You know what was great about the Super Bowl experience Sunday night? Two things:
1. The pulled pork sliders I served my party guests after low ’n slow smoke-roasting two Boston butts on my Big Green Egg. Thank you for your service, pigs.
2. Lady Gaga’s rendition of the National Anthem. Perfect. A wonderful mix of tradition and style — the best SB anthem since Whitney Houston warbled 25 years earlier.
Here is what else was great: Nuthin’. Or, as Edwin Starr put it so eloquently in his 1970 hit song, War: “Absolutely nuthin’, say it again!”
That’s the pitfall of two weeks of buildup growing anticipation. The Super Bowl had better be great. Special. Memorable. This one marking the event’s 50th anniversary especially bore that onus — bore being the key word there.
The game stunk. Denver never trailed in a 24-10 rout of Carolina that didn’t even feel that close. Great defense is impressive but not exciting. Fifteen punts and six turnovers sketched an ugly portrait.
It was the opposite of an epic game. The Broncos didn’t so much win as accept the gift of the Panthers’ not-ready-for-the stage ineptitude. After a 17-1 season, the men from Charlotte were shrinking Charlatans.
All over America, fans of lesser teams were thinking how their own team would be giving Denver a better fight. I’ll bet even Dolphins fans dared think that. In fact, 14 of 18 Broncos opponents this season did put up a better fight in terms of final margin.
The game sagged largely because the quarterbacks did.
Peyton Manning gets to go out a hero, sort of, I guess, but not really. He gets to go out a champion, yes. But he was a passenger on this victory. You know the national media ached to vote him MVP because the media are suckers for a happy-sappy ending but just couldn’t bring themselves to do it.
Manning, a month from 40, looked spent, done, his passes taking forever to reach their target. I smile at all the commentators now exhorting Manning to go out on top and retire — as if there is an iota of doubt about that!? Of course he should retire, and will. Telling Peyton to retire is like telling Donald Trump to be mean. It goes without saying.
Cam Newton was just as bad, or worse. In fact this was the first Super Bowl ever in which both starting quarterbacks had passer ratings under 60.
Newton’s main-stage collapse was magnified by the cockiness he brought to the game. It was rather delightful to see in the comeuppance category, unless you were a Panthers fan. One minute, Cam’s Dabbing. The next minute, he’s dabbing tears.
Then came the postgame press conference, and Newton hit a new low, sulking petulantly, barely answering a question or two and then abruptly walking off the podium. It was the perfect storm of rudeness and immaturity. He put the ass in class. It’s one thing to show your disappointment, Cam, but try to be a grownup about it.
Quick aside: Mike Shula, Carolina offensive coordinator and Son of Don, did not see his future head-coaching prospects enhanced Sunday night. His job was to craft a plan that let Cam be Cam and overcome a great defense. He failed.
Sometimes other elements of a Super Bowl experience can rescue a disappointing game, but not this time:
▪ Pregame show: The endless (actually four-hour) CBS preamble was shades of unwatchable to unnecessary. Epitome of the fluff: A thoroughly pointless segment pretending Buffalo had won those four straight Super Bowls in 1990-93 instead of going 0 for 4. Then, the pregame introduction of past game MVPs found Tom Brady authoring the most memorable moment when he appeared wearing I’m-a-star sunglasses, barely acknowledged the crowd and was booed.
▪ The CBS broadcast: The telecast was banal, allowing itself to be victimized by the disappointing game and by Phil Simms’ perfunctory mediocrity. The game nonetheless drew a 49.0 overnight rating, second-best ever. That’s the thing. The quality of game or telecast or which network it’s on hardly matters. Call it a Super Bowl and America will watch.
▪ Halftime show: Only ardent Coldplay fans believe Coldplay is big enough to have hosted this show. The added reinforcements, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, are proof they are not. I sort of liked the ballsy gumption of Beyoncé’s (not so) subtle homage to the Black Panther Party, but less so Mars lip-synching to Uptown Funk. It ended with a typical bombastic crescendo. Then, unfortunately, the game resumed.
▪ The TV commercials: You sat through 63 Super Bowl ads to find a handful quite amusing. Me, I liked the Alec Baldwin/Dan Marino commercial, the “First Date” ad starring Kevin Hart and, most of all, the singing sheep, although I can’t quite recall what product the sheep were bleating on behalf of. Most of the other SB commercials were forgettable or, in at least one case, monumentally annoying.
I’d have shot my TV screen if I thought it would have instantly killed that “puppymonkeybaby.”
Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at miamiherald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote.