Okay, about ready to rock 'n roll in Tampa. It's 7:58 here in Sendai, Japan.
Smart money is all with the Steelers. On NBC (which I am accessing through a hinky Internet connection -- so apologies if my commentary drops in and out), the rational analysts are all going with the Steelers (better D, been to the big dance before); the emotional analysts are going with the Cards (Warner's "comeback" and possible Hall of Fame end-run is a good story, the Cards have never been to the game before -- let alone, won).
Who do you think is going to win (and why?). And a different question: who would you prefer to see prevail?
(The rest of this post's updates below the jump . . . )
8:15 - 8:22: Faith Hill doing the "America, the Beautiful", Jennifer Hudson showing off her fabulous pipes with "The Star Spangled Banner" (wow!). is this her first public appearance since the tragedy in her Mom's Chicago home?
A little trivia, supplied from this site:
Question: "Who sang the national anthem in the first SB?"
Answer: Nobody according to http://www.wdyt.com/askhenry.shtml. The first Super Bowl national anthem was performed by the University of Arizona and University of Michigan marching bands in 1967
More on Hudson: according to The LA Times this is her first public appearance since the tragedy. (And a little background about Whitney Houston's performance in 1991, alog with other performers in the SB who also seem to have had a connection to the Oscars. more people than you would think -- including Sting and Phil Collins and Sir Paul. Interesting trivia, if you care to read).
8:35: Underway---- my pick?: Head: Steelers. Heart: Cards. Just so you know where I stand (and where the commentary may end up coming from).
8:36: Cards looking really shaky. Went for the fake, leaving Ward wide open, then couldn't contain on the edge on what was a rather simple running play.
8:38: Unless the Cards stiffen here, this could be a long, long day. They had good pressure on Big Ben, but Ben is so strong (and brave). he stood right in there in the face of the rush and threw a perfect dart on the single coverage.
The idea of kicking off to test how shaky Ben R. would be will be seen in retrospect, possibly as a mistake. If Pitt scores, then all the pressure swings to Warner to match immediately and keep the Cards buoyed.
And Ben is . . . in for a TD? Here's a challenge right away. Did the ball break the plane? Either way, Ben is STRONG. And he is willing to take a risk with his health in hopes of winning the big game.
Only in America: sporting events mediated by expert review. Another example of how sport mirrors society.
And . . . the cards really dodge a bullet with the booth's call. Just giving up the 3 was big for them. But that defense is really going to have to regroup over on the sideline or else this game will be over really quickly.
8:51: Ads. A major part of the SB experience. And in the first bunch is Bob Dylan invoked by Pepsi, with cultural and political and commercial references galore. And then a (stupid) Doritos ad where you gotta cringe thinking about how many takes were required for that boss to receive the globe in his groin. Yikes! Proving that not all acting jobs may be equal. Presumably the guy throwing the globe and the guy receiving it earned the same pay for the same amount of time on screen. So, which role do you wanna play?
8:56: The Cards are a step slow on everything; a beat behind in their thinking. The Steelers are getting to the edge at will, and the middle has been open for passes where the linebackers should be. So, man . . . this doesn't bode well. And with Big Ben making plays where he should be dead 3 different times (because of his mobility), that doesn't look like things are breaking for the Cards. That said, the game is still only 3-zip; if they can bend without giving up more than another field goal, then the game is still wide open. But, just as I say that Pitt slashes up the middle and is down to about the 10.
This game is not looking like the 6 point spread that Vegas laid on the game.
End of the first quarter and Ben is on a pace to break Warner's SB record for most yards in an SB game.
These ads! the chimp/Castro Oil ad was downright creepy; the Doritos ad where the guy strips the model (and she coincidentally happens to be garbed in black lingerie with garters and black stockings [like every male pin-up fantasy over the past 60 years]) is somehow supposed to be legitimized by the fact that he gets his comeuppance, crushed by a bus? This we take to be America's view of morality -- where sex is invoked, sexuality over-emphasized, and sexism shamelessly reproduced, but then it is all wiped away (clean) as the offenders' acts are publicly penalized. And, in the next ad (and others to follow): what is with the idea that it is humorous to witness people getting bowling balls dropped on their heads, or electrocuted, or flattened by overpasses? Is this an example of the "great tradition of Slapstick" wedded to America's contemporary conditioning toward the tolerance for ever-escalating violence? Just a guess, but I doubt that it will end up selling any more Diet Pepsis.
9:16: OK, here is "The Drive" -- at least to this point. The Cards have to get points on the board and it looks as if Warner is warming up as he also loosens the Steelers up with a lot of in-front of the coverage stuff.
This gets them to the 50, but then a holding penalty sends them back. They can't shoot themselves in the foot like that and expect to stay in it.
One can see the strategy at work, though: Warner has been going to Breaston so often that the defense has now started to pay attention to the Card's third wide-out; and the result?: they have forgotten about the better Card receivers. Bolton is next for a long catch and run . . .
. . . and then the Cards luck out: a misstep by Warner leads to make a "bad" decision without really surveying the field. Before falling, he forces the ball into a spot with strong coverage on a receiver he almost never uses: and what do you know? A TD. Sometimes you have to be lucky and good in life.
And . . . now we have a ballgame again!
9: 31: Now that the Card offense has woken up, it is time for the defense to get up to speed. Can they do it? Still looking shaky, but they are more and more in the positions that they need to be. Again, in the opening quarter, it felt like they were on their heels, a step behind. But now they seem to be getting to the spots ahead of Pittsburg. Now, despite a Pittsburg gain, there was a holding call -- a sign that the cards are upping their speed and intensity in pursuit. And . . . the Cards finally get the stop that they needed.
Now, if the Cards can score here -- and they get a super runback by Breaston to set them up with field position -- then all the pressure shifts to the Steelers.
Wanna see the ads again? And vote for which was your fav?: hulu.com. (Just don't vote for that horrid e-trade deal with the exploited kids in their high chairs. That campaign was yucky 2 years ago when the kid spit up goo and they thought it was cute to use a punky 25 year-old voice-over) and they are still running it. Talk about your lack of creativity among the creatives . . .)
I just logged in and found out that anyone outside the US can't get into that site. How chauvenist and unglobal is that sensibility?
9:44: First turnover of the game (and a surprise that it was ben who coughed the ball up). Could be a game-changer, but not unless the Cards take advantage of the fantastic opportunity this shift in field position has allowed.
More ads. And what is it with their tone? Everything is so negative, so cruel: a guy drawing a tree that leads to a crash by another skier; a bunch of flowers telling a woman that her life is a train wreck and that "no one wants to see you naked." Geez. What happened too a kinder, gentler America. Oh, yeah . . . that was the last administration.
9:49: Wow! Hightower puts a move on that (as we used to say back in the day) "faked his guy out of his jock". It saves the drive on what really was a "capitulation/play it safe" sort of play -- The Cards were really hoping to salvage the field goal, but because of the Hightower effort, they have ended up extending the drive. And now -- after the time out, they get the ball to Fitzgerald (at last!) After throwing the ball to the running back in the flat the entire game (to date), the defense is now shying over to the back in the flat, thus leaving Fitzgerald alone. Which is foolish, of course. Fitzgerald is THE MAN. He will win the game for the cards if the Steelers allow him to.
Cards are going to use all the clock and go into halftime with a tie or else the lead. With no time outs left they get one play (and it better be a pass into or out of the end zone). And then a field goal to tie. But if they expect to win this game, they'd better score the 6.
9:55: OMG -- can you believe that!??! What a play!!! From the Cards being up 14-10 or, at worst, tied at 10, they have managed to engineer a disaster! The worst possible situation: a pick; And then even WORSER: a runback for 6 -- the longest in SB history by a guy who must be the 17th slowest guy on the field. And no one can stop him?!?!? WTF is that from the Cards? No one stopped Henderson. The play is under review, but Madden is (incongruously) saying: "you gotta give it to him. After all that effort." (!) Forget the rules. Just reward effort and jimmy the circumstances to produce a feel-good outcome. Madden is a great analyst, but that is one bone-head thing to say! Anyway, 92 got his 6. A big moment: the lead moves to 10. Is Arizona cooked? We'll see how much wind this fiasco takes out of their sails.
Now it's time for The Boss to come do his thing.
Came into it a bit late, after a bathroom break. But wow, Bruce: cross us all up: "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out". Perfect song for highlighting the band, and also getting the crowd into it.
No surprise here, though: "Born to Run". Truncated version to conform to time restraints. That's the thing with asking Bruce to do this gig: he and his band excel in their long-form musical stemwinders. Asking them to do 4 songs in 12 minutes is a bit unfair to everyone.
But what an entertainer! He really connects with the crowd. The energy/their appreciation is not feigned.
And now -- after two of the old classics -- a little promotion for the new album: "Working on a Dream". But, to be fair, this was the song that he was using during the Obama campaign appearances. So, a little more than the crass monetary scheme at work here; Bruce is talking to America about where he feels it is. And, anyway, he keeps this third offering very short -- almost so short, you get the sense that he is saying: "go buy the album if you wanna hear more". The last song is "Glory Days" (which as I mentioned in yesterday's music poll-post, makes sense given the venue and the situation). He seems to have altered the lyrics to accord with a football game (changed the sport of his friend in the bar). And at the end, The Boss and Stevie engaging in some staged repartee, a little vamping; throwing out some football puns (with a "we'll get tagged for delay of game if we go any longer") and then a ref comes out and throws a flag! Maybe a little over the top/kitschy -- but cute. Bruce has always been that mix of serious and rollicking kid.
And at the end, he offers up the signature "I'm going to Disneyworld!" (in reference to all the SB MVPs who are paid to say that into a camera). Bruce having more fun -- nice!
This was the best half-time show I can recall watching. By far blew away Janet and Justin (which really had only one high point) and (I hate to say it) The Stones and Prince (which his silhouetted phallus -- er, guitar) . And as much as I love Tom Petty, last year felt stale.
I wonder which act has been your all-time fav?
10:31: starting up again, Cards generating something on the ground. Before we get too far into this, though, I want to talk about the guys working the mics. Of course Bob Costas and Al Michaels are truly the best at what they do, and I know how much crap John Madden takes -- (and I think he deserves some for the opinion he offered at the end of the half) -- but a lot of his negatives might simply be the result of what we might call "the Frank Caliendo effect"; another part of it may be that he has commented forever and maybe people get tired of his schtick -- which is actually just Madden being Madden. But, still and all, other than Troy Aikman, he has to be the best analyst that there is. As for the other people on the podium, for the most part all I see is concrete verification of "The Peter Principle": people rising above their levels of competence. Sure, they know football (since they played it), but aside from Tony Dungy, there are few up there who have been legitimate successs in their previous career stages: Matt Millen failed (miserably) in his previous job (as GM), Mike Holmgren was a great quarterback coach, but as a head coach has only been a sporadic winner, and Chris Collingsworth, although a decent receiver, does not seem to have the stuff to have merited risen to elite analyst status (they even joked at the opening that his prediction was the kiss of death for the team he would be selecting -- as it always turns out to be). Often I feel that it really isn't who you are in the TV game, rather than who you know and what demographic you help pander to. It is about being connected behind the scenes and connecting with the disaggregated mass. As for the guys who should be there -- for personality, professionalism, savvy, and brains, alone -- that would be Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann.
Now, back to the game with the Cards dodging a bullet on the muffed Warner throw. No fumble and the Cards get to punt.
10:50: Pittsburg is driving -- in large part because of 2 Cards penalties. And the second one was really iffy. The refs ought not to determine the flow of such a big game. Come on, let these guys play!
This drive is going to break the Cards' back. If they give up 7, then they are forced to throw more and more (which the Steelers will be laying for). So, looking a bit bleak. Even a 3 is going to make it tough, but still you need the stop. And then -- you have to score.
My God! The Cards are self-destructing. A 3rd personal foul penalty on this drive (and after giving up the 3 -- which was actually an accomplishment! Run into the kicker and give the Steelers 3 or 4 shots inside the 5 yard line.
But, looky here: 3 plays later and they have thrown up a steel curtain of their own. With a melange of resilience and grit (quintessential American virtues!), the Cards hold. This time no penalty for running into the kicker and the same result as before -- 3 points -- but with another 3 minutes taken off the clock -- which may come back to haunt the Cards at the end of the game -- probably will.
The key for them now, though, is points! ASAP
11:05: 2 ads with nature as their theme (Coke and Kelloggs). The former with a classical music score (Prokofiev) and featuring a bevy of bugs. Not typical American fare. Here the advertisers giving their audience a cultural education and also providing a little greening to the commercialization.
11:20: The Cards still have a pulse -- barely. Get a big sack and receive a punt (lucky not to have lost the ball on the reception). Anyway, 12 minutes to go in the game and they need two TDs. The problem: to find 2 scores in one quarter, when they have only collected 1 in 3. But America loves impossible stories.
The next ad -- for Coke Zero -- is a take-off on the famous Mean Joe Greene ad, this time with Steeler Troy Pomamalu subbing in for Greene. The ad is hi-jacked by another (more recent campaign -- which is really a stupid ad). As for this one, it is clearly not an ad that will be played on the web in 23 years. It falls way beyond the status of "classic", and lacks any of the syrupy elements of its model.
11:24: Wow, the Cards with spark! Spunk and speed -- Arrington and Fitzgerald on consecutive plays. But, just like the drive to end the previous half, they have to get the ball in. Anyway, this drive needs to be the blueprint for the last 9 minutes: it has all been about pace. Not letting the Steelers catch their breath and regroup. This timeout, though, has had the opposite effect (slowing them to a standstill); so beware Cards after this break.
TD! This throw (a fade/jump ball to Fitzgerald) may come back at the end of the game -- setting the Steelers up for the fake fade the next drive -- if not the real thing. Just throw the ball high and let #11 go after it. he has great hands! We'll see. It is really on the Steelers now to use clock and possibly get 3. A field goal could just about seal this thing, though.
The fun time is just beginning.
11:35: the Card defensive front has really come on -- especially Dockett. Great pressure on Big Ben and Pitt turns the ball over on a punt. Now it is strength against strength: Card O against Steeler D. We'll see how it plays out. There is enough clock left that they don't have to do it all at once. No need to pass on every down like they did before. Of course, the passing is the best chance they have and they want to avoid those 2nd and long and 3rd and long situations. So, throw on first, then run on short second. And get the ball to Larry F whenever you can.
11:40 (5:21 to go): frustration by the Steelers (roughness out of bounds). Why do professional athletes screw up on stuff that is unnecessary? It's all about control, guys. Rise above it.
11:42 (3:52): Polamalu is such a magnificent player. Almost invisible the entire game, but he is capable of changing the outcome. And his jump of the route really altered the drive, forcing an incompletion, then followed by the holding call, this drive has stalled. Punt backs the Steelers up to the 1 -- aided by another stupid frustration foul by Henderson. This one was ridiculously bad: the camera caught him pounding, pounding, pounding on a guy prone on the turf.
Anyway, now we are into the end game. The Steelers need 2 or 3 first downs; the Cards need a stop.
11:49 (3:04): Third and long. This is really a key down since the Cards burned a time out. If the Steelers manage a first it could be the game -- and they do! Oh . . . but there was a penalty! And it is in the end zone -- 2 points for the Cards. And not really sure if the center needed to engage in that take down, but he clearly did. A safety, no doubt. And now momentum to the Cards. They get the ball and 3 minutes to make history.
Presumably they'll have decent field position. They need 7; a field goal won't do it.
11:52 (2:55): Cards get nothing off the punt. OMG!!!!!!! Fitzgerald right up the gut! And what speed! My goodness -- he was a flash and watching himself score on the big board. But . . . he scored waaaaaaaayyyy too early. The Steelers have the 2 minute warning and 2 time outs left.
As Madden is saying -- the Cards went up the middle where the safeties were soft and deep. The amazing thing is that he STILL outran the safeties. Sure, they both pinched to the sideline, but he still burned them in his vapor-trail.
Oh -- and no matter what: the Cards are going to cover the spread (win or lose). [For those of you following the betting]
11:55 (2:15): Cards have to keep bringing it. The Steelers on their heels with a holding penalty. But, just when things look bleakest for the Steel City, Ben does his thing (2:08) with a scramble and 20 yard pass.
Now 2 minute warning -- and what is this crap? Why would Danica Patrick allow herself to be in an ad that references silicon implants and close-ups of a sexualized female/object, after which the camera cuts to her? And why would she want to be in an ad where the final word comes from a busty model who threatens to show her wares? Is that considered a strong career-builder for Danica? What is her agent thinking about?
(1:23) Pittsburg at the 50 and the receiver doesn't get out of bounds and then Ben scrambles -- not netting much and not something he really wants to do -- and they have to spend a time out. Cards can give up the 3, I suppose, overtime would be a treat for the fans.
. . . and, my Internet connection just went down!!! &$#`% Gotta log into another stream quick!
:35 seconds: wouldn't you know it: I missed it! The stream went down first time today -- not during a commercial, but actually during play! And it was a touchdown. And more: the TD is under review -- but clearly a TD.
So now the Cards need a TD with only :35 to go. They have 2 time outs, but t is hard to imagine a comeback here. Still, that is what these games are for -- to build dreams; the belief that anything can happen; that anything is possible in life. Let's see.
If they do, Warner is definitely a Hall of Fame quarterback (which has been the big debate the past 2 weeks). The game is designed to create folk heroes.
:22 Warner used a time out on a good gain because it would take too long to get to the line; but the second time out he took hurts. The play that forced him to do so was a pass far too short -- he should have gone deeper or else thrown it away. His opponent is the clock at this point. He can obviously score on the Steelers, but will he do it in the time allotted?
Now -- I think you have to throw a jump ball... he tries, but his arm is hit as he is releasing . . . and they lose the ball. so, game over.
Fumble or not? It comes down to a call in the booth (the arbitrated society strikes once more) and the decision: Pittsburg has the most SB victories of all time (to date). Something for the Cowboys and 49ers to work toward. The reason why we all stay on the treadmill, the carrot dangling in front of our faces.
So, now that it's done, what to think? Worth all the noise? All the expenditure of energy?
As for me, I thought it was not a bad game, actually. A game that the Cards and their fans will probably replay many times over, thinking: "if we'd only done this," "if we'd only not done that..." Certainly that pick at the end of the first half. And they will ask these questions, especially, if it takes them 43 more years to get to the big dance.
Just before signing off: the trophy presentation. Joe Willie Namath -- on his road to rehabilitation after his lack of sobriety led to a failed pass on national TV a couple of years back -- now looking slimmed down and in fine spirits (no pun intended).
Now for the presentation: and President Obama getting some love from the Steeler owner, Dan Rooney. The coach, Mike Tomplin, still coaching -- even though the game is over -- telling his team that they never give up, "The Steelers play 60 minutes and never quit."
Well, that is about it for me on this post. If you've read along with me this far -- well, pat yourself on the back: you're a true Super Bowl champ!