Why do we watch the Super Bowl? Because we love the ads? Because we care who wins? Because we have money on the line?
No, we watch because the Super Bowl, like a swaddled yogi sitting cross-legged on a Tibetan hilltop, the Super Bowl has much to teach us.
Here are a handful of things I learned from SB XLI...
1. It's time to revisit "Sign O' The Times."
At the start, the rain was something Prince soldiered through, something that proved he was game. By the end, as the crowd echoed his "Purple Rain" howl, I could have sworn it was something he commandeered, ordered up special, like it was a Fantasia and he was a mouse who knew some seriously funky magic. Badass start to finish, second all-time only to U2's searing post-9/11 rendition of "Where The Streets Have No Name" (at Super Bowl XXXVI).
2. Lovie Smith and the adjustments? Not so much.
All season long he was steadfast about his quarterback "he's our guy" and all season long that steadfastness was admirable, and perhaps crucial to his team's success. But flexibility is a part of valor, too. So where was the blitz package when Manning was killing the Bears with 8-yard balls in the flat? Where was the line-jam pressure from the DBs when Colts receivers were biting off routes and catching passes unmolested? And where, oh where, were the laterals and reverses and such that might have gotten Devin Hester another touch when the Colts went all squibby on the kicks?
3. Great stories don't necessarily make a great game.
The football gods can be cruel. On a night when we come in desperately hoping for something of import, something close, something epic, for the sake of Peyton Manning's legacy, and in honor of the sacrifices and achievements of Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, the Bears and Colts give us instead eight turnovers (three by the winning team), Rex Grossman stumbling and fumbling, and the Bears' D seemingly forgetting how to tackle. Too ugly to sustain its stories, the game felt unworthy. Manning looked almost sheepish hoisting the trophy, and postgame questions for Dungy about being the first black winning coach fit the night about as well as a Stetson two sizes too big.
4. It turns out you can complete 71.4 percent of your passes and still pretty much blow.
Grossman wasn't helped by the fact that the Bears couldn't get the running game going, but the interceptions floating, hanging, waiting up there like they did looked like they wanted to be intercepted, like they were tosses in "three flies up," like they were part of drills for the defense. Not a single out-route ball had purpose or pop. He looked ripe, and because of that, even when they were close the Bears didn't look in it.
5. Next time, I can get up and get a beer or use the john and not miss a thing.
It's been a great ride, and there have been high concepts (Macintosh) and high comedy (the Bud frogs, the Xerox monks) along the way, but when "Rock, Paper, Scissors" is, far and away, the best ad of the entire game, we're running out of gas on this can't-miss Super Bowl commercials thing.
And 6. Sometimes I scare my wife.
I know this, but it's important to be reminded. We watched the game at a friend's house and in addition to a nice HD set-up, he had the audio feed from the game coming from some tasty little Bose speakers set flush in four corners of the living-room ceiling. When Gwen figures out the sound was coming from above, she says, "It's a little loud, don't you think?" No, I didn't think so. I thought it was lush. I thought it was comforting. I thought it wrapped me like a baby in a blanket. I thought it felt like a soothing mud bath, like coming home. And I said so.
Maybe a touch too enthusiastically, maybe too, what's the phrase ... out loud? "Like I said," she says, taking three quick steps back, pretending to be interested in the guacamole on the table behind us, wondering what other secret electronic longings I harbor, and rehearsing her little, stick-it-out mantras -- "he's an excellent father, he's an excellent father, he's an excellent father" and "he usually remembers to take out the trash, he usually remembers to take out the trash, he usually remembers to take out the trash," and making her way toward a stiff drink. "It's a little much."
Eric Neel is a columnist for ESPN.com. Sound off to Page 2 here.