It’s Super Bowl 50 Week, When All Kinds of Things Happen
By Burt Carey
Before the kick-off of Super Bowl 50 this Sunday, tens of thousands of football fans, celebrities and celebrity wannabes will have partied and paraded through San Francisco’s Embarcadero District, feasted at Fisherman’s Wharf and marveled at 25,000 LED lights illuminating the Bay Bridge.
While there’s plenty of wholesome family fun to be had at the NFL Experience and other exhibits, it’s also the one week of the year when we’re inundated with stories of every stripe and color to mark professional football’s biggest showcase.
There is, of course, Tuesday’s announcement that Lady Gaga will sing the National Anthem. Alrighty then…
That story broke about the same time media dredged up sordid stories about a sexual misconduct suit against Denver quarterback Peyton Manning from his University of Tennessee days that was settled, and more recently, allegations that he used human growth hormone drugs while recovering from neck surgery. Super Bowl week doesn’t get any uglier than this.
Meanwhile, we learn that Carolina quarterback Cam Newton took time during Super Bowl Opening Night festivities to autograph the jersey of a Panthers fan who lives near Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. This wasn’t just any fan. Trae Sieczko was wearing Newton’s No. 1 jersey for her son Scot, a huge Panthers fan who lost a 2-1/2-year battle with cancer in 2014. She posted a request on Facebook to meet with Newton. The request found its way to the mayor’s office in Santa Clara, who called 49ers CEO Jed York, who got his PR staff to work with the Panthers staff to make it happen. Super Bowl week doesn’t get any more touching than that.
The week also had its lighter moments. Jerry Rice, the Hall of Famer who many in the Bay Area believe is the greatest receiver ever to play professional football, set out Monday as an undercover driver for the ride-sharing company Lyft. Decked out in a knit cap and reflective sunglasses, and hiding behind a bull beard, the 49ers great picked up unsuspecting riders and engaged them in idle chitchat before stopping the car to stretch and dance, and to eventually reveal his identity. The online video is hilarious, as not one of his passengers – including two who claimed to be lifelong 49eres fans – recognized him. Super Bowl week made them all mini-celebrities.
Hundreds of millions of people will tune into the Super Bowl on CBS (kickoff time is slated for 6:30 p.m. Eastern). Perhaps most of them will be football fans. But millions will be paying more attention to the commercial advertising than the game itself.
Advertisers will pay a reported $5 million for a 30-second spot (that’s $170,000 per second) during the game. Every year the creativity and quirkiness of Super Bowl ads draw special attention unlike any other sporting finale. Earlier this week CBS aired the Super Bowl’s Top 50 Greatest Commercials, hosted by football analyst and retired quarterback Boomer Esiason and Katharine McPhee of the CBS drama Scorpion. The duo counted down the best commercials, as judged by a panel from Time Inc. publications, and by fans who used the CBS website and social media to vote. A Budweiser commercial from 2013 called Clydesdales Brotherhood took top honors.
The lineup of commercials for Super Bowl 50 includes new, never-before-aired ads from Budweiser, along with Coca Cola, Snickers, Taco Bell and a bevy of automobile manufacturers, as well as Quicken Loans, SunTrust bank and PayPal. Which commercial will be deemed the best of 2016 is for fans and pundits to pick, and you can rest assured that during Super Bowl week there’s more than one sports book taking bets on that sideshow.
Sunday will be a day of finger foods, chips and adult beverages, friendly cajoling and brash talk. Sometime between salsa smudges and red Solo cup refills, we’ll get to see the NFL’s best two teams slug it out for the Lombardi Trophy. Super Bowl week will finally give us the game we’ve been waiting for.