Saturday, February 12, 2011

Part 16.5: SBXLV Recap

Part 16.5: SBXLV Recap

February 6, 2011

Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Super Bowl XLV: Packers 31, Steelers 25

As this posting is mostly an excuse to post photos (see below) from my North Texas Super Bowl sojourn, I will limit my typical narrative, much to the applause to those few devoted readers who choose to spend time perusing my scattered ramblings. Instead, I have but a few recollections and observations to share…

  • I arrived at O'Hare on Friday, February 4 and the place was chock full of Super Bowl-bound Midwesterners anxious about getting to Big D after enduring the Blizzard of 2011.
  • As expected, there were lots of Packers & Steelers swag, but the airport had a decidedly Packers-heavy flavor as the stink of cheeseheads was thick.
  • Rev. Jessie Jackson was on my American Airlines flight to DFW along with two muscular handlers and two young boys, presumably his grandkids. Jessie got to board early and he sat in first class while his entourage, including grandsons, sat scattered throughout coach with the rest of us...I guess Jessie reserves all the VIP perks for himself. (NB: he watched the game from Jerry Jones's box along with President George W. that's a political odd couple.)
  • On the plane I sat next to a heavy-set grandmother in her late-50s from Green Bay wearing Packers earrings and matching sweatshirt who sounded like a character from the movie Fargo: "Oh, yah, I love those Packers, ya know. Bart Starr was my hero as a little girl, and that Aaron Rodgers is another fine young man just like him...oh yah, you know it."
  • That afternoon, upon my arrival, I was welcomed to Big D by cold weather and icy roads on Highway 360; and I narrowly avoided a black Ford F150 spinning out of control near the I20 interchange on my way to Duncanville.
  • By Saturday morning the football gods smiled on Big D as the sun came out, the mercury rose, and the ice and snow dissipated.
  • Super Bowl Sunday was perfect Texas weather: mid-50s and sunny. Thank God and Sam Houston!
  • From my view at Parking Lot A, across a narrow creek that meanders around The Ballpark at Arlington, Cowboys Stadium arose from the prairie like a shining cathedral under the bright February sun.
  • After snaking through the lengthy security line replete with magnetometers and frisky security guards, my brother, sister-in-law and I meandered through the crowd of investment bankers and corporate marketing executives stroking clients who in turn stroked scantily clad hired escorts.
  • Super Bowl attendees are decidedly wealthier than your typical Packers or Steelers fans as evidenced by the fashion, spending habits and obvious penchant for plastic surgery. It was an interesting crowd to say the least.
  • After inhaling a delicious green chiliburger and three or four MGDs, each of which cost at least ten dollars, we officially entered JerryWorld and found our seats on the 30-yard line behind the Packers bench.
  • The game did not disappoint, especially since the Packers won. No need to recap the game as any and all readers no doubt saw it along with most of America.
  • Halftime was impressive, especially a three story image of Fergie in HD on the massive jumbotron, a.k.a. the JerryTron.
  • Seeing Roger Staubach, my boyhood hero, bring the Lombardi Trophy to the victory stand gave me chills.
  • Walking to the car after the game I remember thinking I had just experienced something special, something unique, and I said a quiet prayer of thanks for the opportunity to be a part of the inaugural Super Bowl in North Texas.
  • For good measure we stopped at Whataburger on the way home and each of us enjoyed a number one combo...mmmm Whataburger.


During the third quarter, as I watched the game alongside my brother—cheering on the Packers from ridiculously good seats on the 30 yard line—I gazed at the spectacle before me and suddenly realized I was part of something bigger than a mere football game. More than 103,000 fans in Cowboys Stadium along with hundreds of millions of people worldwide—the largest television audience in history—were watching the game along with me, and at that moment in time I was part of the world community celebrating sport as religion. Indeed, Super Bowl XLV was much more than a football game: it was a cultural event on the grandest scale.

In our modern secular age, which no longer is dominated by the intense and meaningful ancient world of Homer's Greeks or the grand hierarchy of meaning that structured Dante's medieval Christian world, sport has become a folk religion for contemporary Western society. As a non-practicing agnostic with decidedly Episcopalian/Presbyterian leanings, I'm not sure I buy the notion that "God is dead,"as Nietzsche argued, but I'm quite certain football is very much alive—especially in Texas. And football is surely more than just a game, as philosopher professors Hubert Dreyfus (UC Berkeley) and Sean Dorrance Kelly (Harvard) explain: "Sports may be the place in contemporary life where Americans find sacred community most easily...There is no essential difference, really, in how it feels to rise as one in joy to sing the praises of the Lord, or to rise as one in joy to sing the praises of the Hail Mary pass, the Immaculate Reception, the Angels, the Saints, the Friars, or the Demon Deacons. (All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age)"

Some will no doubt find this intensely secular perspective difficult to swallow if not downright sacrilegious, especially among the uber-religious in Texas, but I find it a somewhat compelling argument. Just think about it: regardless whether one prays to Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha, or Elvis, everyone can join together on Sunday to cheer for the Dallas Cowboys (and against the Redskins, naturally).

Of course, to satisfy my complex and often ambiguous religious, spiritual and geographic leanings, I would have been much more spiritually satisfied if Dallas was playing instead of Green Bay. Nevertheless, at least we’re in the Cowboys’ cathedral in the homeland on the biggest day in sports. Or, to put it more succinctly, in the immortal words of singer-songwriter Alan Jackson, "God bless Texas." (Especially on this day when the football gods are all watching the big game in Big D…and just for good measure, may God bless the Dallas Cowboys, too.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Part XVI: II-VI-MMXI=XLV (Translation: Feb. 6, 2011 = Super Bowl XLV)

Part XVI: II-VI-MMXI=XLV (Translation: Feb. 6, 2011 = Super Bowl XLV)

For the first time in it's forty-five year history, the Super Bowl—the greatest show on earth—will be played in North Texas, home of America’s Team (a.k.a. the Dallas Cowboys). Although the term “Super Bowl” was coined by native Dallasite Lamar Hunt, the big game has never been played here...that is, until now.

Texas is football's Mecca. And the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, home to America's Team—not to mention the hub of Friday Night Lights, the Cotton Bowl, the Red River Rivalry and millions of football-crazed Texans—will officially be the center of the football universe on Sunday. The only thing missing is the Cowboys actually playing in the big game. (There’s always, Super Bowl L…knock wood!)

Most Americans—along with a few curious foreigners who will likely think they’re watching a soccer match played by giants wearing body armor—will gaze longingly into their 56 inch flat screen TVs at the sights and sounds of this Texas-sized football extravaganza. Through the magic of orbiting satellites and C-band microwaves, millions upon millions of rabid fans consuming chips, pizza and hot wings (i.e. football's blessed sacrament) will literally and figuratively face southwest and pray toward the football Gods in Big D this Sunday. It is Mecca, indeed!

And best of all, I have a ticket. To be honest, I feel a bit like Charlie Bucket from Roald Dahl’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: I am in possession of a golden ticket and I can’t wait for my official tour of Cowboys Stadium, a.k.a. JerryWorld—the billion-dollar glass and steel cathedral hosting the big game.

"If it's the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?"

-- Duane Thomas, Cowboys Running Back, Super Bowl VI, 1972

Sunday's game will be my second Super Bowl, and unfortunately the Pittsburgh Steelers were the AFC representatives for both games. Did I mention that I hate the Steelers? They broke my eight year-old heart back in January 1979 when they defeated my beloved Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII (see Part Eight: Super Bowl XLV Comes to Big D). Still, it should be an amazing experience, regardless which team wins. (Go Green Bay!)

Back in the '70s and '80s the Super Bowl was just a big football game. Prior to Super Bowl VI Dallas Cowboys running back Duane Thomas even dared to question the importance of the game when he asked, “If it's the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?" Speaking of colorful quotes by Cowboys players, there’s always Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, a flamboyant loud mouth who criticized the intelligence of Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw prior to Super Bowl XIII, proclaiming that he “couldn't spell 'cat' if you spotted him the 'c' and the 'a'.” Unfortunately, Bradshaw beat us in one of the most thrilling Super Bowl games in history and landed in the Hall of Fame a few years later while Hollywood Henderson only landed in rehab. Karma is indeed a bitch.

Back in this 1970s, halftimes were relatively simple and the game—while undoubtedly a big event—was just another football game, albeit the biggest of the year. Now, however, the Super Bowl is a cultural event of epic proportions, unparalleled in scope and size. Super Bowl Sunday is an unofficial national holiday, and it is very likely that Sunday’s game between the Steelers and Packers will be the most-watched television program in history. Even the Department of Homeland Security has deemed the game a National Special Security Event, whatever that is. As they say, everything is bigger in Texas, even the potential for foul play.

Speaking of bigger, food consumption on Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving. And while the American Thanksgiving is rooted in a 17th century harvest festival, contemporary traditions have completely incorporated football. Indeed, mom’s Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing simply wouldn't taste the same unless it's garnished with a little afternoon football and beer. (There’s no better combination than a little tryptophan, beer and football on a cool November afternoon.) Since the Cowboys play at home every Thanksgiving day in Dallas, it's fair to argue that football is America's official secular religion—and in this context the Cowboys truly are America's Team.

Live From JerryWorld

A couple weeks ago I had the unique opportunity to attend the Super Bowl XLV Host Committee meeting at JerryWorld. I met many of my childhood heroes like Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett, as well as heroes from my early-20s, including Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Russell Maryland. It was a magical experience for a Dallas kid who grew up with the Cowboys.

Yet, the opportunity to stand on the football field with my dad and take in the spectacle as the NFL repackaged it for the Super Bowl was the best part of the day. Indeed, the Steelers and Packers may be playing on Sunday, but it’s the Stadium, not to mention all of North Texas, that are the real stars this weekend.

In short, this Texpatriate looks forward to an epic football sojourn.

Coming Soon...

When I return next week I’ll post a Super Bowl follow up column replete with gratuitious photos, stories and much, much more. In the meantime, let’s hope I can dig my Jeep out from the remnants of the Blizzard of 2011 in order to get to O’Hare so I can make it to Big D in time for the big game!