A Running Diary of the Super Bowl Pre-Game Show For Some Reason

I’m not going to be liveblogging today’s Super Bowl for beer-based reasons, but I will be keeping a half-hearted, watching-when-I’m-not-napping diary of today’s five-hour Super Bowl pre-game show on NBC. Five hours! It’s great to know that in a time of austerity and restraint, there remains at least one beacon of excess that’s not John Thain’s toilet.

1 p.m. ET Bob Costas is hosting the pre-game show from the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium – which raises at least the possibility of mutiny and a pre-game show hosted entirely by John Madden. I for one look forward to his explosive two-hour interview with that side of ribs.

1:04 According to an NBC reporter, the Cardinals moved to “an undisclosed location” last night. There, they found Dick Cheney, J.D. Salinger and Wade Phillips’ coaching ability.

1:05 Andrea Kremer reports from the Steelers hotel that, even as she speaks, “guys are getting individual treatment in their rooms as need be.” Careful fellas, this is how Eliot Spitzer lost his job.

1:12 Today show weatherman Al Roker is on site at the Super Suite – working the red carpet and preparing to interview “some major stars” as they arrive. Who will these “major stars” be? There’s talk of the chick from Heroes and, uhh, Vin Diesel. Super Bowl fever – catch it!

1:23 Former New York Giant Tiki Barber, now an NBC commentator, is asked what advice he’d give to players in today’s Super Bowl. His reply? “It’s a football game.” Stay tuned — in the next hour, Barber is expected to correctly identify an apple, a stapler and a kitty cat. You just cannot outsmart this man.

1:25 You know how in politics the recurring theme is always “change”? Everyone campaigns on change. The football equivalent is “nobody believed in us.” NBC just aired a feature on the Arizona Cardinals in which the team’s motivating force was revealed to be that “nobody believed in us.” Meanwhile, the Steelers have been noting the support that the Cardinals are getting from the betting public in Vegas and have been complaining about how “nobody believes in us.” Guys, you’re in the Super Bowl. We believe in you. Besides, there are ways of telling when people really don’t believe in something – for instance, as children they stop putting teeth under their pillow (Tooth Fairy) or as prime minister they create a budget that projects huge deficits and runaway spending (conservatism).

1:37 NBC is now airing the Top Chef challenge. I’ve never been witness to an intense competiton I’ve cared so little about. Only five more hours to kickoff — and, given the tone of the day so far,  I assume only 12 minutes or so until someone is voted off the island.

1:52 Jimmy Fallon shows up in the Super Suite, apparently to make all future guests seem funny by comparison. Al Roker just used up so much of the world’s supply of forced laughter that it would now be technically impossible for Mike Bullard to host a talk show.

2:01 The Top Chef challenge continues. Someone is stirring something. Someone else is cutting something. One of the chefs is wearing a Steelers helmet. But wait, I’ve probably made the whole thing seem more exciting than it is.

2:04 NBC fulfills the FCC’s legal requirement that any football-related broadcast must include at least one panel discussion on the topic of Brett Favre’s future and whether he will a) play again or b) announce his retirement and then play again. What’s that you say? It’s not a legal requirement that this be done? NBC is doing this on Super Bowl Sunday of its own volition? You’ve been into the sauce pretty early, haven’t you? [Make glug-glug motion.]

2:13 Al Roker is joined by the guy from Chuck, which is apparently a TV show of some kind (it’s on NBC so you can never be sure). The Chuck guy is standing there with Jerome Bettis and a swimsuit model. They’re all wearing 3-D glasses, including Al. I wonder whose ass Al Roker had to kiss, and then accidentally bite, leaving a horrible scar, to be given this assignment.

2:18 The Top Chef challenge has degenerated into a food fight. They had to do it because it was written in the script under “spontaneous moments.”

2:23 There’s a “palpable sense of excitement” at the Steelers hotel! There’s “a real thrill in the air!” There’s… a guy climbing onto a bus!

2:27 The Top Chef challenge concludes, but not until we’ve been treated to some very subtle televised shots of various Glad products and we’ve had to watch Jerome Bettis, one of the judges, chew on a steak for what seemed like the approximate duration of Benjamin Button. Good thing they didn’t have to pad this pre-game show to get it to five-hour mark.

2:31 Hey! Look! It’s the obligatory video message from some guy on the International Space Station. I’m pretty sure this is the sole reason the space station exists – to serve as an exotic setting for sports-related filler material. Also, as a breeding depot for an invasion force of Tom Cruise clones. (Oops, have I said too much?)

2:42 They’re showing a taped segment of Al Roker interviewing Will Ferrell. Will is promoting his new movie, Land of the Lost. Al is promoting the fact that he can’t ask an interesting question to save his life. (That may prove to be his undoing if he agrees to appear on my new TV show, Ask An Interesting Question or I Will Kill You.)

2:49 Hey, they’ve made another The Fast and the Furious movie. Weird. I would have thought Vin Diesel and Paul Walker would have been busy devoting themselves to all the other projects that… oh, right.

2:55 Bob Costas interviews Bruce Springsteen. Bruce is eloquent and thoughtful, which is all the more impressive when you consider he’s got to be devoting at least part of his mental energy to preventing his facial hair from fleeing to its rightful place on Howie Mandel’s face.


2:58 Al Roker in the Super Suite, interviewing yet another NBC personality – Rainn Wilson from The Office. Rainn is trying to get us to watch tonight’s special episode by telling us it guest stars Cloris Leachman (what, did Phyllis Diller have a thing?). I for one am totally going to watch for the Cloris Leachman reason because there’s nothing I’d rather do here in the second month of 1975.

3:15 NBC just ran a promo for next week’s “Pro Bowl presented by State Farm.” Could there be a worse investment of a company’s sports marketing dollars? We can’t afford a Super Bowl ad but let’s get a piece of that Pro Bowl deal. That thing’s going to be watched and talked about by tens of people!

3:22 Several members of the cast of Fast and Furious show up in Al Roker’s Super Suite. The obligatory “clip” is shown. The obligatory engine is gunned. The obligatory attempt to pretend the movie won’t suck is made.

3:23 Andrea Kremer interviews Troy Polamalu’s hair.

3:29 NBC reporter Alex Flanagan snags an interview with Arizona QB Kurt Warner, and begins it by asking: “What’s been going through your mind mentally?” Beats me – what’s been going through your eyes visually?

3:33 Bob Costas cuts to a Business Brief segment, the twin purposes of which appear to be: a) showing as wide an audience as possible that CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo is hot, and b) crowing that in a down economy NBC managed to sell out its Super Bowl advertising. Next up: a Height Brief in which it’s reported that Bob Costas isn’t really all that short.

3:40 In the Super Suite, “the ladies are happy,” Al Roker tells us, because The Rock is there to promote his new movie, which Al says looks like “a real hoot.” I would literally pay $100 to see Troy Polamalu show up in the Super Suite right now, and another $50 to have someone slip a Cardinals jersey on Al Roker,  hand him a football and yell, “Look, Troy! It’s Edgerrin James!”

3:50 Sarah Palin makes a cameo, praising the soldiers serving overseas while standing in front of a crowd of about 500. Little-known fact: All those people? Her kids. Later, we’ll watch a second charming political moment unfold as John McCain stands before another NBC camera crew and tells them to get off his lawn.

4:03 I’m watching the Detroit feed of the pre-game show, and the best thing just happened. Just as NBC cut to a shot of the panel on which Matt Millen is sitting, a text crawl came along the bottom of the screen from the local affiliate. It read: “Matt Millen was president of the Lions for the worst 8-year-run in the history of the NFL.” It then asked viewers to vote on whether “there’s a credibility issue” in him serving as an analyst. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Detroit.

4:15 Kevin James shows up in the Super Suite on a Segway. He does that because the Segway is an important element of his hit movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It was easier than showing up on the other key element of his movie: lousiness.

4:19 Journey is performing – Wow! How’d they get Journey? – and although I knew that at some point Steve Perry had left the band to pursue other opportunities (such as failing) it was still a shock to see some other long-haired dude singing in his place. I liken the experience to going to see Creed except the lead guy has been replaced by someone who can sing.

4:24 Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, who’ve had bottles of Gatorade on their desk the whole show, introduce a feature on the history of dousing victorious coaches with… Gatorade. Who knows where the synergies end? Costas’s decision to get that Miller Lite tattoo may pay off after all.

4:39 A big feature on David Tyree’s catch in last year’s Super Bowl – the one where he snags the ball with his, for lack of a better word, head. I love these kinds of things – huge, long, over-the-top TV tributes to split-second moments in sporting history. They’ve got the soft focus. They’ve got the introspective slow-motion. They’ve got the violins. The buildup to showing the catch lasts almost five minutes. The ball hangs in the air for, like, 20 seconds. Everyone involved in the play, including the referee, is interviewed. And we all learn an important life lesson about destiny and fate and heads. Can this thing win the Oscar? It should win the Oscar.

4:51 Bob Costas just recited a poem. Another hour and I fear we may be entering into potential “charades” territory.

5:01 Kurt Warner admits to Costas that he’s shaving off his beard for the Super Bowl because it matters to his wife how he looks on “the big screen.” Quick question: do people still make the joke where they meow and then make the sound of a cracking whip? Is that joke still allowed? I myself am not making that joke, mind you, but I just thought I’d ask for purely scientific reasons that have nothing to do with suggesting that such a comment is deserving of the meow-whipcrack joke.

5:09 Matt Lauer interviews President Barack Obama live from the Map Room in the White House. Matt opens with a joke, and a good one (“You’ve been president for 12 days and everyone in the nation wants to know – what’s it like living with your mother-in-law?”) Matt is in a suit. Obama is in a dress shirt with no tie. Meanwhile, I’m wearing sweat pants, a Buffalo Bills hoodie and roughly four pounds of cheesie dust. So who’s the real football fan now, you two losers?! The interview touches on global threats to U.S. security, the potential duration of the economic crisis and the Chicago Bears. Talk about depressing. (All in all, though, Obama is entertaining as hell and the 10-minute interview at least spares us the alternative, which would probably be Costas going on about how much he loves Burger King while eating a Whopper and wearing a crown.)

5:25 Former Steeler Jerome Bettis said QB Ben Roethlisberger just gave him “a wink,” which he interpreted to mean that Roethlisberger is going to play well. Dear Jerome: that’s not what it means when one man winks at another.

5:31 Matt Millen counsels the two teams playing in the Super Bowl “not to beat themselves.” Any Super Bowl participant seeking further information on how to beat yourself as a team is invited to consult the hiring of Matt Millen to run the Detroit Lions.

5:38 Jinkies. They just showed a genuinely touching profile about Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald and the guilt he feels for not reconciling with his mother before she died of breast cancer. It’s the kind of thing that will make non-football fans immediately decide to root for the Cardinals. (Sidenote: If this feature had been done by the Fox pre-game show, it would have included some fart sound effects and twelve minutes of Terry Bradshaw making “Yo Mamma…” jokes.)

5:51 Former Colts coach Tony Dungy has been concise, measured and thoughtful in his role today as an analyst, which means he’s pretty much got no shot of making a career of it. By way of comparison, Matt Millen won’t shut up while Stating the Obvious over and over. He just said the Steelers don’t want to get beat deep. Really? Let me go grab a pen before you unleash any more Thought Storms.

5:58 NBC is wrapping things up for the pre-game show, and I’m doing the same. Matt Millen just picked the Cardinals. Suddenly, I’m feeling very good about my Steelers pick.