Land of the Free, Home of the Super Bowl


I love this great country of ours. I honestly do. I love America for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and health. I love her when she wakes up with bad breath.

No, I’ll never leave her. At least not without my passport.

And so when Sunday afternoon arrived, I did my patriotic duty. Like millions of red-blooded Americans around the globe, I sat down to watch the Super Bowl, which in 30 years has established itself as arguably America’s premier sporting event.

The gladiators of gridiron! The halftime spectacular! The new TV commercials!

Now, not everybody goes for this sort of thing, but I’m not questioning their patriotism. My America is a big-tent America. But still, I think people who attend poetry readings during the Super Bowl can’t possibly understand American culture. And even if you end up hating the Super Bowl, it can be something you love to hate.


History will remember this one as Super Bowl XXX. Roman numerals are used to signify just how damned important the Super Bowl is. They are also used for Wrestlemania, you know. This particular Roman numeral, however, resembled something you might find in your local video store.

It seemed a bit ironic, then, that Vanessa Williams would sing Our National Anthem. She was the one-time Miss America who lost her crown after some naughty photos surfaced, photos that wound up in Penthouse magazine. (So I’m told.) Little did anyone realize then what a fine career move this would be, giving her the exposure (heh heh) that would ultimately lift her to this place of honor. In America, scandal isn’t always a bad thing--and that’s good. It shows what tolerant, forgiving people we are.

Vanessa sang Our National Anthem in that breathy, syrupy voice of hers. It sounded like phone sex. (I once called one of those numbers by accident.)

Because I love my country, I booed Vanessa Williams. But I loved booing her.

Then I was in my car, because one really shouldn’t watch a Super Bowl alone with your beer and Doritos. Soon I was with Dave and Betsy and their son, Bobby, age 9. Seven-year-old Rachel, meanwhile, was watching a Pippi Longstocking marathon in the next room. But what do you expect of a little Bohemian who wears berets to elementary school?

Got there just in time for the coin toss, featuring a parade of Super Bowl MVPs from the past. It was a nice gesture and all, but I couldn’t help but wonder what the NFL would have done had O.J. Simpson ever won this award. The answer is: something else.

We were, of course, rooting for Pittsburgh, the underdogs. To be more precise, we were rooting against Dallas, the overdogs. It wasn’t so much that we wanted Pittsburgh to win as we wanted Dallas to lose. Still more precisely, we wanted Jerry Jones, the egomaniacal jerk who owns the Cowboys, to lose. In 49 of the 50 states, Betsy observed, people were rooting against the Cowboys.


Strange, but they used to be called “America’s team.” The Cowboys scored their first touchdown on an illegal pick play that the refs missed. The moral: Cheaters often prosper.

Not that I really cared that much. Truth is, even when L.A. had a team or two, I never cared for the Rams or Raiders the way I care for the Dodgers or Lakers. Maybe it had something to do with Georgia Frontiere and Al Davis, owners about as likable as Jones.

This being the Super Bowl, there was more to root for. We rooted for good commercials. The latest of those Budweiser frog commercials showed a wintry scene with frogs freezing to death with their tongues stuck to a Bud can. You’d think People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would call for a boycott.

Frankly, Budweiser should have been furious with the NFL. That triple-X Super Bowl logo looked like a beer label. All game long I wanted to try that new cerveza, Tres Equis.

You may also recall a Pepsi ad that, not unlike Budweiser’s frosty frogs, had frosty humans with cold Pepsi cans stuck and dangling from their lower lips. More proof that it isn’t only great minds that think alike.

But more than anything, I found myself rooting for my numbers to come up, having placed a modest investment in an office pool. This is, of course, another great American tradition.


Anyway, when the Cowboys were up 13-0, I stopped rooting for the Steelers. My most promising square had a 5 for the Cowboys and 0 for the Steelers. On the off chance Dallas could score a safety and make the score 15-0, I’d have netted a cool $100. This didn’t happen, of course, which is a shame, since I had planned to donate my winnings to a worthy cause.

Halftime arrived and with it Diana Ross. Like so much about Super Bowl, the halftime show is so awful that it’s wonderful. Remember Michael Jackson surrounded by all those children?

Then a helicopter soared into the stadium. Aha, we thought, a surprise! Who, we wondered, was it bringing to the stage? Had to be someone big. Tony Bennett? Stevie Wonder? Would, God forbid, Michael show up? Or was it bringing terrorists eager to make a statement?

It brought, we soon found out, nobody. It was just Diana’s way of beating the traffic.

Actually, the second half wasn’t so bad. The onside kick was a gem of strategy. It looked like the underdogs might pull off the upset, until poor Neil O’Donnell threw his second interception to the Cowboys’ Larry Brown.

Brown was selected the game’s MVP for that, even though an average prep player could have picked off those terrible passes.

With the coming interactive age, the fans should pick the MVP. And we shouldn’t be limited to the players, since the Super Bowl is so much more than that. We should be able to choose anyone, such as that blond Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who was featured in a lingering shot during the second half.


America is a democracy, after all.