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Monday, February 4, 2008
Updated: July 14, 3:00 PM ET
Super Bowl Pop Culture report

By Patrick Hruby, Eric Neel, Mike Philbrick
Page 2

What happens when you decide to have a red carpet entrance, a couple of concerts, a bunch of ads and a football game suddenly breaks out?

Well, you have the Super Bowl.

So let's forget the reason everyone allegedly watched (for football, of course) and sum up everything that didn't happen on the gridiron.

If I had to pay to attend the pregame show, I'd be willing to spend:
Patrick Hruby: Nothing. They'd have to pay me. Or, as my wife put it during the Paula Abdul, er, performance, "Who are these people around the stage that got paid to cheer for this?"

Eric Neel: You mean on top of the four hours of my life I'll never get back?

Mike Philbrick: I'm going to say something far less than the thousands of dollars everyone there spent.

Moment from the pregame show I'm still not 100 percent that I actually saw:
Hruby: Ryan Seacrest mentioning "media scrutinization." Donald Trump's bubble-headed platitudes about the beauty of sports and business. The Patriots being compared to the Mona Lisa (wake me when their game footage is displayed in the Louvre). Richard Seymour playing with his kids on the field, nary a leg whip or head slap in sight.

Neel: Don Shula's mug photo-shopped into Belichick's hoody.

Philbrick: Has anyone wondered why Willie Nelson and Tom Petty look really old, yet haven't aged in 25 years?

Moment from the pregame that defines every other pregame show in history:
Hruby: The Fox CGI football robot being shinier than usual. Seacrest introducing "Superstar Nick Lachey." Plaxico Burress: "I like socks. I collect them."

Neel: The weird, vaguely homoerotic New York fan meets Boston fan in the street and they end up staging an impromptu "West Side Story" snap-off.

Philbrick: The food breakdown. Apparently on Super Bowl Sunday people eat a lot of pizza, takeout food and nachos. Who knew?

Overall grade for the pregame show:
Hruby: B. Fox may be cheesy, but so was Up With People. Would have been an A had the Declaration of Independence segment included Pacman Jones.

Neel: Mom always said, don't play ball in the house.

Philbrick: I'm going to go with C. The whole thing should have been sponsored by Diet Pepsi Max. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

Give an "American Idol" style judgment on Jordin Sparks' national anthem performance:
Hruby: Solid. Avoided Jessica Simpson-style overkill, which is all you can really ask for. And better than William Hung.

Neel: Yo, yo, Jordan worked it out, ya'll. (In a Disney sort of way, that is …)

Philbrick: It was aight. You did your thing dog. You might have been lip synching but I was feelin' it.

Three people who should be barred from ever singing the national anthem again:
Hruby: Just one: Carl Lewis. Think pre-emptive strike.

Neel: Whitney Houston, Whitney Houston and Whitney Houston.

Philbrick: Kathy Lee Gifford, Cher and the Backstreet Boys.

If I had to pay to attend the halftime show, I'd be willing to spend:
Hruby: $9.99, since I can get Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' greatest hits CD for about that much.

Neel: No price is too high for more Tom.

Philbrick: $3.96. That's what it would take to download these songs to upgrade them from cassette.

Moment from the halftime show I'm still not 100 percent that I actually saw:
Hruby: What looked like a heart-shaped egg being fertilized by a guitar-shaped spermatozoa. Shades of Prince's phallic guitar.

Neel: Is Tom really that old? Did he look even older on HD? Is that even possible?

Philbrick: Wait, there were non-white people in the crowd with lightsticks?

Moment from the halftime show that defines every other halftime show in history:
Hruby: Waving glow sticks in the dark. Play Free Bird!

Neel: The pre-fab lighters in the fans' hands. As if the music couldn't possible stand on its own …

Philbrick: The on-field people exhibiting an excitement level only attainable through pharmaceuticals.

Overall grade for the halftime show:
Hruby: B. Competent, predictable set. Petty appeared in need of a blanket and hot cocoa. Crowd would have been just as jumpy for the Gin Blossoms.

Neel: A-minus. Bonus points for the old-school Heartbreakers stage.

Philbrick: Let's go with a B. Clearly, the NFL is still shell-shocked by Janet.

The ad that I'm still going to be talking about Monday morning is:
Hruby: Charlie Brown getting the Coke bottle, and Carville and Frist being tourists in my hometown. Cute. Oh, and "Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian." From Disney. See it at least twice.

Neel: CareerBuilder.com's "I Quit" beating heart … But the line I'm repeating next time at the game with the guys is, "Going on a cheese run."

Philbrick: That there was no ad for the new Indiana Jones movie!

The ad that I'm going to pretend I never even saw:
Hruby: That cheapie Salesgenie.com flash animation with the "Me so sorry" talking pandas. Is it the 1940s, and are we at war with China?

Neel: Jack In The Box: "Let's make a Jack sandwich."

Philbrick: Go Daddy.com with Danica Patrick.

The ad concept that really has to be retired is:
Hruby: Cavemen, CGI animals and oh-so-funny ethnic stereotypes. Everyone from Africa walks around with a live chicken, right?

Neel: Talking babies.

Philbrick: Let's go with stereotypes. Sales leads can help an Indian guy with seven kids and pandas!

The ad concept that they need to go to more:
Hruby: Justin Timberlake getting hit in the groin.

Neel: Physical abuse of Justin Timberlake.

Philbrick: People getting hurt. When it's not you, it's awesome.

Nos. 1-5, my top ads are:
Hruby: 1. Doritos mousetrap. Best mascot revenge fantasy ad ever.
2. Under Armor postapocalyptic workout. When the end times come, I want Ray Lewis leading my gang of roaming food scavengers.
3. Tide's "talking stain." Well, it has been seven years since the Clinton presidency.
4. Parents: The anti-drug. Most convincing portrayal of a drug dealer this side of "The Wire."
5. Yukon Hybrid SUV. 23 MPG in the city! Amazing! Does it fly, too?

Neel: 1. CareerBuilder.com heart
2. Tide talking stain
3. FedEx giant pigeons
4. Pepsi Max narcolepsy
5. Chester Pitts plays the oboe

Philbrick: 1. Sobe Life Water with "Thriller"
2. E*Trade with the baby and his clown
3. Vitamin Water with Shaq
4. FedEx pigeon service
5. NFL Network on predictions

Ad from the past that they should rerun every year:
Hruby: Terry Tate … have him hit Timberlake. Pretty please?

Neel: Herding cats

Philbrick: Terry Tate office linebacker. Try to YouTube it and not laugh.

Just checked the TV listings, I'm seriously considering switching over to:
Hruby: The Puppy Bowl recording on my DVR.

Neel: Those puppies rough-housing.

Philbrick: Playing Guitar Hero -- that "Mother" song from the Terminator ads is to blame.

Wait, in the stands, did I just see:
Hruby: An investment-banking yachtsman who looks like Peyton Manning?

Neel: Jim Carrey? After "The Number 23," I didn't think he was allowed out any more …

Philbrick: Frank Caliendo and family decked out in the worst of all gear: the nondescript Super Bowl XLII gear?

Sentence I can't believe I just heard:
Hruby: "Brady ends up on the ground!"

Neel: "Another look at the relaxed Bill Belichick."

Philbrick: "And Frank Caliendo, who has the ability to freak out his kids every morning."

The Frank Caliendo Award for overexposure goes to:
Hruby: Terminator. I know you'll be back and all, but does it have to be every single commercial break?

Neel: Frank Caliendo, of course.

Philbrick: Sarah Connor and her chronicles

The winner of the most shameless camera time is:
Hruby: The little Terminator robot duking it out with the Fox NFL robot, over and over. Would make a better video game.

Neel: Hoody's hoody.

Philbrick: You guessed it … Frank Caliendo

I started thinking the Super Bowl had jumped the shark when:
Hruby: Peyton appeared to have a better chance of throwing a TD than Eli.

Neel: Never.

Philbrick: When they read the Declaration of Independence.

I started thinking the Super Bowl is still pretty great when:
Hruby: The last 10 minutes of the game. More thrilling than a bunch of dancing CGI lizards.

Neel: Eli hit Tyree …

Philbrick: I realized this means we're only a couple of weeks away from spring training.

I finally turned off the TV when:
Hruby: My TV was on well after Belichick ran off the field.

Neel: I'm sorry, turned what the TV?

Philbrick: Tom Brady walked off the field with the Peyton Manning face.

The quintessential non-football moment had to be:
Hruby: The State Farm ad celebrating offensive linemen who don't play for recognition and glory. A bit ironic, given that everything non-football about the Super Bowl -- from the parties to the promos to "Superstar Nick Lachey" to ads for companies like State Farm -- boils down to standing out and being noticed, which seems to be the lodestar of both "American Idol" and modern American life. Each of the former revolves around hype, much like the Super Bowl itself. No wonder we love all three.

Neel: I don't know about quintessential, but the moment that highlighted the difference between the quality of the game and the silliness of the "show," was every moment we were on the red carpet with Ryan Seacrest. Stupid things are going to happen in a Super Bowl broadcast, we know that, we tune in to see them. Cross-promotion is going to happen. We know that, we put up with it, and when it's Ben Roethlisberger singing Rupert Holmes, we're even mildly amused by it. But when the network in charge of the broadcast puts their Casey Kasem poseur on a completely forced red carpet and makes him interview every Sam Jackson whose agent has shoved him through the tunnel, then we just cringe. And we cringe all the more on a night like this when the game, in its genuine drama, makes Ryan and his schtick look cheaper by the moment.

Philbrick: If you avoided the Fox pregame show, you missed the shameless promotion of the new Fox Business channel -- but if you tuned in for any part of the game, you couldn't get away from the promotions for "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." You could do your best to avoid the actual ads, but the ongoing battle between the Terminator and the NFL on Fox robot was everywhere -- and everything the Super Bowl has become as far as ad overloads are concerned. (I'm surprised they didn't find a way to get the "fight" sponsored.) In the end, the robot battle became a symbol of the game itself for most of the country -- I hate both of these teams, is there a way they can both lose?