Monday, February 03, 2020

Super Bowl LIV: My review

DISCLAIMER: This is a snarky Super Bowl review. I will never be hired by Sports Illustrated or even the Toluca Lake Times. This is my annual attempt at sportswriting and I’m more Redd Foxx than Red Smith.

Super Bowl LIV (or Super Bowl Live for people who don’t recognize Roman Numerals) was a good game until the last two minutes when the 49’ers reverted back to their 4-12 selves of 2018. But with 2:44 remaining, San Francisco was down by only 4 points with the ball. Great line by Joe Buck: “For the 49’ers it’s First Down and 85.”

And haters, sorry, but Joe Buck does a remarkable job. He’s concise, accurate, knowledgeable, and resets the game situation after every play. He’s cool under pressure and can handle anything unexpected that comes his way. Not easy to do with 100 million people watching (although in truth, most people are at parties talking so maybe 300 people are actually listening). Troy Aikman is solid and astute but dull. I’m sure for Joe to goof around with him it’s got to be like playing tennis against a blanket.

Had Green Bay beaten San Francisco in the NFC Championship game we would have had a rematch of Super Bowl 1 where the mighty Packers took on the upstart Chiefs – much like Meryl Streep vying for the Best Actress Oscar with Heidi Klum. What a difference 54 years make.

The FOX production team is to be applauded. Outstanding coverage. They employed more cameras than the total number of Los Angeles Charger fans.

The only way the Super Bowl pre-game shows could have been longer is if Martin Scorsese had directed them. I tuned in at the end during the hundred-year tribute to the NFL. Anyone else notice that O.J. Simpson was among the greats they saluted? But it was wonderful to see the (few remaining) football heroes of my youth. They were all wearing matching red sports jackets so at first I thought it was a salute to stadium ushers. Most had to sit. Of the fifty or sixty grid iron greats I bet there’s not an ounce of cartilage between them.

Yolanda Adams sang a gorgeous rendition of “America the Beautiful,” and Demi Lovato did her best Whitney Houston impression with “the National Anthem.” At one time it would have been stirring to hear these two performances, but that was when the United States was a Democracy.

Now you may think, there’s no need for politics in the Super Bowl. But when there are presidential ads and J-Lo dons a huge American Flag fur coat, the gloves are off. Warning: I have strong opinions.

Right before the game when they had that moment of silence for Kobe Bryant (and “passengers”) and other notables I was relieved Mr. Peanut wasn’t included. It turns out he didn’t die after all (which is probably why he wasn’t included).

The commercials were the usual. A few standouts but mostly over-produced, forced, confusing, frenetic woeful attempts at humor. Considering what they cost to produce and what they paid to advertise on the Super Bowl, you’d think they’d spend a few thousand bucks and hire decent comedy writers.

What the fuck was the Snickers’ hole? Why were all the Sci-Fi creatures from every movie coming to Wal-Mart’s for their blue bags? Why was Arya from GAME OF THRONES singing “Let It Go” while driving in traffic?

There are always the obligatory celebrity cameos. What a huge treat to see M.C. Hammer again. Or 80 year-old Sylvester Stallone as Rocky. Or Martin Scorsese (half the people who watch the Oscars don’t know what he looks like, much less the Super Bowl), or Jonah Hill, or the Kool-Aid Pitcher.

In comedy writer rooms we have an expression called a “Nakimora.” That stems from an old episode of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW. Bob was buying a stereo and the brand was Nakimora. There were six or seven call-back jokes that referred to the name. And each one landed with a thud. So when we do call-back jokes we try not to do too many because we don’t want another “Nakimora.” I bring this up because the Charlie Day-stain-on-his-shirt bit was an excruciating “Nakimora.” Ad after ad bombed and bombed and bombed worse.

I’m not going to go through all the ads but the ones I liked were the Bill Murray “Groundhog Day” ad for Jeep, the Alexa spot (although what did they need Ellen and Portia for – the joke was versions of Alexa through history?), the Bryan Cranston send-up of THE SHINING (immediately followed by a send up of FARGO), and best and most moving was the Google ad.

I didn’t cry at the Google ad (like many people), but I did cry seeing that appalling Donald Trump ad. One woman is reunited with her family thanks to Donald Trump. Awwww. How about the THOUSANDS of families separated by Donald Trump? How about all the children in cages because of Donald Trump?

In fairness, Mike Bloomberg’s spot won’t wow anybody either.

And if we’re on the topic of ads that are truly bullshit, how about the one where the NFL is using high tech wizardry to ensure that players are getting the best health protection possible? And Exxon is doing all it can to clean up the oceans. And O.J. continues his relentless pursuit of the real murderer.

There were a couple of baffling spots. The only way to save our farmland is to buy Michelob beer. The only way to bring our country back together again is to all use TurboTax. If you really want to help the environment, buy an electric engine Hummer. And Wal-Mart celebrates small town America (despite the fact that they’re responsible for putting thousands of ma & pa stores out of business).

Did you notice that a lot of Super Bowl commercials used ‘60s music?

And the theme this year seemed to be frogs, which extended to the way Joe Buck sat on that stool with his legs spread apart.

Speaking of legs spread apart, the Half-Time Show this year was brought to you by “Bare Elegance Gentleman’s Club.” It starred Shakira and Jennifer Lopez and I’m surprised they didn’t collect dollar bills from people in the front row. Both are now in the mature category of PornHub – Shakira is 43 and J-Lo is 50. Yet they both looked great and both could still bump n’ grind (which is good because neither got where they are because of their extraordinary singing ability). I think they were competing to see who will become the next Cher. Shakira had a hot red outfit that showed off her midriff, and J-Lo dressed for the Ice Capades.

Shakira did a delightful BDSM number with a rope. (Explain that to the kids, mom & dad.) And in maybe the single greatest highlight of the whole 18-hour Super Bowl extravaganza, she wiggled her tongue.

All that was missing was one of them tying a cherry stem into a knot with their tongue or swallowing a cucumber whole.

But I did love this: In fact, I applauded. As part of J-Lo’s set she had kids singing in cages – clearly a fuck you to the wonderful man who brought one single family together.

And once the Chiefs won, the leader of the free world tweeted this: "Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on a great game, and a fantastic comeback, under immense pressure. You represented the Great State of Kansas and, in fact, the entire USA, so very well. Our Country is PROUD OF YOU!" Hey, you moron, the Chiefs play in Kansas City, MISSOURI.

All in all, Super Bowl LIV was a slick well-done production of a good tight game and a showcase for a budding NFL superstar, Patrick Mahomes. (Tom Brady, time to pass the under-inflated baton.) I’m waiting for our president to tweet his recognition of San Francisco. “They lost but they played well and the 49ers represented their great state of Alaska – that they were named for – very well.

Bring on the XFL!

55 comments :

Lemuel said...

I thought "Nakimora" came from LAVERNE & SHIRLEY.

Dump the Trump said...

Trump supporter Jen From Jersey is going to have a meltdown when she reads today's post.

Steve Bailey said...

You might never get hired by Sports Illustrated, but every note you hit RE the Super Bowl was perfect. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that Tide meta-joke went on far too long.

Stephen Marks said...

Excellent post, no surprise there, but I'm calling Ken out:

"NAKIMORA" - On the Bob Newhart Show "Bob was buying a stereo and the brand was Nakimora"

Ken's post from March 10, 2008:

"NAKAMORA" - "One night on TAXI they were filming an episode that made reference to some Japanese product made by Nakamora. It didn't get a laugh."

VP81955 said...

I'm just glad it's all over (the NFL bores me; for this fan who recalls Jim Brown and other great running backs in their prime, it's become way too much a QB's game) and that we can get on to what's truly important -- pitchers and catchers reporting in a few days. (Opening day is March 26.) Go Nats!

Glenn said...

Kyle Shanahan needs to wear smaller hats.

The Bill Murray Groundhog Day one was good but they missed an opportunity to bring out the Caddyshack gopher.

It was weird to see J. Lo pole dancing right before bringing out a group of young girls.

Are we really up to 9 for the Fast and Furious movies? When do we get the one in space?

Matt said...

I have never -not once, not ever- understood the hatred of Joe Buck.

I think Joe does a great job in both Baseball and Football, and has for a long time.

Dave Widel said...

I used to be one of the Joe Buck haters. He's always done a great job but he used to be a robot. He's let his personality out more and now I really like him. Troy on the other hand...

I thought the Fox coverage was uncharacteristically lousy. There were several important close plays where they had no replay at all. The close play at the goal line, took 5 minutes for them to find the replay that showed the goal line view. Maybe they had too many camera's? Several times players went off with injuries, and we got no updates from sideline reporters on their status.

Mike Barer said...

NFL must have made a deal with OJ. They would use his picture, but he wouldn't be on the field.

Kathy C. said...

Just an FYI, Jennifer Lopez's coat was the Puerto Rican flag.

Gregg B said...

I guess great minds joke alike. My tweet from last night:

Want to thank the San Francisco 49ers. They didn’t win but they represented the 49th State, Alaska proud. #SuperBowl #Missouri #fortyniners #California

Mike McCann said...

Agreed on Joe Buck's call. Football is his best sport. Regarding the commercials, I'm disappointed that the McDonalds/personalized orders spot didn't get more love. But it required you to pay close attention to the screen as there was no narration.

And it was nice to see The Big Game back in the Sun and Fun Capital of the World.

Michael said...

I was not aware of the event Ken was describing. Was it as important as the fact that pitchers and catchers report in two weeks?

Mike Doran said...

For the record:

Mr. Trump would never - under any circumstances - congratulate any organization connected with San Francisco for anything.
Remember, that's where a certain Speaker of the House is from.
And if the 49ers had pulled it out at the last second -
- well, make your own guess.

My comment of last Friday still stands.
Unless some Senators develop spines between now and the verdict, I fear that the State of the Union is going to turn into Trumpzapoppin'.
And it won't make a Goddamn bit of difference who starts it.

In the series premiere of Newsroom, Jeff Daniels (via Aaron Sorkin) got it exactly right.
He was just a few years early …

Shelley Herman said...

An honorable mention should be given to the Sam Elliott/Lil Nas X spot for Doritos. https://youtu.be/9OpuHa2vwdk

Christopher Carmichael said...

"The FOX production team is to be applauded. Outstanding coverage. They employed more cameras than the total number of Los Angeles Charger fans."

An amazing true fact even when the team was in Sandy Eggo.

blinky said...

5 Star review! Thanks.
The Super Bowl (can I say that? Copyright and all.) is the ultimate celebration of the true soul of our nation: Consumerism.
I remember back when Americans were citizens and patriots. Then 911 happened and G.W Bush told us to shut up and go shopping. We listened, and bought it.
Now we have a reality show nation of morons who couldn't pick out Canada on an unlabeled map of the world.

tavm said...

Me, I was wonderfully surprised to see Sir Paul McCartney there. Loved JLo and Shakira's Half Time Show and the fact that Kansas City kicked San Fran's butt in the fourth quarter! And since I'm from Louisiana, also glad that four of the Chiefs' players were also LSU graduates...

Anonymous said...

I agree, very slick production.
The dancing at halftime was great.
I hope one day Hollywood can make musical that will be as good this dancing.
Best,
Telly

Jeff Boice said...

I enjoyed the outcome- I wanted Kansas City to win. More specifically I wanted Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes to win.

The Chiefs only other Super Bowl win was in Super Bowl IV- which was telecast on CBS with Jack Buck doing the play-by-play- it was his only Super Bowl telecast (he did do a lot of Super Bowls calls on radio). I'm old enough to remember watching SB IV- rooting for the Chiefs in that one because they were playing the Vikings, who had eliminated my Rams in the playoffs. 65 Toss Power Trap! Hopefully Chiefs fans won't have to wait for Joe Buck's son to call their next Super Bowl triumph.

Liked the Groundhog Day ad- the Google ad not so much as I am also a fan of the 60's TV series The Prisoner. Basically the message is "We're Google-we keep track of everything you do. Be seeing you!"

Unknown said...

The Super Bowl was shorter than this post! But I did not fall asleep.

Shea said...

Fun review, Ken. I noticed the OJ photo right after I said to myself, Oh my god, OJ will be here tonight. Whew, at least that didn't happen - that we know of.

For the Trump ad, you can thank Kim Kardashian for lobbying Trump to give clemency to the woman in the ad for which he took full credit. Yep.

Also, the little girl in white who said "Born in the USA" is Emme - JLo and Marc Anthony's daughter. That was the best part of the half time show. Otherwise, it was theme night at the stripper club where Shakira and Lopez's waxers deserve at least a footnote.

Len said...

Congratulations to the Chiefs and all my loyal friends/family in the great state of Kansas City.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Thank you, Ken. I'd rather read your snark than invest fourteen hours in a football game. But I'm so old I remember when it was about the game and not the half-time show or the ads. And the trophy was just called "the trophy" because Vince Lombardi was still alive. And the president of the United States knew what state Kansas City is in. Jeez, I'll be singing "Those Were the Days" next.

John Nixon said...

I had the radio on downstairs...the Westwood One coverage was done well...and just after the game ended one of the first guys they interviewed let out a bunch of "F"'s and "MF"'s......something like "we got the MF'n ball an scored a F'n touchdown...we just won the MF'n Superbowl!". Gulp! To his credit, when the interviews were over the Westwood One announcer apologized on behalf of the network for some of the language used by the players who had been interviewed.

Liggie said...

-- My antipathy towards Joe Buck is that he proudly claimed nepotism for getting his job. I saw a profile of him on "Real Sports", I believe, and he said something like, "Nepotism's great if it's in your blood", referring to his late father Jack Buck. The smug smirk he had on his face when he said it turned me off. Luckily I watch very little NFL or baseball nowadays, so I don't have to put up with his arrogance.

-- I wasn't interested in the game, but I ran errands during it (figuring the stores would be empty) and listened to Kevin Harlan and Kurt Warner's radio call on Westwood One. They are a fantastic pair, and Harlan is one of the best.

-- Shakira's trilling moment is a callback to her Middle Eastern heritage, her father is Lebanese. That trilling is a feature of the region's singing and vocal traditions. Her belly dancing moves are also a feature of said heritage, and how; she has better abs at 42 than I ever had or will have, and I'm not complaining about that. (I didn't see Lopez's performance, she's not my cup of tea.)

-- At home I decided to watch the 6 Nations rugby matches on my DVR. In the England at France game, along with the tons of French "Tricoleur" flags, a few French fans waved European Union flags. France thumped England solidly; how's that for Brexit?

Sean said...

Hate to be nit-picky--so I won't and stay quiet on that one.

Soooo, Shakira shook her tongue at camera? How provocative that would have been in 1980s America. Wow. Shocking. Really. But not really at all.

Ho-hum....or so to speak.

Sean

Sean said...

Oh! I saw some other images from the half-time show and in the words of Rosanne Rosanadana--Never Mind!


Sean

Jeff said...

You failed to mention the predictable pandering to and fetishization of the military.

Anonymous said...

I'm Jo lo's age. Man, I need to hit a gym or two. Janice B.

Maj. Gen. Bartford Hamilton Steele said...

If the 49ers had won the game, Trump would have tweeted that the city would provide a 21 poop-in-the-street salute.

thomas tucker said...

There was a listing of prior half-time shows from years gone past- one of the prior entertainers was Carol Channing! Give me Shakira and J Lo any day- we've come a long way, baby.

Cap'n Bob said...

I muted most of the many, many commercials and skipped the half-time show. I tune it for football, not some punks idea of what's funny or to see some fat-assed slut dance.

Great finish of the game.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken: in case you didn't see my email Sports Broadcast Journal trailed your review again, with praise (check your spam folder if you didn't see it). No need to publish this unless you feel strongly about it. :)

wg

Anonymous said...

And of the U.S. flag on the reverse.

Orleanas

Jeff said...

Bill Prady attributes the origin of Nakamura to Taxi:

In Comedy Writing, Fear The 'Bono's' And 'Nakamura'

Vanity Fair attributes it to The Odd Couple:

The TV Snob’s Dictionary

P.S. The only Super Bowl LIV ad I found genuinely amusing was the Hyundai spot with John Krasinski, Rachel Dratch, Chris Evans and Big Papi.

Anonymous said...

Right there with you, Jeff, on the Google ad. As an Android user, I have resigned myself to accept that Google owns me, and that ad reiterated that for me.

Orleanas

By Ken Levine said...

Wendy,

I gave them permission beforehand. Thanks for bringing it to my attention though.

Brian said...

My biggest complaint about the SuperBowl is always the halftime entertainment. Just not my thing (crotch shot or not). I said the same thing when the headliner was Micheal Jackson (who also had children in his show)

Jim Walsh said...

I thought NAKAMURA was the brand of Japanese transistor radio that Allan Sherman touted in his parody of "Twelve Days of Christmas"...

PJ said...

I can't disagree about anything you said about the game, because I don't care about football and watched the Puppy Bowl instead.

I will disagree about Trump. There is literally NO WAY that moron knows that Alaska was the 49th state. I'd bet good money he can't tell you how many states there are.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I haven't thought about J-Lo's legs this much since I was thirteen years old and finally starting to experience puberty.

Cap'n Bob said...

Correction: punk's, possessive form.

Mike Barer said...

Tickets for the first Super Bowl were around 12 dollars. That seems amazing now. But putting it in perspective, it was quite an investment in that day's money for a game which at the time was a glorified exhibition game, as both teams had crowned themselves champions of their league and thought to be like the MLB playing the PCL (AAA minor baseball league)

Frank said...

I did not watch the Super Bowl. We went hiking.

But your review, Mr Levine, gave me more joy than I think I would have ever derived from game. Cheers to you, and thank you for your continuing work!

YEKIMI said...

I didn't watch that mess but from all the bitching about the halftime show, it made me think that people were longing for the day when Janet Jackson's nipple made a brief appearance for 1/16th of a second.

Ralph C. said...

The NFL cares about the health of their players... by wanting to extend the regular season to 17 games. Perfect logic, yes?

Roger Owen Green said...

I liked how they were highlighting the 100 best players and 10 best coaches about a half hour before the game. But the groupings made it difficult to identify some of the older players. Sometimes teams, or by position or whether they had nifty nicknames?

Kosmo13 said...

The Super Bowl? Are they still making that?

Unknown said...

I watched ZERO coverage of the NFL from the end of the SF-GB game, until 30 seconds before kickoff. I delayed the game by 40 minutes. Skipped all the commercials, and the half time show. It was a great football game. Reading your review simply reenforced the idea that watching the Super Bowl in this manner is my new tradition. Unfortunately, it requires one to watch it alone, unless you know people who feel the same way.

Mike Barer said...

The Super Bowl halftime show needs to be a big extravaganza, both for the attendees and for the TV audience. To those who say "it's a football game" I say no, it's a halftime show!

VP81955 said...

Unknown: Just listen to the game on radio or follow it at the nfl.com/scores site. I refer to that method as "the last great act of cultural defiance."

Jahn Ghalt said...

I happened to stumble onto a Bears game from the year they dominated - Pat Summerall with Madden as "color guy".

Madden had some good lines - Aiken could benefit by listening in - and maybe getting some 'outside help' (if Norman Lear can write jokes for Danny Thomas - Aiken can get similar help).

Good call on Joe Buck - he IS quite the PRO.

And thanks for the cultural commentary (those ads and the halftime show).

(the NFL and AFL champs in Super Bowl 1) had crowned themselves champions of their league and thought to be like the MLB playing the PCL

What a shocker that in Super Bowls 3 and 4 the combined spread was 30-points favoring the Colts and Vikings - yet both teams scored 14 points in eight quarters.

No wonder the NFL absorbed the AFL the next year.

MikeKPa. said...

When the 49ers didn't score after the 2nd Mahomes INT, I thought they missed a golden opportunity to put the game away. The overthrow by Garoppolo overthrowing Sanders near the end zone killed them.

Were you and David ever approached about writing a commercial (the NBC spot not included) and if not, would you ever consider doing one?

MSOLDN said...

Here in London, I was thinking about staying up all night to watch the game, but advance word that El Caudillo (Sr Trump) might have something to do with the telecast caused me to nix(on) that idea and record it instead. So, I was up at 6.30am, and delighted with hard-hitting football compressed into about 1 hour 45 minutes, minus the pregame Trump-Hannity self-glorification session, low-appeal British late-night commercial spots, glitzy MOR half-time show, boring ceremonial rites, etc! Best start I’ve had to a day in some time, especially since I was rooting for the Chiefs!