We watch... so you don't have to.

Military Intelligence, Jumbo Shrimp, Super Bowl

I am reluctant to admit what I'm about to say because this is an edgy time in our nation's history. Dissent is frowned upon. Rocking the boat is very much discouraged. And during brighter days, when you could let your freak flag fly and the worst thing that could happen to you was a few raised eyes brows and some worried murmurings from the squares, you step a little bit out of the mainstream these days and the authorities start keep filing on you.

Nevertheless, in the words of poet/dancer/"Cannonball Run" extra Sammy Davis Jr., I gotta be me. I have to be true to myself, no matter what other people think. And so I'll say what I have to say, and let the repercussions and backlash fall where they may.

I have no interest in watching Super Bowl XXXVIII this Sunday. Zero.

There. I said it. And I'm glad I said it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to pack for my Justice Department-ordered trip of indeterminate length. I understand Guantanamo Bay is lovely this time of year.

I'm being overly dramatic? Perhaps. But this is the Super Bowl we're talking about here. Each year, the game -- whether it's an instant classic or so wretched that NFL Films immediately sets fire to the rough cut -- is the top-rated event on television, attracting an audience that easily tops a hundred million people in this country alone. We are told it is the birthright -- nay, the duty -- of every red-blooded American male to watch the Super Bowl. Even people with a passing interest in the game -- the folks who couldn't tell the difference between the shotgun formation and the run 'n shoot offense -- will feel compelled to tune in. It is a Major Event that brings us as a nation together -- that's what we're told by sportswriters with a penchant for overstatement anyway -- a de facto national holiday built around sports, television, and guacamole (three things near and dear to my heart).

And yet, I can't find one compelling reason to watch, not even if they held the coin flip in my living room.

The shame of it all is, I'm a sports fan. When I get the morning paper each day, I cast aside the parts of the newspaper dealing with such trivialities as world events and finance and make a beeline straight for the box scores. I listen to sports-talk radio. I have passionate, extensively thought-out positions on everything from the designated-hitter rule to last summer's WUSA championship game. I've forgotten nearly everything I once knew about great works of literature, calculus, and the Periodic Table of the Elements, but I can still tell you who led the National League in home runs in 1977. Basically, if you can devise an easy-to-follow scoring system and figure out a way to crown a champion that does not involve the deliberations of a panel of experts (thus excluding figure skating, diving, and Division 1-A college football), you can slap it on the television and be assured that I'll be tuning in.

Unless, apparently, you're talking about Super Bowl XXXVIII.

I pin the blame on ESPN, which, for the past two weeks, has relentlessly promoted the upcoming Patriots-Panthers clash on shows like The Sports Reporters, Pardon The Interruption and especially Sports Center as if it were all three Ali-Frazier fights, the Battle of Getttysburg and the second coming of Jesus Christ all rolled into one three-hour football game. Nothing wrong with that, in theory -- ESPN's raison d'etre is to get people interested in sports, even if over-hyping something jeopardizes its credibility. So we've been treated to extensive personality profiles, strategy breakdowns and point-counterpoint-style arguments on just how exactly New England and Carolina will give us a game for the ages come Sunday.

Only trouble is, the game is more likely to be duller than dishwater.

This is no knock on the respective football prowess of either the Patriots or the Panthers. It's just that, if history is any guide, the "super" in Super Bowl tends to be more of a marketing term than an adjective describing the game itself. A quick review of the facts reminds us:

  • Of the previous 37 Super Bowls, only 11 have been good, memorable games (and we're being charitable by including Super Bowl V). Four have been decent, but largely forgettable. The other 22 have been downright dreadful -- usually decided by the time the halftime performers are limbering up.
  • When there's a two-week period between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl -- as there is this year -- the superior team has enough time to prepare a game plan to snuff out any underdog's would-be upset.
  • Based on win-loss records, New England was the best team in its conference. Carolina was the fourth-best.

Ergo, we head into Sunday's game with a 60 percent chance of suckitude and the likelihood that any time spent planning a victory parade route through downtown Charlotte is time misspent.

Then again, it's not as if the likelihood of a Super Blowout is a recent phenomenon. More often than not, the game looks like a blowout on paper, no matter how brave a facade Chris Berman and his NFL Countdown compatriots erect, and I still do my duty as a man and an American and turn in. So what's my problem with this year's game?

Maybe it's the teams. I have no vested interest in either the Carolina Panthers or the New England Patriots, emotionally or monetarily. I can't even work up the sort of healthy disdain for either franchise that fuels so much of my sports viewing. My dislike for the New England sports scene pretty much begins and ends with the Boston Red Sox and their cretinous fan base. As for becoming a ball of fury over anything Carolina-related, well, good luck there. I mean, what's supposed to raise my hackles? The team's drab, unexciting offense? Their uniform's color scheme? The franchise's cowardly refusal to pick a state -- North or South? C'mon, Carolina -- help me to hate you!

"OK, so the game is of no interest to you," you say. "You could always watch just for the commercials." To which I reply, listen to yourself. We spend 364 days of each year assiduously avoiding any accidental laying of eyes upon advertising. I bought a TiVo specifically so I would never have to watch a TV commercial again. And now I'm supposed to spend three hours of a perfectly good weekend sitting in front of the TV specifically so people can try and sell me stuff?

Besides, in case you haven't noticed, the Super Bowl ads have been really kind of awful for the last few years.

There's always the halftime entertainment, I suppose. But then I sort of stopped paying attention there once Up With People stopped getting the gig. Janet Jackson, Kid Rock, Nelly, and P. Diddy are all right for the kids, I suppose, but they're not really my bag. The bands I like tend to have died several decades ago and, therefore, are unavailable to perform on Sunday.

(This just in: a super-duper top-secret performer will be part of the halftime festivities on Sunday, Sports Illustrated reports. TeeVee's Jason Snell muses about if it will be accused child molester Michael Jackson, perhaps in a duet with accused child-pornography aficionado R. Kelly. Philip Michaels predicts that if it is the Gloved Fugitive, fans will riot until Reliant Stadium burns to the ground. Which may be a compelling enough reason to tune in, come to think of it.)

So you can understand my dilemma, then. Knowing CBS, the coverage will be competent but excitement-free. The commercials will be lackluster. Janet Jackson's attempt to reassemble the members of the Rhythm Nation will fail to move me. And the Patriots 22-5 victory over the Panthers -- courtesy of five Adam Vinatieri field goals and a Jake Delhomme interception returned for a touchdown, plus a Panther field goal and safety to avoid the first-ever Super Bowl skunking -- should put hundreds of millions of viewers to sleep round about the middle of the third quarter.

(Did you see what I just did there? By predicting a blowout -- and a Patriot win -- I have ensured that the game will now be relatively close and that the Carolina Panthers will pull off the upset. Guess my sniveling hatred of the thrice-damned Red Sox Nation does extend to the region's football team as well.)

So I'm inclined to sit this one out. For the first time in 23 years -- back when I was more interested in what letters and numbers were sponsoring today's installment of "Sesame Street" than who was advertising on the Super Bowl -- I could spend Super Bowl Sunday doing something other than stuffing my face full of snack food and watching some team run roughshod over its deflated opponent.

The problem now is, what do I do instead?

While there are plenty of other shows to watch on Sunday (look to your left or click here for them), the idea of trading one three-hour block of stupefying programming for another doesn't appeal very much to me. There are vigorous outdoor activities or books to be read, but it seems like I could do those any day of the year. I want to do something that explicitly takes advantage of the fact that the Western world will be hunkered down in front of their television sets watching a terrible football game, while I roam about the world footloose and fancy-free.

So I turn to you, the readers of TeeVee. Tell me what I should do in lieu of watching the Super Bowl Sunday afternoon. If the suggestion is good enough, I'll not only award you a generous prize package (once he finally awards the prizes for last year's Dead Pool -ed.) -- do the words "assortment of smoked cheeses" get your motor running? -- but I'll follow through on my idle threat to boycott Super Bowl XXXVIII and all its attendant hoopla. Just send your ideas to teevee@teevee.org. Hurtful suggestions like "Go jump in a lake" or "Whatever it is you do, for the love of God, don't write any articles" will be ineligible for the prize package.

Besides, if the game turns out to be any good, I can always catch it on TiVo on Monday.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

Got a comment? Mail us at teevee@teevee.org.

* * *