Super Silliness

Such is the quarrelsome nature of modern America that you can’t even play a football game without provoking a day’s worth of controversies.

We don’t mean the arguments about which quarterback is better, or what defensive scheme might have worked best, or why your team is a bunch of limp-wristed sissies. Those sorts of arguments are a longstanding football tradition, and are arguably the reason they play the game. We mean the incessant cultural and political clashes that people hope to escape from when watching football, but which show up at every Super Bowl.

It is by now an annual tradition, for instance, that one of the many advertisements that interrupt the game will cause a brouhaha. This year it was a spot with movie star Clint Eastwood making a pitch for Chrysler, although you might not have known from that copy, which was a hard-boiled paean to the great American spirit of something or another. If not for a Chrysler logo that briefly and inconspicuously appeared toward the end one would have never known the ad was talking about a bailed-out, Italian-owned headquartered in a decaying, crime-ridden city with a third world literacy rate.

We’re reluctant to criticize Eastwood, partly because of his long and distinguished career in cinema, partly because he’s the rare octogenarian who could whip us in a bar brawl, but the spot seemed an effort to repay President Obama’s bail-out largesse with some tax-payer funded campaign advertising. Eastwood denies this interpretation, saying that “I am certainly not affiliated with Mr. Obama,” but he surely noticed that the ad never got around to mentioning the sponsor’s product.

There’s also an annual controversy over the half-time show, which this year featured the veteran performer Madonna and some big name, red-hot young acts we’d never heard of. Having come of age in a blue jean-clad era of rock ‘n’ roll when anything smacking of show biz was disdained as inauthentic, we were struck by the spectacle of the performance, which featured a cast of thousands and enough high-tech stagecraft to supply a George Lucas sci-fi epic. The general effect of it all harkened way back to the era of Busby Berkeley, but with just enough post-modern poutiness to make it seem contemporary.

Those hoping for another “wardrobe malfunction” to reveal some tantalizing part of Madonna’s still-toned physique were disappointed, as the only shock-the-squares moment came when a leggy young woman in a Cleopatra-goes-to-Vegas costume made an obscene gesture on camera. Once again, the cutting edge seems to be getting dull. Also among the guest-starring performers were a hirsute duo calling itself LMFAO, which we’re told is a text-messaging acronym that contains profanities — we’re guessing the “F” and the “A” — but that went largely unremarked.

The only other non-football controversy we’re aware of concerns the gorgeous wife of the gorgeous quarterback on the losing team making some profanity-laced comments in the aftermath of the game. We’re inclined to let it slide, as they say, in part because it was a spontaneous slip rather than a deliberate provocation, and in part because she’s gorgeous.

As for the many arguments about the game itself, those are mostly beyond our football knowledge, except to say that we’re happy Eli Manning won’t be remembered as the Dom DiMaggio of football.

— Bud Norman