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February 1, 2002

by Bill Hogan



Last year about 131 million people watched Super Bowl XXXV on CBS. I guess it's safe to say the figure will be similar for Super Bowl XXXVI on Sunday.

People are interested in the event for various reasons, but how many actually watch the game?


If you really want to know, throw a Super Bowl party. Invite some of your closest friends, relatives and co-workers. Put a keg and a six-foot sub in the kitchen. Toss a couple of folding chairs around the boob tube. Then sit back and take notes.

Casually observe your guests, and you'll find that most of them have no more than a passing interest in the action on the field.

Most of the people there, if they're honest, will tell you that they are consumed by the commercials. (Leading them to commit the worst fan faux pas - running to the refrigerator during the game so they can be seated by the next TV timeout).

"Look everybody, Brittany Spears is on again!"

Of course the advantage for the avid commercial watcher is that the airtime for Super Bowl ads is far greater than that of the actual game.

On Super Bowl Sunday, it's all about the sideshows. "Did you hear that Mariah Carey is doing the National Anthem?" "Really? I wonder what she'll be wearing." "Whatever it is, I'm sure she'll look hot!"

(It doesn't matter what she's wearing because nobody can hold a candle to Whitney Houston's tear-jerking rendition at the start of Super Bowl XXV).

And, long before the opening kickoff there will be plenty of buzz in the room about the upcoming half time show. "U2 - I love U2." "That Bono is a hunk."

I enjoy U2 too, and frankly Bono is a hunk. The half time show should be entertaining, but it's probably not going to be foremost on my mind during the coin toss.

U2 is a terrific example of just how far this grand event has come. In 1970, Super Bowl IV featured the Kansas City Chiefs, the Minnesota Vikings and - for your half time entertainment - the musical styling of Miss Carol Channing.

The musical styling of Miss Carol Channing? At the Super Bowl? What, the Captain and Tennille were booked? At the time, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" topped the Billboard charts. A Simon & Garfunkel medley may have been just a bit more entertaining.

But I'm starting to get off the subject. See how easy it is to lose focus with all the ancillary activities orbiting the year's most anticipated sporting event?

Let's get back to the party.

Where somebody is cranking up the "Big Chill" soundtrack loud enough to drown out the commentary of Summerall and Madden. Which is o.k. because there hasn't been any really worthwhile Super Bowl analysis since Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis did number IX back in '75.

When you're forced to shuffle under a limbo stick to get down the hall to the bathroom, it may be time to remind your guests that at any given moment, on any 'routine' play, something of historical significance may occur.

Don't miss it.

It's an awful feeling to have to admit you were milling around the beer keg when Green Bay's Max McGee shook off a Kansas City defensive back (and a hangover) to catch a 37 yard pass from Bart Starr and score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.

No Raider fan will ever confess to heading up the conga line when Marcus Allen somehow managed to switch fields, avoid a half dozen would-be Redskins tacklers and scamper seventy-four yards for a touchdown. Allen's run in Super Bowl XVIII was and is the longest in the big game's history.

Shooting the moves on Anne from accounting pales when compared to the memory of Phil Simms completing a record 22 of 25 passes while leading the Giants past Denver in Super Bowl XXI. (I assume it pales, I don't know Anne from accounting personally).

And "in the middle of a serious game of Twister with the Simpson twins" is a weak answer when asked where you were the day that Jerry Rice tore up the Cincinnati Bengals. The Super Bowl XXIII MVP had eleven catches for a record 215 yards and a touchdown.

You never know when the Super Bowl, no matter how mundane it may seem on the surface, is going to produce another unforgettable moment.

Think about that the next time you're at a Super Bowl party and somebody breaks out the Yatzee.


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