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What game were you watching?

POSTED February 9, 2011 12:04 a.m.

Like 111 million other Americans, I opted to spend my Sunday drinking beer and watching oversized men take each other’s land by force. It’s a national pastime, after all.

But unlike approximately 110 million of you out there, I actually enjoyed the Super Bowl from start to finish.

Since the game came to its 31-25 conclusion, all I’ve heard is naysaying. Heck, even before the game finished the Internet was abuzz with complaints.

Yes, there were some legitimate gaffes. I’ll be the first to admit that.

Christina Aguilera goofed up the national anthem – an unforgivable offense to any red-blooded American. But I must shamefully admit I barely noticed the mistake at the time, caught up in the pageantry of the 45th Super Bowl.

The National Football League’s ridiculous temporary seating which failed to pass fire inspections deserves scorn and ridicule as well. To charge impassioned fans $900 for a seat in a folding chair on a temporary riser, and then to turn those fans away minutes before game time is unforgiveable. The NFL’s offer of tickets to next year’s Super Bowl and a refund for triple the ticket’s face value is nice, but won’t come close to covering the cost of hotels and travel.

But in my living room, as the Green Bay Packers took that final knee, we didn’t know about the seatless fans. All we could talk about was how great the Super Bowl was.

And the game was – in this humble, football fan’s opinion – quite good. It wasn’t until I hopped in the car later that night to hear analysts describe the game as one of the 10 worst Super Bowls, ever, that I realized some felt otherwise.

I’m not sure what the analysts wanted. There were big plays, game-changing injuries and momentum swings, and the game was within a field goal in the fourth quarter.

Was it the best game ever played? Of course not. But, as possibly the last pro football game until fall 2012 if players strike as expected, it was an enjoyable, better than average game.

There’s such a disconnect between my view of the game and what others are saying that I can’t reconcile the two. Was I watching the puppy lingerie bowl by mistake? Were they?

Yet the complaints keep coming. I’ve heard from many people that the Black Eyed Peas’ halftime show was garbage. And while the audio engineer was, indeed, garbage at mixing the microphones, the show itself was spectacular in my living room’s eyes.

In a 15 minute halftime, I don’t care about musical artistry, demonstrated in snooze-fest shows by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty in recent years. I want something big, sparkly, and entertaining. The Black Eyed Peas responded with the most visually spectacular show since the Chinese Olympics’ opening ceremony, plus surprise appearances from Slash and Usher. What more do you want?

My biggest qualm, however is that the commercials were savaged by “professionals.” By and large, I thought they were a big step up from last year’s efforts. Most were funny. Some were touching. Many were memorable.

But no commercial, for me, was more memorable than Chrysler’s “Born of Fire” ad, starring Eminem, a Chrysler 200, and the much-maligned City of Detroit.

“What does a city that’s been to hell and back know about luxury?” Eminem asks. “More than most.”

The two minute commercial cost Chrysler about $11 million to show, reportedly. It was a bold, risky move. It was a commercial that relied on the audience listening to every word, for a long period of time. And it was a commercial that advertised a city more than a product, ending with the tagline “Imported from Detroit.”

It was worth every penny, in my mind.

But even this sublime work of art has seen its share of derision. Complaints came from all sides, about the car choice – the 200 is not Chrysler’s best – Eminem – known for being foulmouthed, but the most Detroit-centric star I can think of – and the ad’s cost – expensive for a company recovering from a bailout, but you have to advertise to sell.

Perhaps my personal adoration of the ad has something to do with my family’s history. My mother grew up in Detroit, and her branch of the family still lives there.

But I think there’s more to it than that.

If Chrysler can make Detroit look good, if it can show the positives of a city so savaged, then why can’t we see the positives of a silly football game?

I think viewers went into the Super Bowl this year expecting to be disappointed. We brought our personal lives into the game, let the negativity of the economy, of our work lives, and of the national attitude infect something that was good.

Because the game was, by and large, good. But we’re choosing to accentuate the negative, rather than celebrating the positive.

Maybe we don’t even know how to celebrate the positive anymore, after this harsh Great Recession. But Chrysler’s advertisers certainly do.

Detroit, more than any other city, was devastated by this recession. Family members tell me parts of it look like a war has ravaged the streets. I’m sure everyone’s heard this description in media portrayals of the once-great Motor City.

But those media reports don’t mention the beautiful bits of Detroit that survived the recession, showcased in Chrysler’s ad. And the media doesn’t say what the ad and my family members say – that Detroit is coming back, that you can see it, slowly but surely.

Maybe that’s why I liked the advertisement so much. It wasn’t a throwaway gag to make us forget our troubles, like Pepsi’s awful advertisements. It was inspiring. It reminded us we can make it through all this, and that we are making it through all this.

But if we refuse to notice the good in our lives, the steps we are making, then we’ll be stuck in these doldrums forever.

To contact Alex Cantatore with your memories of the Super Bowl, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005. Complaints about the big game can be directed to someoneelse@turlockjournal.com.

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