Friday, February 3, 2012
It's Super Bowl weekend, and the tension has been building for weeks.
Not about who's going to win, but about what's going to be the dumbest media question.
The reporters will have a tough time matching the standard set in 1981, when someone asked Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett, whose parents were disabled, "Lemme get this straight, Jim. Is it blind mother, deaf father? Or the other way around?"
Or 1988, when Doug Williams of the Redskins, the first African American quarterback to start (and win) a Super Bowl, was asked, "How long have you been a black quarterback?"
Or that divine moment in 2000 when a reporter asked Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse about the religious symbol dangling from his neck, "What's the significance of the cross?"
The name Super Bowl, of course, is a misnomer. There's nothing super about this year's teams, the Pats and Giants, who were lucky to escape from their respective conference championships by the skin of their teeth.
What makes the game unique is that it's the only time of the year when the whole country comes to a dead stop and watches the same TV show.
Back in the days when there were only three networks, shared experiences like this used to happen all the time. Television was the great national campfire that we all gathered around every night.
We all watched the Beatles make their debut on the Ed Sullivan show. We all watched Tiny Tim marry Miss Vicki on the Johnny Carson show. And we all watched Chuckles the Clown's funeral on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
That gave us something in common to talk about around the water cooler the next day. But no longer, thanks to the huge explosion in the number of TV channels. I don't watch what you watch, and vice versa. There are just too many choices.
But we'll all be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Never mind that the game is usually a blowout well before halftime. Never mind that the halftime show features canned performances by geriatric cases - like the Stones, the Who and, this year, Madonna - whose best years were behind them decades ago.
The important thing is that we'll all be doing it together. And unlike the old holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, we'll be doing it with people we like, not with people we're stuck with because we're related to them.
Like it or not, the holidays we grew up with are soooo 20th Century. Nobody takes Labor Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day or even July 4th seriously any more.
Once upon a time they were celebrated with parades, picnics, ceremonies and solemn remembrances. Today, they're just an excuse for a three-day weekend.
But the biggest change between then and now isn't the game; it's the fans.
Twenty-one years ago, when Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a last-second field goal that would have won Super Bowl XXV, he was showered with condolences from Bills fans.
Today, 49ers kick returner Kyle Williams, who made a couple of flubs in the NFC championship game, is being subjected to a flood of hateful tweets from so-called fans, including "I hope you get cancer," "I hope you get AIDS," and "I hope you, your wife, your kids and your whole family die."
These losers don't care that he had suffered four concussions, or that the Giants knew this and deliberately tried to hit him in the head, or that he didn't use this as an excuse.
He has nothing to be ashamed of. But they do. Are their lives really so empty? I hope the 49ers track them down - it shouldn't be hard to do - and ban them from home games for life.