Thursday, January 29, 2009

Whodathunkit? -- Superbowl XVLEIRALVERHIII: The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About the Superbowl

Once again, America's got Superbowl fever, although this year there's a bit of a twist to our obsession with watching a game that starts too late, is frequently too boring, and also should be played on a Saturday.

I could tell things are different this year because when CNN/HLN-- why the change to initials on "Headline News?" Was saying Headline News slowing down the actual delivery of those headlines? And doesn't it take just as long to say "HLN" as it does to s
ay "Headline News?" Maybe a little longer, because "HLN" is full of soft sounds that make me sort of pause between them, or they sound slurry, the way "Saturday" sounds slurry if you pair it with another word. Try that: Say Saturday, and notice that you hit all the consonants. Then say Saturday Night Live. Unless you concentrated, I bet you said something along the lines of Saerday because you were rushing through Saturday to get to Night Live.

Unless you are Chinese, and spoke in Chinese, in which case you said:


Also, do the people at CNN realize that "headline" is one word? So "HLN" should be "HN."

Anyway, this morning on CNNHN, they did the now-common story about Su
perbowl ads, and I was about to react the way I do with all now-common stories they put on the news, and say that the Superbowl ads and their costs and stories about them are no longer news. There are certain things that have happened so often that they're not news. I won't round those up right now, because I'll use that for filler someday, but Superbowl ads and their costs are not news anymore. Yet, they are still talked about on the news, and for one reason: the only reason the stories are put onto news networks like CNNHN is because they have to kill time, and they don't have the luxury of putting three or four introductory paragraphs about something that (seemingly)(<<<note: foreshadowing!) is unrelated to their topic.

This morning's CNNHN story on Superbowl ads was, I guess, news, because the story was about how NBC hasn't yet sold all their ad time for the Superbowl, because of the economy or Obama or something. I don't know; I stopped listening and went back to doing my morning stretches as soon as I realized that they'd shown all the clips of previous ads they were going to show.

But while the story was news, it was clearly filler news, not headline news (or, as CNN would apparently spell it, not Head Line News.) And it was more of what we've always heard over and over about the Superbowl. Every year, it's the same things, repeated over and over. The underdog team, the overbearing team. Defense this, offense th
at. The ads! The ads! Pizza deliveries up! Chicken wing shortages looming! Analysis that is not analysis at all but is merely blather!

On that last note, consider this submission from Don Banks of Sports Illustrated. Don gets paid to say stuff like this, and that alone is proof that our economy is not so bad. If enough money exists to pay Don Banks to shut off his brain before going on the radio and talking, then we're all going to be just fine. Here's what Don Banks, "expert" "sports analyst" had to say about his prediction for this game: While I'm picking the Steelers by seven, I wouldn't be shocked if Arizona wins it.

I listened to that and had to stifle the urge to ram my car into the one ahead of me in rage -- misdirected rage, because I wasn't mad at that guy, I was mad at Don Banks, mad because I can't believe what he said passes for analysis. It's not. It's not. Here's why:

First of all, 7 points is a pretty big margin, and Don Banks thinks the Steelers will win by a pretty big margin. But he wouldn't be surprised if Arizona overcomes that big margin he thinks the Steelers will win by? Let's apply Don's thinking to other areas, for a moment: That mountain looks to be about a mile tall. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's actually flat ground.
If Don Banks had come on the radio and said that, wouldn't everyone be amazed that he can survive in the modern world?

Moreover, saying I think one thing, but I wouldn't be surprised if the other is true, instead is not analysis, it's not a prediction, it's nothing. It actually detracts from the level of discourse. And the sole purpose of it is to allow Don Banks to claim some sort of expertise that the rest of us don't have. If the Steelers win, Don Banks will say I told you so. But if the Cardinals win, Don Banks will say I told you so.

Don Banks was on the radio, and CNNHN had the Superbowl ads on, as I said, for filler. With two weeks between the Superbowl, and more airtime and tv stations and websites to fill with content than ever, networks and magazines are desperate for something, anything to take up time. That's why you get, over and over, the same stories and the same "insight" and Don Banks rambling on like he mixed his medications up today.

I don't know why they bother with that. They could do what you've done, smart readers: They could come to TBOE for the first-ever TBOE installment of

The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About Superbowl XKRISLV

, it's Whodathunkit?, the beloved feature making its TBOE debut, that listing of facts that you want to know about a major event. Let others cover the offensive formations. Let others make predictions-that-aren't. Let others once again talk about Superbowl ads. Here at TBOE, I will skip that and I will provide you with those things you want to know about the Superbowl. So when you go to or have your Sup
erbowl party this Sunday and things are dying down in the third quarter as Arizona takes a 42-0 lead (something that wouldn't surprise Don Banks, I'm sure), try laying some of these facts on your fellow Superbowlians:

(Also, see how I was foreshadowing this? That's literature, baby. Take that, Steinbeck.)

The Romans Couldn't Have Had A Football Team Go Undefeated: Last year, everyone was abuzz about the 18-1 Patriots* and how they almost won-- people hoping or fearing that they would go 19-0 and become the only undefeated NFL team in the 16-game era. As it turns out, that didn't happen. But had the NFL used Roman numerals to show the records of teams, instead of Arabic numerals, nobody would have had to worry. Why?

Because the Romans had no symbol for zero. The Roman numerals everyone knows and loves, I, V, X, L, C, M, and that little fish:

Do not include anything for a "zero." So if the Patriots* had played in ancient Rome, they never could have made a run at perfection-through-rules-violations. At best, they coul
d have gone XVIIII- ... and... and... and what? See how that works?

Roman Numeral Related Party tip:
If your Superbowl party gets a little boring as the Cardinals go ahead LII - ... well, let's say the Steelers will have III, try this: See if you can come up with a more ridiculous explanation of how Roman numerals came into existence than these two:

This guy says that Roman numerals came about because shepherds needed to count their flocks and scratched marks into their staves. He claims that the "V" came at the end of a row of IIII, so that "5" was IIIIV, with "10" getting an extra slash-through. He doesn't, though, explain how these marks would be made on what was presumably a thin staff, or why the rest of society would adopt what shepherds were doing. Typically, societal trends are not set by guys who
spend 98% of their lives huddling on a hillside surrounded by sheep.

This guy, on the other hand (anticipatory pun intended), says that Romans were smart enough to invent numbers but not smart enough to do so without counting on their hands.

They're both wrong, of course. Roman numerals were invented as a secret code to communicate messages about the human rebellions against the aliens who'd landed in Egypt and built the pyramids, marking the dates and locations of major rebellions to be led by the Illuminati and the Knights of the Temple. It worked -- we drove off the aliens, but must remain vigilant. That's why the NFL uses the Roman numeral system for Superbowls -- to send the message through its broadcast: We remember, aliens.

You're nothing until someone can put mayonnaise on you...

How does America celebrate it's real heroes? By naming sandwiches after them. Maybe you've walked on the moon. Maybe you're the first African-American elected president. Maybe you've won the Nobel Prize. If you're one of those people, you might think hey, I've really done something here. But have you? I think not... unless somebody's named a sandwich after you.

By that standard, the only noteworthy person in this Superbowl is Ben Roethlisberger, who has his own sandwich, the "Roethlis-Burger," served at Peppi's Restaurant in Pittsburgh. It weighs in at more than a pound, and includes ground beef, sausage, scrambled eggs, and grilled onions. It costs $7 -- but american cheese on it is 7 cents extra. It's served on a portuguese roll, for some reason.

Having a sandwich named after him, as I noted, puts Ben Roethlisberger (career accomplishments: (1) not losing a Superbowl, (2) being tall) ahead of Neil Armstrong (career accomplishments: Successfully fooling America into believing he'd walked on the moon), Barack Obama (career accomplishments: singlehandedly restoring hope to America, one person at a time; smiling)(there are, reportedly, 9 sandwiches named after him, but further investigation reveals that none of the sandwiches are, after all, named after him) and ahead of David J. Gross, H. David Politzer, and Frank Wilczek, who shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for "discovering asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction."

In fact, they don't even serve a Neil Armstrong sandwich at the Neil Armstrong Middle School. How could they miss it? Wonder bread (for the wonder of walking on the moon), swiss cheese (because the moon is made of cheese, and the holes are the craters) and bologna (because it was all done on the same soundstage where they filmed The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis).

Wouldn't it be excellent, though, if you could order a "Gross, Politzer & Wilczek Asymptotic Freedom" sandwich?

Note: Those of you who have been sitting around through this whole article wondering What kind of sandwich best symbolizes Garry Shandling? Wonder no more. It's ham, munster cheese, cucumbers, and tomato.

It can't be long until we see this turned into a movie, too, right?
Movie producers continue to plumb the depths of comic books in hopes of capitalizing on the Superhero craze (hint to Hollywood: It's not the SUPERHEROES that are the draw, it's the fact that the movies are GOOD. So if you make GOOD movies, we'll come see them even without superheroes in them. Just make GOOD...oh, never mind. I'll look forward to "Bat-Mite: The Revenge" starring Tom Hanks.) So it can't be long until they realize that the NFL not only easily captures the public's attention once a year, but also has its very own super-hero. I give you:

NFL Superpro!

NFL Superpro was mild-mannered Phil Grayfield, a wannabe-football player turned reporter who happens, one day, to interview an eccentric football memorabilia collector/billionaire inventor -- isn't that pretty much a stock character these days? I remember a guy like that in The Great Gatsby -- an inventor/fan who has invented a $5 million dollar indestructible football uniform.

Apparently, judging by that cover up there, a uniform that is indestructible and can fly. But that's not clear.

Heedless of the fact that the NFL isn't even willing to require its players to wear readily-available concussion-resistant helmets, the inventor has actually produced this suit, only to have something happen involving thieves burning "priceless" NFL memorabilia, a turn of events that requires Phil Grayfield to (reluctantly?) put on the NFL Suit and become... NFL Superpro, thereby guaranteeing himself both an award for the worst superhero name ever (narrowly beating out Super Emeril LaGasse's BAM-Man) and also a lawsuit from the NFL, which won't even let me print a picture of Tom Brady getting sacked on a t-shirt. (Secretly, I did just that, though. Take that, Steinbeck!)

Through 12 thrilling issues of a comic book created for the sole purpose of getting its creator NFL tickets (honestly), NFL Superpro battled villains like "Quick Kick," a place-kicking ninja, (honestly!), and "Instant Replay," an assassin who can cut through time -- a cool power, but not a cool name -- and the most-feared villain in his rogues' gallery...

... Bennings:

And now there's a winner for worst supervillain name. So remember, no matter how boring the game gets this weekend, no matter how far ahead the Cardinals are in the IVth Quarter, no matter how little that surprises Don Banks, it could be worse for you, because instead of watching the Superbowl, you could be reading NFL Superpro.

Bonus: The world's computing power is constantly put to the test with applications that clearly benefit humanity, not by curing cancer or developing new virus-resistant crops, or, God forbid, finding a way to test peanut butter for salmonella; no, it's put to use by the Supervillain Name Generator, and I've done the hard work for you by not only linking to that site, but by generating these names for Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger in the event that either of them becomes supervillains:

Kurt Warner: (Color: red; attack: air-related ('cause, passing); time ('cause he's old)): Best name: Breezeo.

Ben Roethlisberger: (Color: Black. attack: Earth/stone related; Size: Giant): Best name: Obsidian Master.

So that's your matchup for Superbowl XIER&EKXIII: Breezeo vs. Obsidian Master. Bonus points for anyone who at their Superbowl party, upon seeing Warner make a good play, yells Go Breezeo!

Update: Some Guy At Work suggested that Roethlisberger be Rocko The Obsidian Hornet. I like that, so we'll go with that: Breezeo vs. Rocko The Obsidian Hornet Master.

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1 comment:

lisapepin said...

This is what I think I remember from my "broadcast journalism" class in college. In a situation like the one you described, if the Steelers win, Don Banks should say "I told you so." If Arizona wins, he can't SAY "I told you so," but he can still make the face.