According to a few headlines I’ve seen, Super Bowl ratings were “down” this year.
Technically, that’s true. The numbers for Super Bowl XXIII were slightly below the rating for last year’s Super Bowl, when the Giants shocked the undefeated Patriots. But last night’s Super Bowl was the THIRD HIGHEST RATED SHOW IN TELEVISION HISTORY, behind only Super Bowl XXII and the final episode of “M*A*S*H.” An average of about 95 million viewers saw the game; NBC estimates that 147 total viewers watched at least some of the game. In the New Age of communications, that’s astonishing.
As a television production, the Super Bowl was first-rate. Bob Costas is a Hall of Fame host, and Al Michaels and John Madden are still the best one-two booth combo in all of sports. The camerawork was stellar, with the replays confirming most calls and spotlighting a few glaring errors. (As Madden correctly pointed out, the Steelers’ James Harrison should have been tossed from the game for his fourth quarter cheap shot.)
The show business element was typically mainstream. Faith Hill and Jennifer Hudson did fine with their (pre-recorded) performances, while Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band electrified the stadium with a hammy but infectiously goodnatured 12-minute mini-concert. I don’t know if customizing the lyrics to “Glory Days” really helps the song, but you can’t say the Boss phoned it in.
Some are saying this was the greatest Super Bowl of all time. The play on both sides was much too sloppy for Super Bowl XLIII to earn that designation, but this was indisputably one of the most exciting Super Bowls of all time, on a par with last year’s monumental upset. But as a 60-minute contest, it wasn’t nearly as well-played as the Patriots’ 32-29 victory over the Panthers in 2004, the 49ers beating the Bengals 20-16 in Super Bowl XXIII or the Rams’ 23-16 victory over the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, in a game featuring teams with a combined record of 31-6.
As usual, there was nearly as much hype about the ads as there was about the game. And as usual, most of the ads tried far too hard and fell short. Wacky animals, shots to the crotch, Clydesdales, busty gals in juvenile ads for godaddy.com—-we’ve seen this movie before. Conan O’Brien did a funny takeoff on Euro-commercials and a few of the Coke commercials were creative and fresh, but there wasn’t a single ad that will endure as any kind of an advertising classic.
By the way, if you followed my advice for the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, you would have won ALL of your bets. Not that you’d be able to bet if you weren’t in Vegas, right?
If you had one of those “square pools” with your buddies or at work, there was probably a lot of talk today about the halftime score. With just seconds to go and the Steelers up 10-7, the Cardinals were knocking on the door. If you had 0-0 or Steelers 0, Cardinals 4 in your pool, you were looking strong. Either the Cardinals would score a TD to make it 14-10 at the half or they’d kick a field goal, resulting in a 10-10 tie…until Harrison stepped up and made that interception and runback, prompting thousands of squares-playing fans to scream “NOOOOOOOOOO!” while others said, “Wait a minute, do I have 7-7, HOLY SHIT I HAVE 7-7, go go go go go go go!”
Talk about a game-changing play, on so many levels.