I was bemoaning the halftime theatrics of recent Super Bowls when a buddy responded: “It’s an event.”
Event. Spectacle. Showcase. Everything but a football game.
Call me a traditionalist, but if this moment is truly what the NFL professes it to be — a bowl of super proportions to crown the world champion — then it should be foremost about the football.
Fortunately, for us football fans, the past few bowls have been about the game. We’ve seen close scores. We’ve cheered stunning last-minute comebacks. We’ve witnessed unbelievable plays under tremendous pressure.
And seven of the last 10 Super Bowls have been decided by a touchdown or less. Despite conversations about wardrobe malfunctions, million-dollar advertising rates, and past-their-prime performers, the recent history of the Super Bowl shows there’s been a feast for true football fans as well as the uninterested masses of Super Bowl partygoers.
This year comes the ultimate main course: The game will take place in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., outside. In the winter cold. With the chance of rain and snow.
I’ve heard some pundits argue that introducing the elements eliminates the pure mano-a-mano sense of competition. Peyton Manning and the high-flying Denver Broncos may be grounded if the weather turns blustery (showers and snow are possible tonight), providing a distinct advantage to the defensively minded Seattle Seahawks.
To me, that’s what professional football is about: Adjusting to conditions. Even in domes, unexpected circumstances arise. Key players get hurt. Balls take odd hops. Close calls go one team’s way. The best are those that can play under myriad conditions — and still win. Throughout December and January, teams have battled the elements to get to this point, to earn the right to play in the Super Bowl. Why shouldn’t the game take place outside, as it was meant to be played?
I’d also argue that the Super Bowl halftime spectacle, with its inordinately long break, is as unnatural as any element for a football game, especially when the pyrotechnic fog lingers as the second half begins.
With this turn to the outside, in the cold, with the elements, it will remind the performers and the audience that this day is about the players and the game. The smoke can dissipate more quickly, and we can all remember that, yes, Super Bowl Sunday is indeed about football.