Saturday, February 6, 2010

Super Blah, Part I - "The Maria Menounos Factor"

Yes, that is a picture of Dwight Freeney's ankle. There was a memo sent out by CBS, ESPN, and NFL Network this week to anyone writing about the Super Bowl stating that it was mandatory to mention Dwight Freeney's ankle at least once. So now that that's out of the way....

I love the Super Bowl. Love love love it. I read every Super Bowl book I could get a hand on as a kid and have seen almost all of NFL Network's America's Game documentaries. I can name for you, on command, the winner, loser, score, starting quarterbacks, head coaches, MVP, and host city/stadium of EVERY single Super Bowl. I have always been in awe of it for what it is - the ultimate game of football played by 106 men who have earned the right to be referred to as the two best football teams on the face of the earth for that year.

But what I can't take is the bastardization of it all. The onslaught of Super Bowl hype is legalized torture. It's just too much. It was too much 10 years ago. I wince at the thought of what it will be 10 years from now. However, the actual football-related overload is not what gets to me; hell, in three days we won't even have a football game to overanalyze for another 7 months. It's the mass-media blitz that takes place, a storm that occurs when those without sufficient knowledge or interest in the game try to descend upon it as if their last name is Unitas or Parcells.

I call it "The Maria Menounos Factor." When you have a major sporting event and the likes of Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, etc. send people to cover it, the event itself has officially been exploited beyond its true meaning. The Super Bowl has been more commercialized than Christmas, and sadly, the World Series is not far behind. Why do I name this after Maria Menounos? If you don't know who she is, she's a nice looking little number who corresponds for Access Hollywood and The Today Show and every so often tries to act like a big sports fan because she's from Massachusetts and someone told her that Boston teams have had a fair amount of success recently. So you get her prancing around in Red Sox attire at the All Star Celebrity Softball Game or tossing the ball around in Patriots gear at Gillette Stadium (sweet Steve Grogan throwback, no way she knows who he is).

All that would be well and good if she or any of her colleagues actually knew what the hell was going on. At the World Series last year, our self-proclaimed huge Red Sox fan was overheard before interviewing Mariano Rivera, "is he a pitcher?" Excuse me? My mom knows who Mariano Rivera is and she watches about 20 minutes of baseball a year. You say you're a huge sports fan and that question comes out of your mouth? If it were me running the show, I'd have Maria stand in the batter's box against one of Mariano's cut fastballs - guaranteed she'd remember he's a pitcher after that.

What I'm getting at is this: the Super Bowl has become such a hype machine that it commands the attention of those in the media who are much better suited talking about what size latté Paris Hilton got from Starbucks yesterday than trying to talk about Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. No one is saying that you have to be able to explain a zone blitz, a Cover 2, or a West Coast Offense in order to get a media credential for the Super Bowl, but please understand your setting. Your groundbreaking stories about whether Reggie Bush is going to propose to Kim Kardashian, or your questions about what brand of chewing tobacco Jeremy Shockey prefers are a colossal waste of time. There is a time and place for such talk, but not now nor here.

You are dragging down the enjoyment level of those who treat sports as a priceless hobby or pastime. Real football fans on Super Bowl week are like devout Christians on Easter, annoyed at the clutter and inconvenience caused by the throngs that only show up once a year. It should be one of the biggest days of the year, but you can't embrace it because someone's sitting in your seat.

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