February is an amazing month, television-wise. First of all, it's Sweeps, which means the networks will be straining their budgets to shoehorn big celebrity guest stars into each and every sitcom. Secondly, February now boasts the two biggest TV viewing days of the entire year. Later this month, we get the Oscars, and this very weekend, the worlds of sports and television come together to deliver nothing less than the Super Bowl.
Now, I'm not the biggest sports fan in the world. My athletic addiction hardly extends beyond the realms of masked Mexican wrestling and poker (which, according to three or four nights a week of ESPN-2, now qualifies as a sport). But there's just something about the Super Bowl.
Like the Oscars, it's a national touchstone. Lord knows we Americans lack a lot of common ground in these politically, culturally and religiously divisive times. Major sporting events like the Super Bowl remind us that we can root for opposite teams and still get together for Buffalo wings afterwards.
This year, the Philadelphia Eagles will be squaring off against the New England Patriots. The Patriots are vying for their third title in four years. The Eagles, on the other hand, are making their first Super Bowl appearance since 1981. In case you can't tell, the Eagles are the underdogs here.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have laid out their point spread, putting the Patriots ahead by at least six at the end of the game. With Eagles' wide receiver Terrell Owens still hobbling around the sidelines on an injured ankle, the odds aren't likely to increase. Owens' surgeon says there's no way he can play, but Owens' trainer (who, we might point out, gets his salary from the Philadelphia Eagles) says his boy just needs to walk it off. Eagles tight end Chad Lewis is also out with an injured ankle, further cementing the team's ironclad underdog status.
Aside from the sporting aspects, of course, the Super Bowl has always been somewhat of a raucous party. Don't expect any of that this year. Now that the frivolity and permissiveness of George Bush's first term is finally over, the stern paranoia of his second term can begin. For starters, we're not going to have any of that Janet Jackson “Nipplegate” stuff going on. The FCC has got Apache helicopters circling the stadium, and if this year's half-time performer Sir Paul McCartney so much as gyrates suggestively, the missiles will fly.
In an attempt to adhere to this year's politically correct Super Bowl theme, “Building Bridges,” even last year's Super Bowl advertisers have toned it way down. Budweiser, who last year featured flatulent horses and crotch-attacking dogs in its ads, recently nixed a rather clever spot “explaining” Janet's unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. You can see it on the company's website.
So long as some overenthusiastic player doesn't pretend to “moon” the crowd, Heather Wilson should get through the day without bursting into tears.