Monday, February 6, 2006
Updated: February 15, 11:53 AM ET
An XL-sized diary
By Bill Simmons
I have few rules in life, but this is one of them: Anytime a Super Bowl (in this case, Super Bowl XL) starts just minutes after John Holmes wins a PGA event, I have to keep a running diary. Here's what transpired:
6 p.m. -- We're coming to you live from the Sports Guy Mansion! I'm joined here by my two dogs (Roofie and the Dooze), as well as some pretzels, a Dr. Brown's diet cream soda, a game-used asthma inhaler autographed by Jerome Bettis and 20 pages of potential prop bets from an online gambling site. Some highlights from a surprisingly solid 210-minute pregame show:
1) A cute female reporter (Sam Ryan) successfully interviewing Joe Namath as a record 130,567,323 Americans simultaneously make some variation of the "Sam, I really want to kiss you!" joke.
2) Robin Roberts' exclusive interview with Mick Jagger, in which Mick broke the record for "Most people with HDTV staring at someone's face in disbelief." An actual exchange with me and the Sports Gal (making a cameo):
Me: What is that ... is that a vein?
Her: That thing over his right eye?
Her (after a long pause): I ... I don't know.
3) Within 10 seconds, Steve Young calling Matt Hasselbeck "Matthew" twice. Not once. Twice.
4) Bill Belichick nearly throwing a no-hitter as a studio analyst (breaking down game films and everything!) before falling apart with two outs in his final segment with this prediction: "This game will be decided by the team that plays the best today." It's almost like ABC brought Joe Buck onto the field to scream, "Bill Belichick is awesome right now!"
5) Ben Roethlisberger revealing that he grew his playoff beard to look like the heroin addict from "Lost."
(All right, I made that last one up.)
6:06 -- Walking onto the field before the game: Everyone who ever won a Super Bowl MVP. That was pretty cool, especially because of the looks on the faces of Dexter Jackson ("I can't believe I'm with these guys!"), Larry Brown ("Me neither!") and Mark Rypien ("Ditto"). Also, Jerry Rice was wearing one of Chest Rockwell's suits from "Boogie Nights." But here's my question: Imagine if O.J. had won an MVP? Would they have invited him? What would the response have been from the crowd?
6:11 -- I love how everyone copies the 2001 Patriots now -- both the Steelers and Seahawks teams were introduced all at once. One catch: For the Seahawks, the same song that ended "Cruel Intentions" ("Bittersweet Symphony") was playing in the background as they came out. Apparently that choice edged out "Everyday Is Like Sunday" by the Smiths and "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt. No way they win now. It's impossible.
6:18 -- Either a wildly creepy Harrison Ford is leading a psychedelic Dr. Seuss-themed Super Bowl intro right now, or Chris Andersen just doctored my diet cream soda and I haven't realized it yet.
6:22 -- Tonight's celebrity coin tosser: The Football Jesus himself, Tom Brady. See, you can't have a Super Bowl without Belichick and Brady. Seattle calls tails, the toss is tails and they WILL receive - Brady even owns Pittsburgh in the coin toss.
6:25 -- Announcing tonight's game: Al Michaels and John Madden. This seems like a good time to mention that I don't have any wagers on the game, except for Pittsburgh's money line (minus-170). As far as you know.
6:29 -- Seattle comes out throwing. Nothing makes a team outthink themselves like a two-week break between games. And by the way, if Matt Hasselbeck was really so "loose" this week, as everyone keeps saying, he would have worn one of those Elton John wigs for the lineup intros. Then I would have been convinced.
6:31 -- A Hasselbeck sack stops a budding Seahawks drive. That's quickly followed by a replay of Roethlisberger and Tommy Maddox celebrating, followed by every Steelers fan watching at home saying, "Holy crap, we're one Big Ben injury away from seeing Tommy Maddox! Honey, where did you put the Scotch?"
6:32 -- Brooke Burke gets a starring role in a one-minute Burger King commercial, temporarily pushing her visibility past Brooke Burns in the ongoing "Brooke vs. Brooke" career battle. And honestly? I don't care who wins, as long as a homemade sex tape is involved.
6:40 -- Back from break after a Steelers three-and-out, Al Michaels says, "John, only 108 balls were used tonight." That was fun. Meanwhile, with Seattle's offense looking frisky again, Pittsburgh thinks about resorting to Plan B: Kimo von Oelhoffen taking out Hasselbeck's knees. Don't think America forgot that play, Steelers fans. That was your version of the Tuck Rule. Deny it all you want.
6:44 -- A holding penalty kills another budding Seahawks drive at midfield. Hey, did I mention that I bought a new cell phone over the weekend just so I could have the theme from "Miami Vice" as my ring tone? Yup. It happened. Can you put a price on having every ring of a cell phone remind you of (A) the greatest cop show ever, and (B) Larry Bird's three straight wins in the 3-Point Shootout? Actually, you can put a price on it: $236. But it was worth every penny.
6:50 -- Another three-and-out for the Steelers ... followed by the game being halted for 75 seconds when Al Michaels realized he accidentally put on an NBC blazer.
6:54 -- Is Jay Mohr supposed to be playing Jay Mohr in this Diet Pepsi commercial? Is he playing Bob Sugar from "Jerry Maguire"? Is he playing another character? Will this be explained later in the game? I'm confused.
(Speaking of Cameron Crowe movies, we rented "Elizabethtown" this weekend and it became the first rented movie that ever made me walk out -- instead of the theater, I walked into another room, but still, that's like walking out, right? Wow. What a clunker. Did he make that movie so everyone would appreciate "Almost Famous" more? And if that was the case, mission accomplished! Back to the column.)
7:03 -- A solid Seattle drive is capped off by Darrell Jackson's TD catch ... which is quickly nullified by an ultradubious offensive pass interference call on D-Jack from tonight's back judge, Dick Bavetta. Seattle settles for a 47-yard field goal. 3-0, Hawks.
7:09 -- Madden on Hasselbeck and Big Ben (I'm tired of typing Roethlisberger): "I've never seen a quarterback at the Super Bowl as cool as these guys."
(Whoa! Who's more upset right now, Joe Montana or Tom Brady? And where does that rank among the most ridiculous sentences ever said? Top 10? Top 20? Even Paul Maguire was shocked by that one.)
7:11 -- After Pittsburgh's third straight three-and-out, Seattle's next drive is killed by a holding penalty on Peter Warrick's pretty return, then a wide-open Jerramy Stevens dropping a 20-yard pass on third down. This could be the most one-sided 3-0 game of all time. I can already hear my editor KJ whining tomorrow, "That game was ours, we had it!" I'm telling you, I can hear it.
7:14-- Well, the new Mobile ESPN commercial just broke the record for most second-tier athletes in one ad: Torii Hunter, Lisa Leslie, Stephon Marbury, Baron Davis, Jim Edmonds, Juan Pierre, David Wells, a golfer/bowler/race car driver/sprinter/long jumper/fly fisher I couldn't recognize, and my favorite one of all ... A's pitcher Huston Street.
7:14 -- Just realized I probably could have gotten that ESPN phone for free instead of spending $236 on the Razor.
7:14 -- (Shaking my head.)
7:15 -- Bettis runs onto the field to a huge ovation (the crowd is like 80/20 for the Steelers, no surprise), carries the ball for 2 yards and goes down, then runs right back off the field. In other words, it was just like Bettis in every other big Steelers playoff game! Still, that sequence inspires the crowd and the Steelers -- they just got consecutive first downs on a Randle El catch and a Ward reverse. The sad thing is that I'm writing this down.
7:20 -- Big Ben goes deep to Randle El ... intercepted by Michael Boulware at the Seattle 16! That pass looked like it was accidentally shot by the same guy who shot Joey Porter in the butt. By the way, don't let anyone fool you -- this is no defensive struggle. Just two teams playing crummy football.
7:22 -- Did you have 7:22 in your office pool for "The first ad for a new ABC show that definitely won't last longer than six weeks?" If you did, you won -- they just showed an ad for "The Evidence," which stars Orlando Jones and Rob Estes. It raises the question, is Rob Estes "That Guy from 'Silk Stalkings,'" "That Guy From 'Melrose Place'" or "That Guy Who Was Married to Jane from 'Melrose Place'?" Maybe he's all three.
7:23 -- Madden on the Steelers' offense so far: "They don't look like they have a plan." Well, maybe that's the plan!
7:37 -- Pittsburgh slaps together a few first downs, followed by Hines Ward catching a pseudo Hail Mary lob pass on third-and-28 to get inside the Seattle 3, followed by two Bettis no-gainers against a stacked Seattle line, and then the dumbest sign of the night so far:
I want you to think about this very carefully: Is there anyone in your life who would take the time to make a sign like that, then carry it into the Super Bowl with them? If the answer is "yes," then you have some soul searching to do, my friend.
7:39 -- Two intriguing commercials after a Pittsburgh timeout on third-and-goal: Not only does "Poseidon" look very cool, but the new Gillette Fusion razor has five blades. I think Gillette is gunning for some sort of accidental Clint Malarchuk-type shaving incident. That's the only possible explanation.
7:41 -- Big Ben runs the old QB pseudo-draw and gets tackled at the 1-inch line ... touchdown! Now it's being reviewed. Lemme ask you something: Is it a bad sign when the most exciting moment of a Super Bowl through 90 minutes is the replay challenge?
7:43 -- The ruling on the field stands: 7-3, Steelers. Yet another shaky call goes Pittsburgh's way. I'm more excited about "Poseidon" and the new Gillette razor than this game. Is there any way I can shave in the theater during an advance screening of "Poseidon"? Can someone arrange this for me?
7:53 -- Apparently Donovan McNabb was the guest offensive coordinator for Seattle's two-minute drill. First, D-Jack caught a 40-yard pass for a TD, only his right foot was out of bounds (he could set a Super Bowl record for most near TDs). That was followed by Seattle handing off to Alexander with 48 seconds left ... Hasselbeck wasting 29 seconds (he did everything but start thumbing through "My Pet Goat") before the Steelers became so confused, they called a timeout ... Hasselbeck overthrowing Bobby Engram on a long third-down pass ... and Josh Brown missing a 54-yard field goal to end the first half. On the bright side, the Seahawks didn't waste their last timeout. Oh, wait, you can't roll those over. What a debacle.
(Note: This has all the makings of a Pittsburgh blowout. If I had any money left in any of my online accounts, I would be going heavy on the Steelers in the second half.)
8:04 -- The Sports Gal is excited because there's a code black on "Grey's Anatomy" tonight. Neither of us knows what this means.
(Note: I think God created "Grey's Anatomy" as a way to stick it to guys who watch football all day, then have to deal with girlfriends or wives who play the "Screw you, you're watching this with me, you spent all day watching football!" card on Sunday night. There's really no way out unless you're giving up any and all hope for sex later that night. This is why the ratings are so high, I'm convinced. Wait, am I sharing too much here?)
8:06 -- To put the Sprint Super Bowl halftime show in perspective, the Rolling Stones are all about 8-10 years older than my dad, who was excited two weeks ago because the Celtics finally traded "Ricky Pierce."
(By the way, the second song is something called "Rough Justice." When bands play the requisite song from their new album that nobody likes in these mini-concerts, it is like me writing a 3,000 word column on Doc Rivers for ESPN.com -- in other words, they have to do it to keep the record company happy, and I have to do it to keep everyone from Boston happy, but the end result is that 95 percent of the fans are ticked off. Uh-oh, I think Keith Richards' catheter just came out. Run for your lives!)
8:10 -- My intern e-mails just to say, "They all warned him, 'Don't do it, Charlie. The hypercolor T-shirt went out in 1987. You'll look like an ass.' But Charlie Watts just laughed -- he never played by their rules and wasn't about to start now. And I'll be damned if he didn't just pull it off."
8:13 -- Before he kicks into "Satisfaction," Mick Jagger quips, "Here's one we could have done before Super Bowl I." He's not kidding. Meanwhile, my mom calls to discuss how great the Stones sound, saying, "You have to hand it to them, they're as old as Don [my stepdad]."
Come to think of it, that is pretty amazing. Instead of making jokes about how Keith Richards has no blood left in his body, or how Mick Jagger probably has Viagra injected directly into his veins, or how Ron Wood looks like one of those bodies that's dug up by Dr. Michael Baden on HBO's "Autopsy" show, shouldn't we be admiring the fact that the Stones are still plugging away, when any of them could have fathered Julio Franco?
(On second thought ... nahhhhhhhh.)
8:32 -- Fast Willie Parker goes 75 yards ... touchdown! Not only was that the best play of the game, that's the longest TD run in Super Bowl history.
8:36 -- Madden mentions Alan Faneca's name five times in 40 seconds. He made the key block on that TD run. Alan Faneca. Faneca. Alan Faneca. F-A-N-E-C-A.
8:38 -- Sitting on the left hash mark on Pittsburgh's 42, Seattle just went with the three-receiver offense, put the tight end on the right side, put two WRs on the right side, then ran Alexander left on the old cutback play for 21 yards. That one always works in "Madden," if you're playing against the computer, too! By the way, I'm 36 years old.
8:39 -- Stevens drops another long pass over the middle (this time for 30 yards), followed by Brown hooking another long field goal. We might see Seattle break the "Shoot ourselves in the foot" record tonight (set by the Patriots in Denver only three weeks ago).
8:51 -- When ABC advertises "Sons & Daughters" as being "from the creator of Saturday Night Live," do they realize that "The Ladies Man," "A Night at the Roxbury," "Coneheads," "Stuart Saves His Family" and "It's Pat" traveled that same promotional road? Might want to rethink that one.
8:52 -- On a great drive highlighted by some old-school Bettis runs, Big Ben throws an atrocious third-and-6 interception at the 7-yard-line, leading to a 76-yard return by Kelly Herndon and Al Michaels' voice cracking for the first time in about nine years. Even Mark Malone at his absolute nadir wouldn't have made that throw. Kids, I wouldn't put Big Ben's rookie cards in a safety deposit box just yet.
8:54 -- Hasselbeck to Stevens ... touchdown, 16 yards! 14-10, Steelers. I'm more amazed that Stevens caught the pass.
8:56 -- Notice how I haven't mentioned many of the Super Bowl ads tonight? That's because there haven't been any memorable ones except for Bud Light's ad about the Magic Fridge. That was excellent. I also enjoyed seeing Bruce Willis' mustache in the "16 Blocks" preview. And the Diet Pepsi ad with the slogan "brown and bubbly" was fun.
8:58 -- Random question: Have you ever seen John Madden's arms dangling by his sides? Has it ever happened? Would he tip over? Watch for this. Meanwhile, three-and-out for the Steelers. There hasn't been a momentum swing this damaging since Britney Spears met Kevin Federline.
(Note: If I leave a time stamp blank, that means Jerramy Stevens dropped another first-down pass. I'm tired of typing it.)
9:08 -- I need a ruling here: Is Wrentham, Mass., now officially known as the home of Lofa Tatupu ... or is it still the home of outlet malls for gum-chewing local females with big hair and stone-washed jeans? Because it can't be both.
9:09 -- After Big Ben overthrows a third-and-2 pass, the cameras catch Bill Cowher making the "I can't believe I have to pay for three freaking weddings!" face. Whoops, that was the "I can't believe my team could blow a Super Bowl in which we had a 14-3 lead with first down from the Seattle 11" face. My bad.
9:11 -- I think Madden is trying to combine tonight's announcing with his recording session for "Madden 2007." Here's what he said as Seattle took the field with two minutes left in the third: "This is where adrenaline comes, everything you have, your whole season comes down to this, everyone knows the winners, but forgets the losers."
(And ... cut! Great take, John! Now, do the spiel about how you shouldn't go for it on fourth down in your own territory, that's why you have a defense and special teams.)
9:18 -- Madden inspired the Hawks: They just went from their own 3 to Pittsburgh's 20 ... and then, in the spirit of everything else that's happened in this game, yet another dubious call (this time, a holding penalty) negated a Stevens catch inside the Pittsburgh 5. Shouldn't the refs just replace the yellow flags with Terrible Towels at this point?
9:23 -- Well, the wheels just came off for the Hawks: A Hasselbeck sack, a horse-collar tackle on Alexander by Joey Porter that wasn't called (apparently you have to blow out someone's ACL to draw a flag on a horse-collar tackle, and nothing less), and then the killer ... a floater from Hasselbeck that gets picked off by Ike Taylor. Unbelievable. As my buddy JBug always says, "You can take the QB out of B.C., but you can't take the B.C. out of the QB."
(After this game, I just picture tens of thousands of Seattle fans walking around like zombies in the rain, heading to their local Starbucks, then drowning themselves in triple no-fat lattes and rehashing what went wrong, followed by some sort of "Sleepless in Seattle" newspaper headline a day later.)
9:27 -- The old gadget play: A reverse to Randle El, who throws a 43-yard pass to Ward for a TD. 21-10, Steelers. Nobody uses those gadget plays better than Pittsburgh. And yes, it's pretty sad that Randle El was the best QB on the field tonight.
9:32 -- Tafoya tells us that Randle El warned her this week that the Steelers would try that reverse pass play. That's right, Michelle Tafoya just became the first woman in the history of mankind to successfully keep a secret. I'm just glad we were here to see it.
9:36 -- Finally, a call goes Seattle's way! Hasselbeck's fumble gets overturned by a replay challenge. Unfortunately, the Hawks can't take advantage and have to punt (which promptly goes into the end zone). At the rate we're going, the NFL Network might decline to run a "Game of the Week" this week.
9:41 -- A commercial for the World Baseball Championships ends with Roger Clemens asking, "I'll be there for my country, will you be there for yours?" Umm ... not if you're pitching for us, Roger. Think I'll be skipping this one. Thanks, though.
9:43 -- With six minutes left, the Steelers winning by 11, and hundreds of thousands of drunken Steelers fans already sobbing in delight, there's only one subplot left: Can Bettis finish the game off without keeling over, vomiting or sucking from an oxygen mask? That would have been a good gambling prop.
9:46 -- The clock moves under four minutes (after a Pitt first down). We're all waiting for the first shot of a slightly depressed Paul Allen on the sidelines with a "Well, on the bright side, I'm still worth 20 billion dollars!" look on his face. Come on. Throw us a bone, ABC.
9:50 -- Big Ben scrambles for a backbreaking first down on a QB keeper that looked so disheveled, Madden openly wonders whether it was a busted play. I'm officially in "the Patriots would have killed either of these teams" mode. Damn it all.
9:52 -- As Pittsburgh runs out the clock, Michaels tells us that Big Ben "got a lot of advice this week from Dan Marino ... One of the things Marino told him, 'Soak in every second.'" Wait, getting Super Bowl advice from DAN MARINO? Isn't that like getting sex tips from A.C. Green?
9:56 -- No timeouts, 1:52 remaining, starting on their own 20, down by 11 ... and the Seahawks embark on the drive for the greatest Super Bowl cover of all time. Michaels hasn't sounded this excited all game.
(And no, nothing, and I mean, nothing, would personify my season like picking Pitt minus-4 and having the Hawks cover on a cheap TD and a two-point. I'm already bummed out.)
10:00 -- The perfect ending for this game: Everyone who's ever played a football video game knows that, when you're down by two scores with less than a minute to play, you kick the field goal as fast as possible, then go for the onside and the Hail Mary. Of course, the Hawks drive down to Pitt's 25 with 42 seconds left, spike the ball, then run three pass plays (including a completion inbounds that kept the clock going) and turn it over on downs with 3 seconds to play. Unbelievable. Even Madden is killing Mike Holmgren at this point. Should we induct Holmgren into the Bad Coach Hall of Fame in five years, or waive the waiting period and do it right now? Screw it, let's do it right now. Mike, you're in! Congrats.
10:00 -- Of course, in keeping with the spirit of a screwed-up game, Pittsburgh's players charge the field even, though there's still 3 seconds left in the game. High comedy. These two teams couldn't even pull off a successful Super Bowl celebration. See, this is what happens when you have a Super Bowl without the Patriots.
On the bright side, Cowher (being swarmed by his wife and daughters) is so happy right now, I think his jaw actually extended six inches.
10:04 -- This game was so ugly, even Madden ended up slipping tonight: He forgot to give his "This is what it's all about, right here" speech as the Steelers congratulated one another. Allow me to become the first of 30 million football fans to make the "Can we give the Super Bowl MVP to the officials?" joke.
10:16 -- In the postgame show, after we hear from an emotional Cowher and MVP Hines Ward (hey, somebody had to win), Mike Tirico interviews Jerome Bettis (14 carries, 43 yards), who holds the trophy and stumbles through an endearing speech, finally announcing his retirement by saying, "I played this game to win a championship, I'm a champion, and I think the Bus, the last stop is here in Detroit."
If this were the WWE, the crowd would have cheered, Bettis would have held the trophy over his head, and then the Patriots' music would have started playing, followed by Belichick and Brady emerging to a chorus of boos, taunting Bettis with stuff like, "What's the matter, gettin' out while you can?" and "You're not the real champs until you go through us!" And then there would have been a huge fake brawl, followed by Bettis returning the following week for a tag-team match with Cowher as his partner.
In real life? Bettis walks off into the sunset with the trophy ... a nice lasting image for a crummy game. At least the Steelers covered. Until next season.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, and his Sports Guy's World site is updated every day, Monday through Friday. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace" is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.