Sunday, February 5, 2006 Updated: February 7, 10:51 AM ET
Last blast through hyper drive
By Chuck Klosterman Page 2
OTHER DAYS:SATURDAY | FRIDAY | THURSDAY | WEDNESDAY | TUESDAY | MONDAYMonday, 12:17 a.m.
This will be the final entry in my little bloggity vacation. It is my assumption that -- if you're reading this entry, which is being written after the Super Bowl has already happened -- you've probably read some (or all) of the previous 18 posts.
And if this is the reality we're dealing with, I can't predict what you (the reader) are hoping to see as the conclusion to this self-centered debacle. However, it's probably one of four things: You're probably hoping for (A) information about the game itself, (B) information that has nothing to do with the game itself, (C) "big ideas" that suggest what the Super Bowl might or might not represent, or (D) non-ideas that don't suggest anything at all. This being the case, I will try to do all four (and you can just ignore any of the points that strike you as especially boring). So, here we go
Things about the game
I'm not sure if this is something that would have translated over television, but the experience of Super Bowl XL felt strange, even though its play-by-play details were not. There was no point in the contest where it felt like Pittsburgh was playing especially well; in fact, there were two stretches (early in the first quarter and early in the fourth quarter) where the Steelers looked a little outclassed. The best player on the field was usually Matt Hasselbeck, but the Seahawks didn't look especially sharp, either; I was shocked to discover that there were roughly 700 yards of total offense in this game, because it looked more like a war of attrition. Willie Parker's singular run was the biggest play of the game, but it came across as an explosive anomaly (which, I suppose, it was).
That said, this was never a dull game; the teams just weren't decisive. I will say this, however: When it comes to gadget plays, the Steelers' coaching staff uses extremely good judgment (and has all season). They run them more often than the vast majority of NFL clubs, but these plays never seem desperate or ostentatious or gimmicky. The well-executed reverse pass to Ward was a classic example -- it was a risky call that (somehow) seemed both safe and logical.
Things that have nothing to do with the game
Considering that it was a 12-minute show performed inside a football stadium within the context of an unrelated sporting event, the Rolling Stones were considerably more than sporadically awesome. I know this is a cliché sentiment, but it's amazing how well their songwriting style translates to the idiom of live performance; even "Rough Justice" seemed like a $600 song. Ron Wood's soloing on "Satisfaction" was more organic than I would have possibly anticipated (considering they've now played that tune about 70,000 times), and Mick Jagger (who appears to have roughly the same percentage of body fat as Rod Woodson in 1989) can still somehow convince me to take him seriously as a competitive frontman, even though his band predates the existence of the Super Bowl. I couldn't really see Keef from where I was sitting, but I'm sure he was fine.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" was acceptable, although I will always secretly suspect that Aretha Franklin is a tad overrated. I also thought the national anthem's piano accompaniment was profoundly amusing, but this is only because I was momentarily tricked into thinking that Dr. John was actually Dr. Hook.
The big idea
One thing I found surprising about the Super Bowl was that -- once you finally get into Ford Field and sit down -- it quickly becomes a totally normal football game. And here (I think) is why: The specific conditions of the game can't affect the degree to which is it hyped; as a result, the Super Bowl is inherently doomed to underwhelm. Look at it like this: Let's assume the amount of hysteria preceding any game can be ranked on a scale of 1 to 100. In almost all other scenarios, this "hype number" would be dictated by who was playing, what those teams were playing for, and all the stories within the specific situation.
For example, January's BCS championship between USC and Texas was hyped to a percentile of 96 or 97 -- however, that game "lived up to the hype" (as announcers are wont to say), and it was because all that interest was generated for a valid reason; the talent and the circumstance overtly created the potential for greatness. But the Super Bowl is a different animal; as I mentioned Friday, the Super Bowl is an event-driven event. Its whole existence is predicated on the exaggeration of hype, so the game's "hype number" is always above 95. It's a 95 regardless of who's involved. And the grim reality is that a matchup on that caliber only happens once or twice a decade. The NFL is so skilled at promoting itself that it latently makes Super Bowl games more boring than they are.
While driving back to my hotel to write this very column, a Detroit FM station (97.1) was curiously broadcasting a talk show called "Speed Freak," which celebrates the popularity of NASCAR (I guess people who build cars for a living also enjoy watching southerners drive them around a circle at high speed). For some reason, the show's guest was Edgar Winter, and he was talking about why he invented the keytar. The show's host then made a reference to the Rolling Stones, and she said that the key to that band's success was guitarist Keith Wiggins, who is actually a British Grand Prix racer from the 1980s.
That is all.
Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
Seven things I hope will happen today:
Seattle will wear its throwback uniforms.
Somebody will score on a shovel pass.
There will be an onside kick in the first half.
The Steelers will line up in the wishbone for much of the third quarter.
There will be at least one meaningful two-point conversion.
The Rolling Stones will cancel (and be replaced by Black Sabbath).
I will be sitting in Section 136 with 59 seconds left on the clock, and I will have absolutely no idea who is going to win.
Sunday, 3:28 a.m.
I don't know if ESPN has a policy against drunken blogging, but here we go: Let's roll the bones, rockers.
In downtown Detroit this weekend, there were many, many parties. There was the Maxim party, there was the Playboy party, there was the Penthouse party, there was the Jenna Jameson "clothing-optional" party, there was the Kit Kat party, there was the Linda Lavin party, there was the Western Horseman party, there was the Stolen Transmissions party, there was the Chips Ahoy party, there was the Oui magazine "foxy-dead girl" party, there was the George Plimpton Memorial Intellivision party, there was the Kid Rock Performs Bob Seger System party, there was the World B. Free Appreciation party, there was the Sinclair Oil/Komodo Dragon party, and there was the Hamas victory party. And I went to exactly zero of these affairs, because I do not like parties. Instead, I went to a bar in Grosse Point with a bunch of employees from The Detroit Free Press, where I drank martinis filled with gummi bears while discussing how I spent Friday night at a bowling alley called The Majestic (which is the same place where Jack White punched out the singer from the Von Bondies).
Troy Polamalu apparently has a heart as big as his hair.
As such, this column will not be juicy.
But let me tell you a story.
I have a friend named Ellen Shafer, and she knows nothing about football. A few months ago, she traveled to Pittsburgh to see a play; while she was there, Ellen went to a restaurant with a British woman who knows even less about football than she does. They found themselves seated directly next to a man and a woman who were polite and soft-spoken; the man was swarthy, handsome, and had very long hair.
Much to Ellen's surprise, strangers constantly walked up to this unknown man and asked for his autograph. At first, Ellen assumed this person must be a rock star; he looked a little like Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. But after awhile, Ellen deduced this fellow must be a professional football player, because so many of his admirers mentioned admiration for his ability to hit people with extreme prejudice.
Eventually, Ellen introduced herself. "I have no idea who you are," she said, "but your wife has amazing shoes." This statement made the long-haired man very happy. He introduced himself: He said his name was Troy Polamalu.
For the next hour, these four people made casual conversation, never discussing sports or celebrity. Ellen found him to be amazingly friendly and relentlessly humble.
Eventually, the long-haired man (and his wife) exited the restaurant. Ellen and her friend chatted about how affable the pair had been, and how cool it was that Mr. Polamalu had seem so legitimately interested in their own boring lives.
Ellen and her friend signaled the waiter for the check, curious about how much money they owed. But when the waiter came over to their table, he told them everything was taken care of: The long-haired stranger had quietly paid the totality of their bill.
Now, I realize Troy Polamalu is rich. And I realize that -- to him -- this encounter probably means nothing. He might not even remember that it happened. But I'm rooting for the Steelers. And I'm rooting for them for the same reason I skipped the Maxim party: Humanity deserves respect, rockers.
Chuck Klosterman is the author of "Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story" and is a senior writer for Spin magazine and a columnist for Esquire. Sound off to Page 2 here.