Super Bowl XLVIII was billed as one of the most memorable title clashes in NFL history before the game even started. New York City, the weather, the best offense against the best defense. It was going to be a game for the ages.
Until it wasn't.
The weather was a complete non-factor. The city was a fine host all week, but once the game began, the New Jersey stadium had zero impact on making the game more memorable. For the casual fans, or diehards without a rooting interest, Super Bowl XLVIII was a disaster from the opening kickoff.
Denver fell behind after an errant snap forced a safety on the first play of the game and was never able to recover. The game felt more like the Broncos' Super Bowls of the 1980s, when Denver got blown out by NFC stalwarts, than the victorious trips in the 1990s.
That's the thing about Super Bowls. All the hype in the world can't make a game close, and blowouts never go down in history as all that memorable. Historic, sure. The Seattle victory over Denver is one of the most historic victories in the Super Bowl era. We will certainly remember the outcome, especially with Peyton Manning losing another Super Bowl, this time in his brother Eli's building. So, sure, we'll remember the result, but the game itself was ultimately forgettable, save a few huge plays that made the difference.
With that, the day wasn't an entire loss. I got to watch Fox from 2 p.m. when the pregame show came on straight through the trophy presentation more than eight hours later. Here are some of the best and worst moments of a long day of football, follies and Fox.
Best: Fox Pregame Interviews & Taped Segments
Look, I'm usually no fan of pregame shows, but as they go, Fox's extended Super Bowl pregame extravaganza wasn't terrible. In spots. We'll get to the parts that were, but first, one thing in particular that wasn't bad at all: the interviews.
Fox does taped segments as well as anyone, and they pulled out all the stops for the Super Bowl, giving each of their studio personalities and sideline reporters a marquee interview during the four hours leading up to kickoff, each in a different location with a different backdrop, lighting and editing style.
The variation of interviews—from Terry Bradshaw talking to Peyton Manning on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River with the New York cityscape as the backdrop to Howie Long talking to Russell Wilson over what felt like a candlelight dinner oddly worked, keeping the pace of the pregame show going and enhancing Fox's overall coverage.
Even Pam Oliver's Marshawn Lynch story kind of worked, as she interviewed everyone from his teammates to his mother without getting a chance to talk to him. The spot was just ridiculous enough to come off well for Fox not being able to talk to Lynch just days after Deion Sanders got him during media day.
Perhaps the best two segments were not interviews at all. Bart Starr's narrative about the NFL championship in bad weather would have been a bigger part of the show if the weather was going to be more of a factor, but it was still nicely done. And while I didn't much care for the Vince Lombardi piece, hosted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan in St. Patrick's Cathedral, I applaud the effort to put it all together.
The best piece of the pregame was Jay Glazer's visit and interview at the World Trade Center. Glazer is not a natural interviewer, but he did a good job with a very personal piece. His question, "Is this the greatest comeback in American history?," felt way over the top, but he was sitting inside the new Freedom Tower, so the hyperbole is excusable.
Fox didn't dumb down the pregame show with Rachael Ray cooking segments like CBS did last season. In all, it was a relatively good show.
Worst: Chris Myers
Chris Myers was dealt a losing hand on Sunday. When Terry Bradshaw left New York to be with his family after the passing of his father late this week, Fox decided to move Michael Strahan back to the studio show in New York and put Chris Myers on the makeshift "red carpet" with Charissa Thompson.
Why Thompson couldn't handle it herself, Fox executives must still be asking each other. She was great. Myers was dreadful.
The network took the stodgiest guy in its deep roster of talent and put him in a celebrity fluff environment. It was an unmitigated disaster.
Why not put Erin Andrews there for an hour if Thompson needed another person? Why not put John Lynch—whom Fox loves—in the studio and let Strahan stay at the stadium to glad-hand with celebrities all day?
Why not do anything other than let Myers kill that entire premise? Even Terry Crews couldn't save Myers with lines like "Richard Sherman is my spirit animal." Hell, Myers even cut off Bill Murray while he was trying to plug his new movie.
Again, it was a fill-in situation, but it's the Super Bowl. There has to be someone else available on short notice.
Best: Pat Summerall
When Fox first got the NFL a few decades back, the network hired Pat Summerall and John Madden from CBS to be its lead crew. This was not the first Super Bowl that Fox has televised since Summerall's retirement, but it was, sadly, the first since his passing.
Summerall was the voice of professional football for an entire generation, and it was nice of Fox to not only remember one of its own, but to carve out time on a very big day to pay tribute to a man who meant a lot to the game.
It does make me wonder, though, how Summerall's dry tone would be received on Twitter today. Would he be as revered as he is now if we had the chance to comment on his every word? I think about this when Summerall's replacement as the lead voice for Fox, Joe Buck, calls big events. More on him in a bit. For now, this is about Summerall, and it was great of Fox to recognize him in the pregame show.
Worst: Bill O'Reilly Interview
Let's try to leave politics aside for a second. The idea of interviewing the sitting President of the United States during the Super Bowl pregame show was, at one time, a neat idea. It seemed misplaced on Sunday.
Now, the reason it could have felt misplaced is because Fox News sent Bill O'Reilly back to the White House to berate the President over several hot-button issues, turning a celebratory day of sports into a really awkward and tense exchange between our Commander in Chief and the guy who thinks he's the smartest person on TV.
As a media personality, I actually like O'Reilly. As an interviewer of the President, he's the worst pick. He spent the entire segment trying to make sure we were left talking about him. And we are. So O'Reilly won today, and in turn, we all lost.
No network is going to pass on the opportunity to talk to the President, but if future years mirror what happened on Sunday, it's probably best for everyone to keep the day about football, not politics.
Best: Broadway Joe
Joe Namath stole the pregame with that fur coat. The coin toss, not so much. But still, Broadway Joe is the best.
When all the New York Giants can trot out onto the field is Phil Simms, the New York Jets will win the quarterback battle of the Big Apple forever and ever. Eli Manning could win 10 Super Bowls, but he'll never be close to as popular as Namath.
In New York, nobody ever will.
Worst: Denver's First "Drive"
We didn't hear one Omaha the entire game. Who would have thought the crowd at a Super Bowl would be so loud? Clearly not Denver.
The noise caused enough confusion to force a bad snap by center Manny Ramirez that went past Peyton Manning on the game-opening play, forcing Knowshon Moreno to jump on it in the end zone for a safety.
Denver needed to respond after giving up a field goal on Seattle's ensuing drive, but it went three-and-out. Nobody would have ever counted out Denver's offense at that point, but in retrospect, it sure felt like something was different. It's easy for me to say now, yes, but it's still the truth. Maybe the safety rattled Denver. Maybe Seattle's defense was just that good.
Best: Doritos Time Machine
I thought the ads were relatively lackluster this year. A few notable spots induced some chuckles, but nothing was a lock for an all-time great.
The first commercial worth noting was one of the first of the game. This cute Doritos ad was simple yet funny, another good user-generated ad that hit all the right notes for the brand.
Worst: Bud Light "Here's Some Dude" Campaign
There was so much wrong with Bud Light's ad campaign this year that it makes me think they did it on purpose. If you know you can't create one of the best ads, why not go for the worst? At least that way, people are still talking about your beer the next day (even if it's for all the wrong reasons).
The problem is, Bud Light spent so much money the last three weeks promoting their Super Bowl spots that whatever they did was going to disappoint. So they didn't do…much…of anything.
They got some guy in a bar who was alone and asked him to go on an adventure. So what? How is that any kind of ad campaign? He saw Don Cheadle in an elevator with a llama. OK, so why would a hidden camera make that worth capturing? He played ping pong with The Governator in a wig. Neato, Bud Light. Thanks for showing this to us, I guess.
Next year, just go back to the damn Bud Bowl.
Best: Radio Shack
Before we get back to the game, here are a few more commercials. The Radio Shack ad was great because the company really does feel like it's stuck in the 1980s. The question is, do Alf and Hulk Hogan change people's perception of a company?
If I need a piece of technology, am I now going to Radio Shack because Ponch from CHiPs was in an ad?
You know…probably. I'm a sucker for that kind of nostalgia.
I know this may be controversial, but Chevy's "Life" ad did not have the reaction the company wanted.
A woman with short hair looking out the window of a truck, then grabbing the hand of her significant other. They smile. The words "Tuesday is World Cancer Day. Join Chevy and the American Cancer Society in celebrating survivors and those who support them on the road to recovery."
They then hit up the tag line for their website that ties into the commercial and the connection to ACS.
Maybe it was the fact Chevy's first ad was about cows having sex, but this spot seemed opportunistic for a car company to use a horrible disease like cancer to sell products.
That's what they were doing. Nowhere on the screen did it say every car purchased in February—or even on Tuesday—will see a donation given for cancer research. It didn't mention whether they'll donate money or cars or time to help cancer patients who need transportation for treatment they otherwise can't afford.
Maybe Chevy is doing all that, but the ad tried to tug on the heart strings of people, like me or you or most of us, who have family members who've lost (or are currently fighting) a battle with cancer to move inventory.
Maybe I'm not the target audience for that ad. I'd like to think anyone with a soul would be able to see through what the car company was trying.
Best: Seattle's Defense
Seattle held the best offense in NFL history to eight points, scored twice that on defense and special teams and created play after play that led to even more of its 43 points.
The entire defense deserved to be named MVP. They held Peyton Manning to 280 yards and forced four Denver turnovers. It was truly an amazing performance from a unit that will now go down in history with the 1985 Chicago Bears and some of the other vaunted defenses as perhaps the best of all time.
It's amazing what a great Super Bowl can do to a legacy.
Worst: Denver's Offense
It's amazing what a bad Super Bowl can do to a legacy, too.
I don't want to get into the whole debate about Peyton Manning's legacy in this piece. There's plenty of time—and plenty of other people's words—to wax on that topic this week. I will, however, say this: I don't know if there was anything he could do.
The safety wasn't his fault. He was hurried on the first interception and was flat-out nailed on the arm on the second. He still managed to dink and dunk his way to 34 completions—a Super Bowl record—and yet, he was horrible when Denver needed him to be great.
His numbers tell a different story than the game, certainly, because it felt like Manning played the worst complete game of his career, and I still don't think it was his fault. Seattle's defense was just that darn good.
This loss doesn't feel like it's a referendum on Manning's legacy as an all-time great or a playoff choker. John Fox told Erin Andrews after the game that the Broncos "ran into a buzzsaw." He's right.
Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen broke down how Seattle did what nobody else could do to Denver this year. There are reasons for the loss, and part of it is on Manning. It just didn't feel like it was all his fault. The entire offense played terribly, specifically the offensive line.
Best: Percy Harvin
Harvin had two rushes for 45 yards when the game was relatively close, and then he blew it open on the opening play of the second half. His kickoff return of 87 yards for a touchdown ostensibly ended the game before Denver had a chance to get back into it.
Harvin was so dynamic on those three plays that some people thought he should have been MVP. Had the game been closer when he returned the kickoff, he just might have been.
It was a lost season for Harvin, but not only does he get a Super Bowl ring, he was able to prove people wrong (read: me) and actually contribute to Seattle's victory.
Worst: Punting Down 29 Points
It's 3rd-and-long inside Seattle territory and you, Denver, try a draw play? Okay, fine, maybe the run would take Seattle by surprise, but when it fails, you decide to…punt? In the second half of the Super Bowl, down nearly 30 points and inside the opponent's 40-yard line, you…punt…the ball away?
How in the world did that happen? If there was any shred of hope for Denver before that decision, it evaporated at that point. Denver needed four touchdowns in less than two quarters. John Fox kicked the ball—and his hope—away for a net 31 yards.
In a game full of disasters, that decision was right up there. Just cowardly, truly.
Best: Terry Crews and the Muppets
Anything with Terry Crews is good. Anything with the Muppets is good. Terry Crews and the Muppets together is great.
Anything with Jerry Seinfeld is good. Almost anything.
I love Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but the reason it works is because it's unscripted and casual. The "script" to the Seinfeld spoof felt forced from the start, and not particularly funny given the context of the ad.
It's a shame, really, because it could have won the night had it been more natural. I wanted to say that any Seinfeld reunion is better than almost anything else. I really tried to convince myself of that. Sadly, I couldn't.
The web series is still gold, Jerry. Gold.
Best: Bruno Mars
I'll give the guy credit where credit is due. I thought Bruno Mars was a horrible choice for the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl given all the talent from this area. I know Springsteen recently did a halftime show, but there's Bon Jovi, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Jay Z—there are a thousand I can list, and the NFL and Pepsi decided to go with a guy from Hawaii instead.
And he was great.
The halftime show is supposed to be about pop, fun, excitement and crowd participation. He hit all those notes. Plus, the song with the Red Hot Chili Peppers was a good way to feed the "we want a rock band" crowd, even though their one song felt horribly shoehorned into the set.
I'm certainly not running out and buying a Bruno Mars album after that performance, but I won't be mad if my daughter wants to put him on in the car tomorrow. I'd consider that a win.
Worst: America as a Marketing Tool
The one thing I didn't like in the halftime show was when Bruno Mars (or someone at Pepsi) decided to post videos of soldiers "dedicating" a song to their families. It's a nice gesture if it wasn't wrapped up in such a shameless corporate ploy.
We are the NFL. We are Pepsi. We love America. Because America loves football. And soda.
And beer, and every other product you can think of. It's really enough with all the America imagery to sell products. Haven't we tugged on enough patriotic heartstrings over the last 15 or so years to peddle merchandise on TV? Let's get more creative, ad wizards.
That goes double for Budweiser and Fox, who teamed up to run the ad where a soldier had a parade in his honor before showing him and his wife or girlfriend in the stands for the game.
I'd believe that ad was a surprise if everyone wasn't mic'd up the entire time. Note: When you can hear someone talking from far away with a "hidden" camera, that means there's a microphone on them. Nothing is truly spontaneous when you have to strap on a wireless first.
I wish every single soldier who comes home from defending our country could get a parade. I wish we could all buy them a beer, but to use their service as a way to peddle product is just like the ad before with the cancer survivor. It's misplaced and transparent.
I wish Budweiser or Chevy or any of these ad companies would have saved the money spent on that spot and donated it to cancer research or the Wounded Warrior project. Do some real good with that money instead of patting yourself on the back for a hollow marketing gesture.
Best: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
The hardest thing to do in sports is talk during a blowout, and it's even harder when it's a game you know hundreds of millions of people are watching, waiting for you to say something dumb.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman largely managed to avoid that trap. There were a few blips here and there, but as far as Super Bowl telecasts go, the duo had a very clean game.
I mentioned Pat Summerall before, so we'll come full circle with Joe Buck. He's a very solid announcer. He is probably the best play-by-play man of his generation. Sure he comes off as smug, but a lot of that is residual disdain for his early days in the booth. He has gotten much better over time, and he proved it again on Sunday.
Aikman is very good, and probably still Fox's best analyst, but I always wonder if Buck would benefit more from a John Madden-type analyst. Would we love Summerall now if he was with Aikman? Would Fox ever think about tinkering with its lead booth in the future?
Probably not after Sunday. They did as good a job as anyone could ask under the circumstances.
Worst: NJ Transit
Of all the bests and worsts the entire day, the worst of the worst has to go to the NJ Transit.
I've lived in New Jersey my entire life. Had anyone asked me, I would have said to get on a train no later than 11 a.m. or plan to walk. That's how congested the trains were going to be.
The area may have been ready for a Super Bowl. The NJ train system was not. Maybe they'll get their act together for the next time the Super Bowl comes back. If the traveling media have anything to say about it, cars will fly by then, so we won't have to worry about the trains.