Like all good New Yorkers, I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s game. It was actually the first time in years I can remember watching the game with friends with the intent of actually enjoying the game – as opposed to “parties” where socialization or watching for the commercials1 takes precedent.
I’ll leave the actual football discussion to those more qualified, but I did notice three trends with how people relate to the game. The first trend is historical revisionism and occurs when the media completely rewrites the narrative depending on the outcome. Had Plaxico Buress not made the deciding catch, we would be talking about Wes Welker’s inspired performance, how Brady’s ankle was a non-story, and how Randy Moss made the difference in the game and achieved redemption. Many football games are decided on one play at the end of the game, and yet that microcosm of football will retroactively influence all which preceded it. This is of course most convenient for media writers who are expected to churn out “analysis” on a moment’s notice and likely have two versions of the game written up, and will be ready with either narrative regardless of the outcome.2
Given that sports media rarely have opportunity (or capacity) for insight, talking heads will often resort to glib clichés. One such example is the post-game assertion that the winning team “wanted it more.” This is nonsense for two reasons. First, in high-profile games such as the Superbowl, it is safe to assume that both teams desire victory. It’s the Superbowl after all! One caller to WFAN similarly opined before the Giants/Dallas playoff game that the winner would be “who wants it more.” The host correctly responded that it’s the playoffs! Everyone wants to win in the playoffs! Secondly, the assumption is that mere desire wins games, not the ability to execute plays.3 Did Plaxico Burress want to win more than Wes Welker? Tom Brady more than Eli Manning? Jason Tuck more than Teddy Bruschi? Tom Coughlin more than Bill Billicheck? Equating after-the-fact results with desire is disrespectful to the effort of both teams.
Finally, I noticed a gender-based clichés in how men and women approach the game. Naturally the men were more into the game, but were clearly focused on the seriousness of each play and how it would effect the outcome. By the end of the game we were joking that according to our conversations were at least seven “biggest plays of the game right here.” On the flip side, the hostess had a less-competitive approach to the game, saying more than a few times, “regardless of who wins, this is a really good game.” She gets credit for trying, the guys were having none of it, “no, it’s about who wins.”
Got any more of your own?
1. With few exceptions (the FedEx pigeon, the balloons, Carville/Frist, and the Terminator assaulting the irrationally irritating Fox Football Robot), this year’s commercials were particularly depressing This is not surprising considering that Superbowl commercials have collectively declined in quality for several years. This trend started several years ago when the ads became more tongue-in-cheek postmodern self-referential satires of the institution of “Superbowl commercials.” Think of the “we just wasted $1,000,000 on this ad” commercials or GoDaddy’s commercial which referenced the previous year’s commercial. Since advertisers went for snark and clever over funny there has been no going back to the glory days of talking frogs and Bud Bowl.
2. For an amusing example of such a hedge, see the Amazon page for 19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots which includes the following Amazon marketing line, “Buy this book with New York Giants: 2008 Super Bowl Champions by Sports Publishing today!”
3. Another in a long list of football clichés.