Many long-suffering fans of the Dallas Cowboys weren’t born in January 1971, when the team played in their first Super Bowl.
The trademarked event was still relatively new, but it was already rivaling other sports championships like the World Series or Triple Crown. What it lacked in tradition, it made up in spectacle. With the media eager to help promote the contest, someone asked Cowboys running back Duane Thomas how it felt playing in the ultimate game. Thomas offered a comment for the ages, to my way of thinking.
“If the Super Bowl is the ultimate game, how come there’s another one next year?”
The man had a valid point, and it’s a good thing for the Cowboys.
History shows that the Cowboys lost that game in 1971, but just as Thomas predicted, the “ultimate” game was played again in 1972. That time, the Cowboys won.
In 1971, the Super Bowl was in just its fifth year, new enough that the Roman numerals used to count them were still decipherable. We don’t have much need to know our Roman numerals these days, and we might have no need to know them at all if the National Football League would revert to normal numbers.
This weekend, we’re up to Super Bowl LIV, or number 54, and while a champion will certainly be crowned, we’ve seen it all before. And when Sunday’s game is in the history books, we’ll certainly see another one next year.
I’m hardly a student of sports psychology, but I have heard folks who know say the mental aspect can’t be overlooked. If players aren’t ready for the pressure and hoopla surrounding this year’s “ultimate” game, they won’t play up to their abilities, and the better team may not win.
It may be the “Super Bowl,” but there have been many championship games when the football itself was anything but “super.” Blame it on distractions, nerves, or luck, but sometimes better football had been played earlier, leading up to “Super Sunday.”
Still, millions upon millions of people tune in to see the game, and this year, the pundits are predicting they should actually be rewarded with a game the oddsmakers expect to live up to all the hype.
Millions more will be tuning in to see this year’s crop of “super” commercials.
Companies and their advertising agencies are involved in their own competitive game for the attention of viewers. Because of the number of eyeballs watching this game, the cost to purchase airtime for those commercials is at a premium. Appropriately, the advertisers spare no expense in creating their short minidramas.
Let’s be honest. Day in and day out, we can probably all agree that insurance companies provide the most entertaining — perhaps most memorable — television commercials. But everybody gets into the act for Super Bowl Sunday. Super Bowl ads have become almost as big a part of the game as the halftime show, the singing of the National Anthem, and — oh, I almost forgot — the game itself.
The sponsors who pay millions for a few seconds to show their messages, after spending millions more to produce them, must be relieved that viewer numbers don’t depend entirely on the quality of football being played on the field. If the play is mediocre, at least their clever commercials will keep people watching.
The fans who purchase tickets to be at the stadium in person will have to find satisfaction in the fact that they are witnessing one of the most significant, if not the most significant, sporting events in the United States. They’ll have to. According to SeatGeek’s website, ticket prices have ranged from $4,200 to $5,400 in recent years. They’re soaring even higher this year, with lodging packages topping five figures.
But for the rest of us watching on television at home, we’ll be treated not only to championship football, but also the best commercials advertisers can offer.
Let’s hope for something “super.” I’ve heard that Budweiser was filming a spot in South Carolina last month.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.