In a recent issue of Maclean’s, and then later here on the Interwebs, I challenged readers to test their abilities at the sacred, time-honoured skill of wasting time on frivolous challenges. Many responded. Dozens seemed to put an awful lot of thought into it. Several included detailed footnotes.
Here’s how it worked: Readers were presented with a list of Super Bowl XLIV “over-under” propositions. They were invited to forecast whether the actual tally would be over or under the benchmark I had set.
Below, you’ll find the results from Sunday’s broadcast, followed by the dramatic Naming of the Winner.
As indicated in the terms of the challenge itself, I offer no proviso for recounts, no forum for complaints and no capacity for love. If I decree that five cheerleader navels were visible over the course of Super Bowl XLIV, then that’s how many navels were visible. (That’s a bad example in that I’m pretty sure I got that particular category correct.)
A final note: I want to offer a special thanks to all who sent along kind words about my writing while placing their entry. I’ve yet to decide whether these “thanks” extend to the fellow who said my column is the first thing he reads on the toilet each Friday.
And now, the results:
1. Number of times, during the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner, that the performer does one of those vocal diva-type things with at least three “whoa-whoa-whoa-oas!”: 2.5 Result: UNDER. At the time I devised this challenge, I didn’t know it would be Carrie Underwood singing the anthem. She’s a note-holder, not a note-fondler.
2. A typical rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner runs about 85 seconds. Duration of the Super Bowl version: 101.5 seconds. Result: OVER. I clocked it at 106 seconds.
3. Number of U.S. military aircraft involved in the post-anthem flyover: 4.5. Result: UNDER. Four.
4. Total number of shots, between the kickoff and the final gun, that showcase cheerleaders for either team: 7.5. Result: UNDER. From the get-go, it was obvious that CBS has made a decision to emphasize replays over cutaways. That meant hardly any shots of the Manning family, which is fine, but also a shocking abdication of a network’s solemn duty to serve up a little pom-pomery. Why do you hate America, CBS?
5. Total number of cheerleader navels televised (all shots combined—navel must be visible, not inferred): 15.5 Result: UNDER. WAY UNDER. Again, why CBS? WHY???
6. Number of promotional mentions, during the Super Bowl and halftime, for the new CBS series Undercover Boss, which is scheduled to premiere after the game: 8.5 Result: UNDER. Just a handful.
7. CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe is renowned for saying words that aren’t part of any known language, such as “Zoomf” or—and this is a rough transcription—“Mftwulach.” Number of words he “invents” this Sunday: 2.5 Result: UNDER. “Becktacular” was memorable. But he caught himself in the middle of saying, “No sturn unturned.”
8. Number of hurricane Katrina references (including pre- and post-game shows): 11.5 Result: JUST UNDER. I counted 10 direct references.
9. During the halftime show, total number of windmill guitar twirls executed by the Who’s Pete Townshend: 9.5 Result: WAY OVER. At least 30, or one for every person on earth who thought the band put on a good show.
10. Number of instances in which, after making a play, a jubilant player raises his arm and points to the sky to praise God (or, possibly, the pilot of the Goodyear blimp): 4.5 Result: OVER. There were at least six, including two by Colts kicker Matt Stover.
11. Number of cutaways to coach Sean Payton on the Saints’ sideline: 47.5 Result: UNDER. Very few cutaways to Payton in the first quarter, and that was the difference – I counted 41 in all.
12. Number of cutaways to mild-mannered Colts coach Jim Caldwell in which he is making an expression other than his typical countenance where he looks as though he’s watching a documentary on smelting: 2.5 Result: UNDER. My kids helped keep the tallies, and by the end of the game we were giving half points if Caldwell so much as exhaled on camera. Still, he didn’t make the threshold.
13. Number of TV commercials in which Colts quarterback Peyton Manning appears (U.S. feed): 4.5 Result: UNDER. Where there any? Saw the classic “Cut that meat!” ad during the pre-game.
14. Number of times during the game that CBS cuts to a shot of Peyton Manning’s father and/or brother: 9.5 Result: UNDER. Just the one, I think.
15. Number of direct or indirect references to God made by a Colts or Saints player (pre-game and post-game): 7.5 Result: UNDER. Surprisingly few.
16. Number of shimmies, shakes, dances, prances and other post-play gyration-type manoeuvres performed by defensive players: 6.5. Result: UNDER. I counted only three attempts at genuine show-offery.
17. Total number of end-zone celebrations that are certain or likely to have been choreographed or, at minimum, thought out in advance: 1.5. Result: UNDER.
18. Time remaining in the game when the winning coach is doused with liquid from the Gatorade jug: 57 seconds. Result: UNDER. There were just five seconds remaining.
19. Number of young children carried onto the field by members of winning team: 1.5. Result: OVER. Saw at least three, including Drew Brees’s kid and two in the arms of Scott Fujita.
20. Super Bowl XLIV begins at 6:25 p.m. ET. Time at which it ends: 10:19 p.m. ET. Result: UNDER. The game, which ended at 9:45 p.m., moved very quickly thanks to only one challenge, few timeouts, lots of completions that avoided the sidelines and God wanting to move on to other things.
Winner: With a score of 15 of 20 – which doesn’t sound that impressive until you learn that the average score was nine, and a whole bunch of people got seven or fewer correct – John S. of Hamilton, Ont., is hereby declared the victor of the Maclean’s Super Bowl XLIV Over/Under Challenge. John gets to choose between a Premier-grade NFL jersey (worth $110) or a $100 Amazon.ca gift certificate. Thanks to all who played.