Super Bowl thoughts: Pondering a post-apocalyptic NFL season

Sweet hats

I had to pick up a friend in Jersey City before the Super Bowl, so I was a little late getting to the restaurant at which my friends were watching the game. I actually missed the first quarter, which is fine with me as I wasn’t a fan of either participant in the game, and three quarters was plenty of buildup for last night’s Glee episode.

As I drove past numerous food and liquor establishments, I looked in windows and saw the game in every single one. I also saw it through the curtains of houses while listening to it on the radio. There are certain times you know pretty much everyone in America is doing the same thing, and the Super Bowl is probably the foremost among those times.

If I understood the ratings correctly, over 70 percent of American televisions were tuned to the game. It’s the whole package — the advertisements, the food, the halftime nonsense, an excuse to throw a party, the need to fit in. If you like football, obviously the game itself is a draw, but if you don’t, you still need to know who wins for the sake of history and pop culture. It’s sort of like a Presidential election.

And I got to thinking…

What happens if it all disappears?

The collective bargaining agreement runs out at midnight on March 3, meaning less than a month after Aaron Rodgers strapped a championship belt around his waist not just symbolically but literally, there won’t be an NFL to speak of.

As it stands, players get 60% of the league’s $9 billion revenue, while owners want that number reduced by 18%. That wouldn’t seem like they’re close in the negotiations.

Roger Goodell knows his entire legacy is on the line, and I think he’s going to work day and night to make sure they stay in business. And it’s starting to look like they’re going to do all they can to get it done if not by March 4, than sometime in March after an extension.

It’s just, if everything goes wrong, if they can’t come together and the situation worsens, it blows my mind what effect it would have with the economy the way it is.

For one, losing football presents much more of a societal vacancy than the other major sports. I find baseball to be sort of a soundtrack to the summer, a sports version of Sinatra’s Summer Wind you can have on in the background. During the winter and spring, there’s always a basketball game of some level to take in a quarter or two.

Football, though, has a whole day of the week devoted to it, and then Sunday and Monday nights to boot. No other sport could possibly match  the emptiness of Sundays without football games — much less Thanksgiving without them, or the day the Super Bowl would have fallen on.

Fans will feel scorned, robbed of a good reason to eat buffalo wings and drink beer at 1 p.m.

And past that, what kind of hit would that put on our economy?

Off the top of my head, here are some businesses and industries that would be damaged if the lockout wiped out a season and the Super Bowl:

— Restaurants/bars, sports or otherwise (Isn’t every bar essentially a sports bar now?)
— Newspapers (As if they need any more problems)
— Consumer electronics (Your average football fan isn’t going to want to buy a huge TV to have a Real Housewives party)
— Sporting goods stores
— Sports apparel brands
— The entire city of Indianapolis, site of next year’s Super Bowl
— Beer manufacturers
— The makers of those little grills (They can’t possibly be used for anything but tailgating)
— Stadium workers: security, concessions, ticket takers, cleanup, ushers
— Television networks/radio outlets/production crews/talent
— The entire pork rind industry
— Fantasy sports sites/publications

Obviously, it’s not just the NFL that takes a hit if football takes a forced vacation. I’m no economist, but considering it affects industries across the board — and just witnessing the sheer amount of people watching the Super Bowl — I could see our economy taking a real hit.

Times are different now. In a Twitter society, time seems to move a little slower than it used to. Every last second of every negotiation is scrutinized and dissected. Much like with the endless Carmelo Anthony trade talks, every single day of a lockout will be excruciating.

Not to mention, the NFL is bigger business than ever at this point. You have to figure they’ll be able to scale the mountain again if they had to, but why mess with unprecedented success? I mean, the owners and players are disagreeing on how to split up a revenue gross of $9 billion.

I work in a sport that isn’t football, and my absolute worst nightmare is if they locked out. With no games, where would the revenue stream come from? I’m not sure what side gives in first here, but the league and players are threatening to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Obviously, we’ll all find ways to fill the gaps. I would probably just personally watch even more horror movies than I already do. Or better yet, I’d actually read some books.

But if the league and its players allow it to come to that, for a sport that flat-out owns America for an entire day every year, it’s an absolutely inexcusable failure.

*****

A few more post-Super Bowl thoughts. I’ll leave the game itself to guys like Peter King, I’d rather talk about all the ancillary nonsense …

I thought the Black Eyed Peas halftime show was fantastic. This despite the fact that I don’t love the band. I think though Will I Am has legitimate talent, they put out a generic dime-store brand of pop music.

But I can’t fault them for that. Music is a business like any other, and since dumbing down their music about seven years ago, they’ve sold 27 million records. They make songs designed for frat parties, car commercials and stupid bars. They’re the Beatles of American consumerism.

In that way, they’re perfect for the Super Bowl. Their songs are instantly recognizable and easily digested, and their show with all the light-up dancers intricately choreographed was spectacular. The Black Eyed Peas may not be ambitious musically, but they shot the moon with their halftime show, and I loved it.

When I watch something like the Super Bowl, basically the comfort food of sports television, I don’t want Darren Aronovsky. I want James Cameron.

The Black Eyed Peas set the bar ridiculously high in that regard. They may not have much street cred, but they most certainly earned my respect.

*****

I don’t think the Super Bowl commercials pack quite the same punch they used to, mostly because you don’t actually have to see the game to experience them.

As I said, I missed the first quarter, so I waited for Twitter to tell me which ads I had to see, and then found them online. It didn’t used to be this way — if you missed an ad, you were out of the loop until they reran it on television and you happened to be watching. But the advent of YouTube has put Super Bowl ads at your fingertips, while at the same time blunting their impact somewhat.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still cool ads. That Chrysler ad building to an Eminem-inspired crescendo was intense, even for a lifelong Ford guy. And that kid in the Darth Vader helmet had his 15 minutes. But on the other hand, it’s impossible to slip a blockbuster movie trailer in there; we’ve seen them all online by this point.

In fact, there are so many far more effective — Internet driven — ways to advertise a product than some million-dollar ad campaign during the game. The days of epic Super Bowl ads — Apple’s 1984 ad, Bird and Jordan playing Horse, the Bud Bowl — seem to be over.

I mean, the Darth Vader kid? That’s great and all,  but I have no idea what car he was selling.

I’d say the biggest indictment of Super Bowl ads was that during commercial breaks from the game, some of my friends actually went to the restroom or talked to each other.

Perish the thought.

*****

I thought the game was just okay. Two good teams, pretty close score, but no real spark. The legendary Super Bowls of the past few years set the bar impossibly high.

But man, did I love the postgame Glee episode.

I have some people whose opinions on music I really respect who despise the show for bastardizing popular music, but I’m into it. I’m not ashamed to admit I sang in a choir in high school — about eight voice changes ago — so I can relate a little. The show hasn’t been as good as it was during the first few episodes, tending to play to its audience a little much, but it’s still fun to watch.

And for the same reasons I liked the Black Eyed Peas at halftime, I was into the Glee episode. They went way over the top with everything, they did a great mashup of Thriller and that Yeah Yeah Yeahs song, and they were very convincing zombies.

And most of all, I love the counterprogramming. The women I knew who were sticking out the Super Bowl were ecstatic to have Glee as a beacon at the end of the game. And even for me, after a long game — natch, a long season — it was refreshing to watch something that was the direct antithesis of the overhyped football game I’d just witnessed.

Given that 26.8 million people watched the episode, maybe Fox has its football replacement for next year. Maybe that lockout isn’t so bad after all.

Esoteric

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