There’s the last M.A.S.H., the “Who Shot J.R.?” Dallas episode, Roots and probably Super Bowl 44.
Perhaps adding to the allure of watching the game was the proliferation of social media, the Internet and all that stuff. These days a guy can have a Super Bowl party with all his friends and followers without traveling anywhere. And based on how the roads look after the big snowstorm that walloped us, we weren’t getting too far anyway.
Besides, who wants to be in the same room with half of those people anyway… I keed, I keed.
Anyway, back in my day when MTV and ESPN first came out and we went from 12 channels with a dial to 30 channels with a space-age remote, Super Bowl Sunday meant a day filled with tons of good sports matchups. In fact, I recall a Sixers-Celtics and Celtics-Lakers matchup as an appetizer for the big game. For geeks like me it was pretty fun to watch Doc, Moses, Andrew Toney, Larry Bird, etc., etc. before the biggest sporting event of the year. Often the NBA games were even better than the Super Bowl.
These days, though, there are 900 channels, on-demand, in-demand, DVR, TiVo, YouTube, Hulu, and whatever else you need to watch whatever you want whenever you want. Who can keep up? Moreover, the ratings are never going to be accurate—if they ever were in the first place.
Nevertheless, harkening back to those halcyon days when Super Bowl Sundays were spent with Kevin McHale and Joe Montana, I figured the lead-ins to the big game were worth a look again. Why not? I was already snowed in and didn’t feel like traipsing through our winter wonderland.
So after waking up at the crack of noon, the first stop on the TV was the NFL Network where they were set up at a desk on the field a good seven hours before kick-off. Even stranger than that, there was a whole bunch of hired heads yapping about the game from a whole bunch of different desks located around the stadium. The main desk, of course, had Rich Eisen at the head chair with Marshall Faulk, Steve Mariucci and Michael Irvin.
Across the field from the main desk was a blonde-haired woman with long hair that got all entangled in the wind whipping through the stadium. I probably wouldn’t have cared if she didn’t spend at least 30 seconds of TV time yapping about it as if the wind were literally spitting on her. In TV, 30 seconds is an eternity, but considering the NFL Network had more than six hours to fill the wind was as topical as anything else.
Still, the silliest part about the wind/hair/curses-to-Mother Nature was how the blonde-haired TV woman thought the development of strong morning breezes could have some affect on the passing attack for the Colts and Saints in the game. You know, because weather never changes in the span of six hours. If it’s windy when TV lady is on the scene, well by golly, it will be windy when everyone else is there, too.
Of course the big topics were reserved for Eisen and his crew on the other side of the field. That only makes sense considering there was only one meaningful topic, which they proceeded to pulverize with plenty of ancillary bantering between the panel because the game did not start for another six hours. Then, of course, Eisen ran things because he was the only guy there who did not play or coach in the NFL yet still was e-mailed bikini photos of that former anchor woman in Philly. That makes Rich Eisen a hero to dweeby sports geeks everywhere and sends an important message…
Stay in school, kids. Study up on those important facts and sports reference material. Watch plenty of games and skip class if you must, but by all means, stay in school. You too can be just like Rich Eisen and hang with some ex-football players where you will spend the better part of six hours discussing Dwight Freeney’s ankle on a sun and wind-swept afternoon in Miami.
But way too crazy for me. I needed to pace myself if I was going to make to kick-off so it was off to investigate what else was out there in the wonderland known as cable television. Better yet, I settled onto the MLB Network just in time to pick up Game 5 of the 2008 World Series exactly where it picked up after the two-day rain suspension. You remember the first part of the game, right? That’s the part where it rained so hard during the action that it could only be properly summed up by a soaking wet Ryan Howard after the stoppage in play when he told me it was a, “bleeping bleep show.”
How right he was.
Since I never saw the completion of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series except for in actual real time, I settled in to watch. Only this time I did it without the threat of having to go straight to the airport and to Tampa afterwards. It was much more enjoyable and relaxing this way.
But here’s what I don’t get:
Why did Joe Maddon leave the lefty J.P. Howell in to hit and then pitch to righty Pat Burrell to start the seventh? Burrell, of course, hit that double that just missed landing in the seats and then immediately took him out for a righty to face a switch-hitter and two straight right-handers? I thought Maddon was a genius?
Anyway, we all remember what happened from there and since they cut away before the clubhouse and field celebration—thus eliminating a chance for me to see myself lurking in the background like an idiot—it was time to move on…
… to a Duke-North Carolina match-up from 1988 when the Tar Heels were rated No. 2 in the country and Duke was on the way to a Final Four appearance. Oh yes, they were all there: Danny Ferry with hair, Quinn Snyder all skinny and point-guardy. There was J.R. Reid with that flat top, Rick Fox in short shorts, and Jeff Lebo from Carlisle, Pa. where he and Billy Owens won the state championship.
Yes, Dean Smith was there, too, along with Coach K still looking as rat-faced as ever. But what was the most interesting was catching a glimpse of Billy King when he was a school boy with Duke. We all remember Billy, right? The Sixers’ slick and stylish GM, who given the current state of the franchise, might not have been doing too badly. Nevertheless, in 1988 King didn’t have those chic thin glasses or the neat clean-shaven head like he did when he was running the Sixers. Instead he had a mustache that would have made Billy D. envious and a flat top that fit perfectly with the trendiness of 1988.
But Ferry, the current GM for the first-place Cleveland Cavaliers, ran things for Duke back then. With Kevin Strickland and Ferry combining for 41 points, Duke got a 70-69 victory in their first of three wins over Carolina that season.
But Billy King’s mustache and haircut can only pique one’s interest for so long. It was Super Bowl Sunday, after all, and kick-off was quickly approaching. It was time to prepare, so I checked on the veggie chili I had simmering on the stove top, poured myself a tall glass of iced tea, and flipped the dial back to the NFL Network for any last minute insight.
Instead I got a whole bunch of yelling and a lot of goofing off.
Seemingly holding down the fort as if in some sort of sadistic dance marathon, Eisen was sitting there in Miami grinning like a goon as Mariucci and Irvin were shouting overly wrought football points about topics no one could decipher. Actually, Irvin dropped into some sort of loud, pontification worthy of the finest antebellum preacher or Stephen A. Smith marked with a ridiculously loud over-enunciation usually reserved for people trying to sell you a mop on TV or folks who just have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. Why shout and put on such an over-the-top show if you have the facts cold? If it’s true, it doesn’t have to be sold. The truth sells and I’m buying. Only I didn’t buy any of this.
Just the facts, guys.
Oh, but if you wanted to hear Irvin really get loud, all you had to do was wait for Adam Sandler, David Spade, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and Chris Rock take over the set to talk about some movie they have coming out sometime soon. Aside from being the typical comedians-interviewed-at-the-Super-Bowl bit, the only trenchant part came when Spade astutely replied to Eisen’s query of a prediction with, “No one cares what we think about football.”
That David Spade is a wise one.
Then again maybe that’s not entirely true. Maybe that depends on what those guys actually have to say about football. Take Chris Rock, for instance. After the group interview with the funny guys, Rock gave a private interview with Deion Sanders in director’s chairs near the field because… well, because he’s Chris Rock. And aside from explaining to Deion that he was no Juan Pierre during his baseball days, Rock dropped this nugget when asked who his favorite player was.
“Donovan,” Rock said.
In the history of the NFL there have only been nine guys with the name, “Donovan.” Chances are Chris Rock was not talking about Art Donovan, the Hall-of-Fame tackle for the Baltimore Colts during the 1950s. Making it easier to deduce that this “Donovan” character was indeed, Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles, came when Prime Time asked why Donovan was his favorite player.
“He wins like a man and loses like a man. … He takes responsibility,” Rock said.
Chris Rock is a tough act to follow so just before heading off to a pre-game nap, I flipped to CBS just in time to see host James Brown tell analyst Dan Marino that the road leading to the stadium in Miami was, “Dan Marino Blvd.”
Judging from Dan’s expression upon hearing that news, it looked as if the ol’ QB took had taken a few wrong exits off that road in the past.
 No, not really. I just love that expression and the humor that comes with sloth.
 For the life of me I can’t remember her name. Alycia was it? Does it matter? Is there a difference?
 The only way Irvin could have sold me is if he would have twisted his mustache and wore a bowler hat like an evil spy. Otherwise, it’s just yelling.