Super Bowl Bests

The Big Game will be played today for the 54th time. Just in time for the impending clash between the Chiefs and the 49ers, here’s a look at some Super Bowl superlatives, from the best movie trailer debut to the best half-time show and more.

Best Movie Trailer: The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers Super Bowl trailer (Uploaded to YouTube by Marvel Entertainment)

It’s easy to forget now in the age of Marvel movie domination, but the first Avengers film was considered a risky premise built on a gamble. In the early 2000s, the non-X-Men and Spidey characters were considered the B List. But that all changed with the 2008 breakthrough of Iron Man, the first part of Marvel Studios honcho Kevin Feige’s master plan. The next four movies (Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger) built toward the formation of the team. A teaser at the end of Captain America (“Some Assembly Required”) and another teaser (set to “We’re in This Together” by Nine Inch Nails) set the stage, but the Big Game Trailer included the first version of the now-iconic “circle shot” of the team together for the first time. The Avengers had assembled, and an unprecedented string of successes would follow.

Best Commercial:  Apple, “1984” (1984)

How Apple’s “1984” Commercial Changed the Super Bowl Forever | NFL Films Presents (Uploaded to YouTube by NFL Films)

There will always be endless debate about the best ad. There have been long-lasting favorites from the likes of Volkswagen (“Vader Kid”), McDonald’s (Jordan vs. Bird, “nothing but net”), Pepsi (1992 Cindy Crawford), and countless memorable beer spots. But potentially the craziest one is the Apple ad that ran only once. Evoking the films of Fritz Lang and the writings of George Orwell, the spot suggests liberation from a gray-hued dystopian by … the Macintosh computer? Though the spot aired just one time, it consumed conversation with opinion pieces, TV news airtime, and talk show discussions. Publications like Business Insider consider this the moment that Super Bowl ads became the biggest commercial availability of the year.

Best Half-Time Show: Prince (2007)

Prince Performs “Purple Rain” During Downpour | Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show |NFL (Uploaded to YouTube by the NFL)

You know a half-time show transcends mere mid-game entertainment when the NFL makes a mini-documentary about it. In the midst of pouring rain, the crowd heard an opening take on Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Then the stage lit up: it was The Symbol. Prince appeared, said, “Dearly beloved … ” and the crowd went bonkers. What followed was a super-charged performance that included a mosaic of tunes like “Let’s Go Crazy,” “1999,” “Baby I’m a Star,” CCR/Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” Dylan/Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Foo Fighters’ “Best of You,” and, of course, “Purple Rain.” It was showmanship of the highest level, made more incredible by the artist’s ability to transcend, and in a way, even take control of the weather to enhance the performance.

Best Play (tie): The Riggins Run and the Tyree “Helmet Catch”

Ask 50 people what the Best Super Bowl Play Ever was, and you’ll probably get more than 50 answers. However, if you ask people to list some of the best plays, a few elite moments will rise to the top every time. For that reason, the Post offers two selections, appropriately split between a run play and a pass play.

In Super Bowl XVII in 1982, the Redskins squared off against the Dolphins. Trailing on a 4th and 1, the Redskins handed the ball to John Riggins. Riggins broke through to pick up the 1st down … and just kept going. He ran for an additional 41 yards, right into the end zone. The play turned the tide of the game, and Riggins was named Super Bowl MVP.

In 2008’s Super Bowl XLII, the Giants were running out of time against the Patriots. In the final two minutes, scrambling Giants QB Eli Manning threw to wide receiver David Tyree, who was facing his own heavy pressure. Remarkably, Tyree secured the ball in mid-air by holding it against his helmet. The play gained the Giants 32 yards and a 1st down. The Giants went on to win, 17-14.

Best Game: Super Bowl LI (2017)

Super Bowl LI highlights. (Uploaded to YouTube by the NFL)

Let’s face it. Some Super Bowls have been thrilling, and others have been one-sided affairs that were decided in the early going. This was a spirited nail-biter that went into the first OT in Super Bowl history. You had the New England Patriots with Brady and Belichick and the Atlanta Falcons had MVP QB Matt Ryan. It certainly looked like it could be a blowout, as the Falcons led 28-3 in the third. But the Patriots came roaring back, dropping 25 on the Falcons to take it into OT. The Patriots won the coin toss and converted that stroke of luck into a TD, wrapping up their fifth championship.

Featured image: LunaseeStudios / Shutterstock

Satisfaction Guaranteed: Namath and the Jets Upset the Colts 50 Years Ago

Sports history enshrines many its greatest moments with simple titles. The Drive. The Catch. The Immaculate Reception. It’s fair to say that the pantheon should make room for a moment that occurred off-the-field: The Guarantee. In 1969, New York Jets star quarterback Joe Namath boldly proclaimed that his team would beat the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Three days later, on January 12, they did just that.

The Colts had already won two championships in the 1950s, prior to the championship game getting the updated title of the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, the coach of those two winning teams had been Webb Ewbank; this time, he’d be on the opposite side, coaching the Jets. The Colts finished the regular season with a 13-1 record; the Jets went 11-3. On paper, both teams had considerable strengths; though the Jets had a powerful offense, the Colts had the best defense in the league, allowing only 144 total points against them for the entire season.

Namath’s prediction came during an appearance at the Miami Touchdown Club. With a loud Colts fan heckling him in the crowd, Namath spontaneously responded with, “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.” Of course, the real test would come on the field.

Super Bowl III is available in full on YouTube, courtesy of the NFL’s official channel.

Though it might not have been the most exciting game ever played, it was certainly a sterling exemplar of field control on the part of the Jets. They held the Colts scoreless through the first three quarters, picking off MVP quarterback Earl Morrall three times; in the fourth, injured Colts legend Johnny Unitas came off the bench and led his team to their only touchdown. By the final whistle, it was Jets over Colts, 16-7.

Many guarantees have been made by players since. Some have even been fulfilled. But this one lives on. Perhaps it’s because it was inspired by the human moment of Namath attempting to silence a skeptic. Perhaps it’s because an underdog defied the odds. Whatever the case, the Namath Guarantee continues to be a touchstone of pop culture and part of the lore of one of the most consistently popular sports in America.

The first page of the article "Joe, Joe, You're the Most Beautiful Thing in the World".
Read “Joe, Joe, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing in the World” from the December 3, 1966 issue of the Post. Become a subscriber to gain access to all of the issues of The Saturday Evening Post dating back to 1821.

News of the Week: Super Paper, Super Bald Men, and Super Bowl Recipes for Sunday 

Paper Rules

Someone once asked me what my favorite app was, and I told them pen and paper. It’s true. I don’t use a smartphone, and I don’t 100 percent trust “the cloud,” so I’m very old school when it comes to taking notes and keeping things organized. I can’t live without my Moleskine and Field Notes notebooks and my Uni-ball 307 pens. I love the Kindle but I prefer print books. I’m a paper guy.

This BBC article about the joys of paper and the resurgence that it’s having made me smile (a real smile, not an emoji). And it’s not just older people clinging to nostalgia; it’s also millennials and younger people who grew up as digital-first natives. Studies show that people who actually write things down remember them better. There’s something about paper that is vital, necessary, something that will make it last, even if we constantly hear that print books and newspapers are going away and everything is digital digital digital. Or, as my friend William Powers puts it, paper is eternal. [PDF]

How important is paper? Try going to the restroom without it next time. There’s no app for that.

Yul Brynner
Professional actor (and bald guy) Yul Brynner
By CBS Television (eBay itemfrontback) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hair Is Overrated

I’m not saying this because I’m bald, even though I am, well, bald. I’m saying it because it’s science!

According to a University of Pennsylvania study, bald men are seen as more dominant, stronger, and even taller. Considering my height, I don’t really understand the “taller” part of that study, but I’ll take dominant and stronger.

The study also showed that men who are balding should just go ahead and shave off what hair they have left instead of using hair restoration products or doing that horrifying comb-over that isn’t fooling anybody.

The Best Airport in the World Is In…

Come on, guess! Is it in England, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, China? Nope, the best airport in the world is right here in the United States (and no, it’s not in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles).

It’s in Pittsburgh! It’s Pittsburgh International Airport. This is according to Air Transport World magazine, a publication that has been picking the best airport for the past four years. Previous winners are London’s Heathrow, Hong Kong International, and Singapore’s Changi.

I think airports instantly sound more important if they have “international” in their title.

RIP John Hurt, Barbara Hale, John Wetton, Mary Webster, Harold Hayes

John Hurt was an acclaimed veteran actor who appeared in such classic movies as The Elephant Man, Alien, Midnight Express, A Man for All Seasons, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Osterman Weekend, Watership Down, Rob Roy, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, plus several Harry Potter films. On TV he had roles in I, Claudius, The Storyteller, and Doctor Who. He will be seen in four movies later this year. Hurt passed away from cancer last Friday at the age of 77.

Barbara Hale was best known as Perry Mason’s assistant Della Street on the classic series Perry Mason and dozens of TV movies. She also had roles in movies like Airport, Gildersleeve’s Bad Day, The Boy with Green Hair, and The Window, as well as TV shows like Adam-12, Ironside, Playhouse 90, Lassie, and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Her death at age 94 was first reported by her son, actor William Katt, star of The Greatest American Hero.

Musician and producer John Wetton was the lead singer and bassist for the supergroup Asia, who had hits like “Heat of the Moment,” “Don’t Cry,” and “Only Time Will Tell.” He was also in the bands UK and King Crimson and had stints in Roxy Music and Uriah Heep. He also released several solo albums over the years. He passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 67.

Mary Webster co-starred in one of my favorite movies, the 1957 Anthony Perkins/Henry Fonda western The Tin Star, as well as Jerry Lewis’s first film without Dean Martin, The Delicate Delinquent. She was also in the Vincent Price sci-fi adventure Master of the World and TV shows like The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, Dr. Kildare, Father Knows Best, Route 66, and The George Burns and Grace Allen Show. She passed away Monday at the age of 81.

Harold Hayes, a true American hero, was the last surviving member of a group of Army medics and nurses who escaped from Nazis during World War II. He was on a plane with 29 others when it was hampered by bad weather and German attacks, forcing it to land in Albania. All 30 of them — one with a badly injured knee — survived the 600-mile trek through hostile territory to freedom. Hayes passed away at the age of 94.

One Last Thing about Mary Tyler Moore

Did you see CBS’s hour-long tribute to Mary Tyler Moore? No? Good. You didn’t miss much. The show was all about Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, as the two talked and talked about how The Mary Tyler Moore Show affected them and how Moore went on Oprah’s show that time and how she empowered women. It looks like it was put together too quickly by someone who learned about Moore by reading Wikipedia. I thought it was more like The Oprah Winfrey Show than a real tribute to Moore, and when I checked Twitter, someone else thought the same thing:


That’s officially my favorite tweet of all time.

Earlier, Van Dyke was interviewed on CBS This Morning, and it’s better than that special, even if Charlie Rose does pronounce the character’s name wrong (it’s PET-rie, Charlie, not PEET-rie):

This Week in History

Prohibition Begins (January 29, 1919)

It lasted until December 5, 1933. Maybe you can remember Prohibition by making some moonshine.

Black Student Sit-In at Woolworth’s (February 1, 1960)

Four students sat in the whites-only section of the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and were refused service. They came back later with more protestors, and the sit-in eventually grew to 300 people, which forced Woolworth’s to change its policy.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Norman Rockwell Born (February 3, 1894)

When you think of The Saturday Evening Post, you also think of artist Norman Rockwell. Here’s a look back at our Rockwell birthday issue from 1984, and here’s a terrific remembrance from his granddaughter Abigail, which includes a gallery of classic Rockwell Post covers.

Super Bowl Recipes

Super Bowl LI is this Sunday. It airs on Fox and starts at 6:30 p.m. ET. Believe it or not, the pre-game starts at 1 p.m., so you have approximately 5 1/2 hours to “get ready” to root for the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons (as a Bay Stater, I have to put the Pats first in this sentence).

One of the things you can do during the afternoon is make food for the big game. Now, I’m going to assume that because this is the Super Bowl, you’re not going to want Beef Wellington or ceviche or a big plate of Papparelle with Sea Urchin and Cauliflower. You want football food. Stuff that’s probably not that great for you and requires a bunch of napkins.

How about these classic chili recipes from Emeril Lagasse? Chips and dips are big on Super Bowl Sunday, so how about this recipe for guacamole? And for drinks and dessert, go on over to the Today show website and get some recipes for root beer floats and Rice Krispies treats that look like football jerseys.

Me? I’ll be watching the game, but only for the commercials.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events​

National Weatherperson’s Day (February 5)

Four days ago the local meteorologists here said we were only going to get a dusting of snow today. Then, suddenly, yesterday’s forecast changed to 3 to 5 inches and I had to shovel. Maybe this is why we shouldn’t have 5- or 7- or 10-day forecasts. They’re never right.

But people dump on meteorologists all the time, so maybe this is one day we can send them a box of chocolates or an umbrella instead.

Safer Internet Day (February 7)

The safest internet is the one you never log on to, but if that’s not an option for you, you can read our tips for being a smart cyber citizen, learn how to prevent identity theft, and learn how to keep your kids safe when they’re online.

Five things you need to know about Super Bowl XLVIII

Super Bowl XLVIII

As one of the pinnacle events in the sports world, we have compiled a list of six things we think you should know about Super Bowl XLVIII. The game airs Sunday on Fox at 6:30P.M.

1. Best defense vs. Best offense

The Denver Broncos go into Sunday’s game with a top-ranked offense led by quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning has had a record-setting year for the Broncos. His 55 touchdown passes this season are the most in NFL history, and he set a league record with 5,477 passing yards. As a team, the Broncos offense scored 606 points this season. Meanwhile, the Seahawks defense has been a force to be reckoned with all season long. Led by the outspoken Richard Sherman, one of the top corners in the league, the Seahawks’ defense have forced 28 interceptions (eight of those credited to Sherman), committed 44 sacks, and allowed opponents to score just 231 points. Despite this historic matchup, experts predict the outcome of the game will be determined on the other side of the game: the Broncos defense against the Seahawks offense. Either way, this game is bound to be a classic.

2. Weather

MetLife Stadium has seen plenty of snow leading up to the Super Bowl, but hundreds of workers have cleared snow and ice away for Sunday.
MetLife Stadium has seen plenty of snow leading up to the Super Bowl, but hundreds of workers have cleared snow and ice away for Sunday.

For the first time in Super Bowl history, the game will be played in Met Life Stadium, just outside of New York City. Since the site announcement, speculation of bad weather has been a featured storyline. For days leading up to the event, hundreds of workers have been removing snow and ice from the stadium. The coldest Super Bowl on record was back in 1972 in New Orleans when the temperature was a mild 39 degrees. Meteorologists are predicting this year’s game day temperature to be 37 degrees with a 20 percent chance of precipitation. New York has been blasted with frigid temperatures this winter due to the Polar Vortex, so a high of 37 may feel toasty to locals.

3. Commercials

Every year there’s a big fuss about the companies that will pay millions of dollars to run a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl. And every year, lists of the best and the worst are compiled and scattered across the Internet Monday morning. This year, there are commercials teasing out commercials that will air during the big game. The adorable Budweiser ad with the puppy and the clydesdale has already gone viral a week before it officially airs on TV. Scarlett Johansson has been under criticism for a racy, un-rated ad for SodaStream which prompted her to resign from her position as global ambassador of Oxford International, a company that fights poverty.

4. Peyton Manning’s Legacy

Peyton Manning's legacy has been a topic of conversation leading into Super Bowl XLVIII.
Peyton Manning’s legacy has been a topic of conversation leading into Super Bowl XLVIII.

It may be hard to believe, but Peyton Manning has been in the league since 1998. During his illustrious career, he has carefully danced around the conversation of being named the “Greatest Quarterback of all Time.” As he approaches the outcome of his third Super Bowl appearance and looks for his second Super Bowl ring, the conversation has intensified. Can Peyton Manning really be the greatest of all time if he only has one ring? Manning will turn 38 in March, and although he has just completed his best regular season of his career, the clock is ticking as retirement looms. Will this be Manning’s last chance for another ring?

5. Super Bowl Alternatives

Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform the halftime show on Sunday.
Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform the halftime show on Sunday.

We aren’t all sports fans, so perhaps Sunday evening will be spent watching something other than the Super Bowl. If so, you have some options. Every year, Animal Planet airs the ultimate spectacle of cuteness in the Puppy Bowl. Puppy Bowl X airs during the Super Bowl Sunday evening. This year, the NFL got in on the action and put together a Puppy Bowl Fantasy League! Downton Abbey is brand new on PBS at 9pm on Sunday evening, and AMC will be playing a marathon of The Walking Dead all day Sunday in anticipation for the mid-season premiere the following week. NBCSports will be airing the Olympic Speed Skating trials, and there is an array of movies on other cable networks for non-sports fans.

6. The Halftime Show

Since Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction ten years ago, the halftime show at the Super Bowl demands almost as much attention as the game itself. This year, pop star Bruno Mars will perform on the big stage joined by rock band The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Expect an electric, creative, and upbeat performance from the vocalist.

Are Sports Fans Happier?

Let the madness begin!

March is the time when vasectomies increase by 50 percent thanks to the much-anticipated opportunity for patients to “recover” in front of their TVs.

March is also the time when workplaces do some real number-crunching: on the expected loss in employee productivity (estimated at 8.4 million hours and $192 million last year); on money bet on office pools (a hefty chunk of the $2.5 billion in total sports wagering each year); and even on the number of times workers hit the so-called “Boss Button” (computer software that instantly hides live video of games with a phony business spreadsheet), which was activated more than 3.3 million times during the first four days of last year’s tournament.

But mostly, the NCAA Basketball Championship—better known as “March Madness” or “The Big Dance”—is a time that gives us something to cheer about beyond the game itself. If history and science hold true, no matter the outcome of the three-week tournament that begins in March, most of the millions who will follow its hard-court action will emerge as winners. “That’s because in the long run it’s really not the games that matter,” says Daniel Wann, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Murray State University in Kentucky and author of Sports Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators. “Being a fan gives us something to talk about, to share and bond with others. And for the vast majority of people, it’s psychologically healthier when you can increase social connections with others.”

After conducting some 200 studies over the past two decades, Wann, a leading researcher on “sports fandom,” finds consistent results: people who identify themselves as sports fans tend to have lower rates of depression and higher self-esteem than those who don’t. Blame it on our primal nature. “Sports fandom is really a tribal thing,” says Wann, a phenomenon that can help fulfill our psychological need to belong—providing similar benefits to the social support achieved through religious, professional, or other affiliations. “We’ve known for decades that social support—our tribal network—is largely responsible for keeping people mentally sound. We really do have a need to connect with others in some way.”

But when it comes to opportunities to connect, the Big Dance may have a foothold over other sporting events. “The beauty of March Madness is that it attracts people of all levels of sports fandom—and for different reasons,” says Edward Hirt, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Indiana University who researches how fanship affects social identity.

Some watch, whether or not they usually follow sports, because they are alumni or have another previous affiliation to these “tribal networks”—the 60-plus participating college teams. Others connect on the spot, perhaps because it’s easier to form emotional allegiances with gutsy amateur athletes who compete with heart and soul (and while juggling mid-term exams) rather than for the paychecks collected by millionaire pros.

Also consider the unique nature of the tournament itself—a series of back-to-back games over the course of several weeks with little to no idle time in between during which a casual fan might lose interest. “I have not seen any empirical evidence to support that March Madness is necessarily better than other sports events” for promoting mood and mindset enhancements. “But theoretically I expect it could be,” says Wann.

“There are only a couple of events—the Super Bowl also comes to mind—that seem to transcend typical fandom into being akin to a national holiday … a reason for people to get together. But with the Super Bowl, everything leads to one game—and most of the time it’s an anticlimatic one that’s over by half-time.”

TV sports as therapy? Passionate fans tend to have lower rates of depression and higher self-esteem than the rest of us. Illustration by Kagan Mcleod.
TV sports as therapy? Passionate fans tend to have lower rates of depression and higher self-esteem than the rest of us. Illustrations by Kagan Mcleod.

With March Madness, however, Wann notes, “there’s a longer, more drawn out event that provides more opportunities to engage in social opportunities and connections. And bonds tend to be stronger with a longer passage of time.”

Do the math: More games + more time = more opportunities to share for better bonding. “Because upsets are a normal occurrence, and you get runs by Cinderella teams knocking off the perennial favorites, there’s enough uncertainty and unpredictability in this tournament to get people excited—and keep them excited,” adds Hirt. “Early games affect later decisions; there’s a cascading effect, as opposed to a one-time pick … and that allows for the pride that comes with someone with no sports expertise being able to win the office pool.”

Maybe that’s why despite a short-term productivity loss many experts believe that March Madness actually benefits the workplace in the long term. Bonds formed in office pools and post-game water-cooler chatter build morale and inspire teamwork. At afterwork get-togethers in front of the tube, buddies can share chicken wings—and their emotions. “You have guys hugging each other, cursing at the ref, and bonding by sharing a sense of commonality,” says Hirt. “Where else can guys express their emotions like that?”

And those other relationships? Although studies show that two to four percent of marriages are negatively affected when one spouse is an ardent fan (think of the so-called “football widow”), sports fandom has a positive or neutral effect on nearly half of relationships, says Wann. “It gives many couples something to do together or allows one to have time to go off and do their own thing.”

Even if you watch in solitude, March Madness and other sporting events provide a diversion from the woes of everyday life—if only for a few hours. “Older people, especially when widowed or physically incapacitated, are more likely than others to relate to televised events,” says Stuart Fischoff, Ph.D., senior editor of the Journal of Media Psychology and a California State University, Los Angeles, professor emeritus of psychology. “Watching sports helps us get outside ourselves.”

With the thrill of victory, many fans experience bona fide joy—complete with hormonal and other physiological changes such as increased pulse and feelings of elation. And with defeat, the overwhelming majority may initially feel sadness and disappointment, but usually rebound within a day or two, studies show.

However, lest we present too rosy a picture, it must be said that sports fandom can also be a health hazard. In a 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that on days when Germany’s soccer team played in the World Cup, cardiac emergencies more than tripled for German men and nearly doubled for women. Of course, European soccer fans are an extreme bunch; but even in the U.S., although visits to hospital emergency rooms tend to decrease during a much-anticipated sports game, there’s a higher-than-usual surge immediately after the game ends. The explanation: To see a game’s final outcome, some die-hard fans delay making that trip to the ER.

And, of course, no story about March Madness would be complete without mention of gambling. The odds of predicting all game winners are about 9.2 quintillion to one. Yet when it comes to sports betting, nothing turns John Q. Fan into Jimmy the Greek more than the NCAA tournament. Workplace camaraderie is one reason. But there’s another important factor.

Bragging rights.

With Super Bowl pools there’s just a series of boxes with different scores. If you’re lucky enough to pick the right one, you win. “But it’s a more complex task in filling out all the March Madness brackets, and a seductive pleasure in trying to predict the upsets,” says psychologist Edward Hirt.

Another reason why nearly twice as much money is wagered on March Madness than the Super Bowl: More than in other events, NCAA tournament fans simultaneously root for more than one team, triggering a greater likelihood of making multiple bets.

With other sports championships you have to wait a week or at least several days between games, but this sports soap opera—with its David versus Goliath battles—continues night and day, providing a stronger hook.

So let the games begin. Whatever the final outcome, odds are good that the overall advantage—for mind, body, and spirit—is definitely in your court.

Sid Kirchheimer talks more about the benefits of being a sports fan in this radio interview with KZIM.


The Modern Super Bowl

In case you hadn’t heard, the biggest game in all of sports takes place this Sunday: The Super Bowl. Not only is it the title game of the National Football League, it is a cultural event unlike any other in America.

There are few things that are as ingrained into the American psyche as the Super Bowl. Every year—even months ahead of time—we know that we will: dress up and give out candy for Halloween, exchange gifts for Christmas, and get together with friends for pizza and wings for the Super Bowl. It practically is a religious holiday among die-hard fans, and even those who hate the sport still attend parties and watch “just to see the commercials.”

How big of an event is it? It is estimated that over 173 million people will tune in to the game Sunday evening—over half of the population of the United States. Consumer spending is expected to surpass $11 billion, as many as 1 in 10 workers will miss work the Monday after, and Americans will have eaten over 1.25 billion chicken wings after all is said and done.

And that’s nationwide. The impact the event has on its host city is virtually unfathomable. “There will be over 100,000 people in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl this year,” says Susan Williams, president of Indiana Sports Corporation, a non-profit lobbying group that was instrumental in bringing the event to Indianapolis. “We have been planning for this for three years. It is a huge civic engagement.”

And it is not just the sheer number of people that the city is preparing for. The cultural importance that our country places on this game, combined with the reality of living in the internet age, have indeed meant that Indianapolis has undergone a massive undertaking.

First of all, the enormity of this event means that keeping the venue safe from threats both domestic and abroad is something that the city has taken very seriously. “Fifty percent of the planning so far has been spent on safety and security,” explains Williams. “There are people here from Homeland Security, the FBI, the Secret Service—every possible public safety entity. This ranks right below a presidential visit in terms of security.”

The widespread media coverage of the Super Bowl has also presented unique challenges. There will be 5,000 credentialed media in the city, all of whom will require internet access, access to technology, and hospitality. However, Williams is full of hometown pride and believes Indy is up to the challenge: “An entire floor of the JW Marriott has been transformed into a media center,” she says. “Every single member of the media will have access to equipment, and there will be very high-level volunteers who will act as concierge to ensure that their every need is attended to. That’s why they like coming here: we’ve hosted several Final Fours and the 500 every year, and Indy knows how to deal with it.”

In addition to the special media and security preparations, the city has had to prepare with the physical realities of hosting so many people. Every downtown hotel is sold out; train tracks have been shut down; the downtown post office has been temporarily decommissioned and mail rerouted. It is estimated that visitors will spend between $100-200 million dollars in Indianapolis over the Super Bowl weekend, which is welcome news to local vendors, but presents a logistical nightmare to planners.

This is the reality of the Super Bowl in this modern age. The more cynical among us might say that such importance being placed on a simple sports game shows that our country’s priorities aren’t quite in order, and they might have a valid point.

However, according to Williams, the event will provide a lasting positive impact in Indianapolis outside of the realm of sports. “This has really brought out the best of Indianapolis,” she says. “It’s brought the community together in an incredible way.”

Over 8,000 volunteers will participate in the events surrounding the Super Bowl, which Williams believes will strengthen the community. The city will also benefit from several more physical and concrete improvements:


So, even after this year’s celebration wraps up on Sunday—and we look ahead to the next American holiday—Super Bowl XLVI will leave its mark on Indianapolis and the country as a whole.

If I Ruled the World

Every night before I fall to sleep I go over the day in my head, thanking God for my blessings and—just occasionally—suggesting to him how he might have done something differently. Knowing best, God hasn’t put me in charge yet. But if he ever did, I would change a few things.

Let’s start with winter.

God did an admirable job with winter. We can all agree there are few sights lovelier than a blanket of freshly fallen snow. Unfortunately, after two or three days, the white stuff turns to a yucky, slushy gray and leaks in over the tops of our shoes. I wouldn’t let the snow fall on roads and sidewalks except for once a year to give the kids a snow day—one of life’s unheralded joys. And after three days all the snow would disappear, just as quickly as it had fallen, to make room for more fresh powder. But I would permit snow to linger on mountaintops so folks could ski.

I would also be much more selective about the location of snow. Washington, D.C., would get considerably more snow than it has in the past—snowfalls of blizzard proportions—which would keep Congress from meeting and further damaging our country. Buffalo, New York, on the other hand, gets too much snow, so I would give them a break. Florida has always gotten off easy in the snow department, so I would give that state a lot more—except for the part of Florida where I go in February. It would remain a balmy 82 degrees.

And I wouldn’t stop there with my winter improvements. It’s nearly impossible to buy coats, hats, and gloves in the winter because stores are already stocking swimsuits for summer. I would strike with lightning any store that sold clothing six months before we could conceivably wear it. While whipping the stores into shape, I’d also crack down on teenage clerks so busy chatting with other clerks that they ignore their customers.

If I were in charge of the universe, I would arrange for my family to receive free Super Bowl tickets, preferably on the 50-yard line. I would also make sure the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl, which would take a miracle since they’re not in the playoffs.  I would strike the other team with boils and a good, old-fashioned Biblical plague or two.  

I’d do something about my garage, too. It’s crammed to the rafters with junk, leaving no room for our cars. My wife and I begin each winter day scraping frost from our windshields. If I were in charge, I’d double the size of my garage. It’s a sorry affair when doubling your garage requires less work than cleaning it, but that’s what happens after living 13 years in the same place.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac landed on my doorstep not long ago. It is predicting a milder than usual winter for my neck of the woods, so I might not get to try out all the changes I have in mind. Then again, the almanac could be mistaken and I could make all those adjustments and more. “Adjustments” sound so much better than “changes,” don’t you think?

The more I consider being in charge of the world, the more I like the idea. I might not stop with winter, either, but move right into spring and do something about snow in April—which should never happen, no matter where you live. As long as I was tinkering with April, I would dispense with April 15th altogether. That day looms over my life like a giant icicle, threatening to come loose from the gutter and cleave me in two.