Media-powered Super Bowl frenzy descends on America

The popularity of the Super Bowl is based on just about everything but the game played on the field.

Sure, the game features the two theoretically “best” teams, but as last year’s blowout featuring the Seattle Seahawks and — what we were told was — the Denver Broncos showed us, the mantra of “any given Sunday” can apply to blowouts just as easily as it can to upsets and comebacks.

There is a fairly good chance that this Super Bowl could be far less entertaining than the Seahawks’ crazy come-from-behind overtime victory last week in the NFC Championship Game over the Green Bay Packers or the New England Patriots coming back from not one, but two 14 point deficits in the divisional round against the Baltimore Ravens. Toss those on top of the controversy and media circus surrounding the Dallas Cowboys’ two playoff games (the picked up flag vs the Detroit Lions and the clearly — but not technically — caught pass against the Packers) and I’m willing to bet that the most entertaining football that this season has to offer is past us.

What truly makes the Super Bowl “super” is the surrounding entertainment. You have sports (and now news) media covering and breaking down every aspect of the Seahawks and Patriots, arguing about possible personnel matchups; how Seattle’s “Legion of Boom,” with shutdown corner Richard Sherman and hard hitting safety Earl Thomas both nursing injuries, can match up against the human wrecking ball that is New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver/trick play quarterback Julian Edelman; or if the Seahawks’ lack of a fundamental passing attack can be a benefit against the Patriots’ top corner Darrelle Revis and former Legion of Boom member cornerback Brendan Browner, the strengths of the revamped Patriot defense.

These conversations take place as the filler pieces between the things that “really” matter, such as “Deflate-gate,” a.k.a. “Ball-ghazi.” The accusations that New England intentionally deflated their game balls 2 psi below the regulated minimum has led to a more detailed reading and breakdown of a non-gameplay aspect of the league’s rulebook than many of the fans gave to their college textbooks, and has seen the Ideal Gas Law get more media attention than at any other point in history. This may be the only scandal the NFL is enjoying, given it has turned the spotlight away from the league’s many issues with domestic violence, most notably surrounding Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy, and the recent report which proved the NFL commissioners’ office of being both utterly incompetent in the investigation and of blatantly lying to both the owners and the press back in September, in a matter very similar to former Raven Ray Lewis’ deer antler spray controversy before their appearance in the 2012 Super Bowl which masked the New Orleans Saints bounty aftermath.

All of these controversies and media stories still only focus on the football aspect of the Super Bowl, which, while most important, is by no means the only reason millions of Americans tune in on Superbowl Sunday. The halftime show is one of the biggest and shortest concerts of the year, with as many watching for the enjoyment of music as to hate-watch the performers (the Black Eyed Peas’ technical malfunctions in 2011) or enjoy the eye-candy effects and performers while secretly hoping for another wardrobe malfunction à la Janet Jackson. This year’s combo of Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz marks the second straight year (Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers last year) of a young pop star mashing up with a newish rock act to try and appease everyone while thrilling no one.

The final piece of the Super Bowl media megastorm is the one thing current society is working ever so hard to phase out: commercials.

In the age where everyone has a DVR — assuming they even still have cable — Ad Block is the most-used extension, and pirating/streaming on demand media is viewed as a way to minimize precious viewing seconds being wasted on ads, the Super Bowl has transformed advertising from nuisance to entertainment. With hundreds of top ten lists of funniest, most classic, raciest, and worst Super Bowl commercials, they have become as much a part of the game as the football itself. Millions of dollars are spent on the airtime alone, not accounting for the production budget. The big game is the one time people prefer you to talk over the program and not the ads, as the color commentators generally have far less to offer than an ad from Doritos or Budweiser.

All of the hype for all three aspects of the game is pushed by the media. If you wanted to see in-depth breakdowns of the match ups of giant Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor and Gronkowski, or New England middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Seattle halfback Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, and somehow haven’t found one yet, you just are not trying hard enough. Same goes for “Deflate-gate,” which led all three national news broadcasts Thursday evening, or Lynch’s perpetual fines for inappropriate celebration/lack of media cooperation. We haven’t even hit Super Bowl media day, and ESPN has been all NFL all the time with minor inconvenient interruptions for the NBA.
At the end of the day, I think the Seahawks will win a close game 21-20, but ultimately that’s not why we care. Sure, one of the nation’s northern shoreline communities will be ecstatic and the other in a likely drunken rage, but for the vast majority of us, we are merely spectators hoping to be entertained.

And while there are no guarantees that the game will provide that (conspiracy theories of Jerry Jones and the Cowboys fixing the playoff game against the Lions aside), halftime and the commercials will.

If you really want to make the game matter, Vegas and the Internet have you covered with more prop bets than any one reasonable human could ever think of (coin toss head or tails, length of the national anthem, color of the Gatorade tossed on the winning coaches head and movement of the stock market the next day just to name a few non-game related ones).

But, really, just sit back, knock back a few beers (or root beers, depending on age) and enjoy the perfect storm of entertainment as created and developed by the media and the world’s most media-driven league.