. Hell, some even feature animals.

Therefore, I can only regard it as a despairing homage to our celebrity-driven culture that so many of these commercials featured celebrities. Hell, one got the impression of watching a special celebrity edition of Super Bowl commercials.

I could not have been less interested. Not to mention this abiding lament, which I first sounded in “NFL Conference Championship Sunday: Hail, Broncos! Hail, Panthers!” January 25, 2016.

____________________

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 that 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?

____________________

Ditto this year!

Frankly, using MLK’s inspiring words to sell Ram trucks is the surest way to get me to boycott all Fiat Chrysler products. But here is why I am not at all surprised that his heirs have reduced his legacy to this form of crass commercialism:

King’s legacy has not been enhanced by the squabbling amongst his four children – pitting two of them who regard it as their inheritance to use for their personal benefit against the other two who regard it as a public trust for them to manage as zealous trustees. …

Now both sides have hired lawyers to hurl pot-calling-the-kettle-black accusations at each other about misusing and abusing their parents’ legacies for personal gain. …

MLK and Coretta must be rolling over in their graves.

(“Children of Martin Luther King Jr. Continue Family Feud Over His Legacy,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 15, 2008)

That said, I feel compelled to call out Morgan Freeman. After hawking the wonder of Turkish Airlines last year, I didn’t think he could do any more to sellout his cool image and “hot” voice.

Reports are that the airlines fired hundreds of workers and froze the salaries of remaining employees in order to pay Freeman millions. But I suppose, if you sell yourself once as a TV-commercial mercenary, the only question you have thereafter is: How much?

And PepsiCo probably paid him twice as much. Only that explains his lip-sync rap battle against Peter Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) to hawk this corporate hegemon’s Doritos and Mountain Dew brands.

I also feel compelled to note the irreparable harm Matt Damon did to his wholesome reputation with his boneheaded comments about sexual harassment. His commercial made this painfully clear.

Unlike the mercenary Freeman, he was pitching the charitable cause of providing clean water for poor people in developing countries. Yet he came across like a Catholic bishop extolling the virtues of missionary work in Africa, knowing it’s just a pun for pedophile priests routinely raping little boys over there.

That’s a wrap!

Related commentaries:
Super Bowl LI
Conference championship Sunday
MLK legacy

* This commentary was originally published Sunday night, February 4, at 10:21 p.m.

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