On Sunday, America joined together for our seemingly annual annointing of Tom Brady; and, unfortunately, the Chiefs did nothing to stop it, as the Tampa Bay Bucs ran over the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in Florida. While we may know who won on the scoreboard, who really won Sunday's big game? Who lost? And who ACTUALLY plans to sign up for Paramount+ even after all of those advertisements? (Enjoy being the new Quibi!)
Here are the real winners and losers of Super Bowl LV.
The horrifying, existential terror that life is meaningless, happiness is futile, everything is a lie and nothing will ever change Tom Brady
I liked it more when I thought his career was ending on a pick-six in Tennessee.
But really: Will we ever escape this endless circle of watching Tom Brady, the world's most accomplished Boston Store mannequin, win Super Bowls? Sure, the uniforms were new, but the annoying feeling it created was all too familiar.
At this point, I don't even dislike him winning Sunday night because of the cheating scandals or beacuse the hyperbolic praise he receives or because he gets every call or because of his inherent connection to Boston – the most privileged yet irrationally aggreved fan base in all of sports – or because of his whiny perfect face.
I dislike him winning because it's freaking BORING. Time after time, year after year, the same confetti showers, the same bland competence, the same PR speak when he talks registering like a white noise machine, the same dweeby photo from the NFL Draft rolled out again and again, the same "inspirational" story that stopped inspiring a decade ago, the same drooling from commentators who measure rings as the only thing that matters for grading an individual's sporting ability – even in a team sport.
Even he has to be bored of him winning all the time at this point, right? How much more can seven rings mean than six at this point? Eventually, it just becomes hogging – and that's exactly what it feels like.
There's a whole league of stars – a new generation of exciting new quarterbacks, older quarterbacks looking for one final hurrah – waiting to move the NFL forward and tell new stories. But nope, another year of talking about Tom Brady – who of course won Super Bowl MVP because obviously the Tampa Bay defense that rattled the best offense we've arguably ever seen isn't THAT valuable compared to Brady's ability to draw PI flags from refs. He's like the "Bachelor"/"Bachelorette" villain who starts off fun and catty, but stays around too long to the point of using the same catchphrases and just exhausting everyone. You don't even love to hate him anymore; you're just tired.
A question: Have you ever watched Tom Brady's play and thought, "Wow, that's one of the best football players I've ever seen"? No, it's only the final score that makes you think that – and there's something soul-sucking about it, like he's an boring scientific algorithm that rigged the game, doing enough to win but never enough to amaze or thrill or impress or inspire or do any of those things we actually enjoy about sports. In a year where we've all been stuck inside, living the same days over and over again, months blending into months, Tom Brady winning was the ultimate nihilistic reminder that nothing matters, nothing ever changes and time is a flat circle.
Good for the rest of the Bucs, I guess.
Loser: The Chiefs
There's no shame in losing to Tom Brady. Teams have been doing it now for two decades. But the team of the future got roundly embarrassed by the face of the past on Sunday. The Chiefs looked wholly unprepared for an actual fight, struggling all game long to look like the thrilling and dynamic team that went 15-1 this past season as the Bucs defense kept Patrick Mahomes uncomfortable and scrambling all game long, failing to throw a single touchdown along with two picks.
Worst of all, the Chiefs mentally seemed to collapse as well, making dumb penalties, getting chirpy and playing sloppy as the Bucs slowly and painfully pulled away. One team looked like they'd been there before – and they were the ones making their first playoff visit since 2007, not the defending Super Bowl champs.
Mahomes was one of the few people who didn't embarrass himself, having a bad game – mostly due to missing two offensive lineman against a strong D – but also nobly trying to get Kansas City back into the game through sheer force of will and several physics-breaking throws late in the game. But he couldn't catch those passes for his team too, leading to this face late Sunday night.
We feel you.
Winner: Bill Belichick
Sure, Bill Belichick lost the divorce with Tom Brady. His former star quarterback left him to take a whole new team the distance, giving sports hot-takers all the ammo they need to say that Brady was the more valuable part of their duo, all while Belichick's team didn't even put up a winning record much less make the playoffs.
That seems bad ... but look at the good side: This is the most relatable Lord Grumpypants has ever been. He probably hates Tom Brady even more now and wants to destroy him – just like all of us! I'm not saying we're Patriots fans, but Bill Belichick's one of us now, a guy tired of seeing Tom Brady boringly succeed and earn a franky insulting amount of praise. You know what they say about the enemy of my enemy. Bill Belichick: Welcome to the resistance.
Loser: The refs
Hold on, you're telling me that Tom Brady got the benefit of some dubious calls in a big game?! Who could've seen it coming!
Yes, in a series of events that surely gave Packers fans deja vu, the Buccaneers drove down the field in a mere five plays and scored one final touchdown before the end of the half to put an early dagger into the rattled Chiefs' hearts, leading 21-6 into the break. But while the Packers mostly had only their own defensive ineptitude to blame, the Chiefs were on the ugly end of some dubious calls, from the feet-tangling that turned into pass interference on the Mike Evans incompletion to the PI in the end zone on a Brady heave out of bounds that would've been uncatchable for even Gheorghe Muresan.
In the end, the refs are lucky that the Chiefs looked so lifeless that no one particularly places any blame on them for these game-opening sketchy calls.
Winner: The Weeknd
The Super Bowl halftime show was guaranteed to be strange, held in a mostly empty stadium amidst a pandemic – and that was before The Weeknd was announced, a peculiar choice considering he's a pop star whose catalogue leans more toward dark moody R&B songs than broad appeal, stadium-thrilling anthems.
There were a lot of reasons why it should've fallen flat. Instead, it was a pretty impressive show, bringing some Grammys performance-esque visual vigor, personality and intimate energy to what's normally just merely a blown-out spectacle, going from a neon-glowing wall of church choir singers to a glitzy maze of mirrors for "Can't Feel My Face," complete with dancers creepily and cleverly masked with The Weeknd's infamous facial bandages. For long-time fans, there was even some "House of Balloons" snuck into the set.
It was by no means an all-timer. The Weeknd's focals were far too low in the mix (Super Bowl halftime shows are infamously tuned for the live audience, not those listening at home), and his relatively short catalogue meant that slow jams like "Earned It" and "Save Your Tears" made the cut and filled a lot of time, pumping the breaks more than pumping up the audience.
But despite the limitations, The Weeknd put on a big, colorful, event-like show – and considering we haven't seen one of those in about a year, that alone felt like something to applaud. Plus, it gave us a good new meme:
Loser: The fourth-quarter streaker
Just when America needed a glimmer of hope, we found it in the form of a fan on the field, bounding from the mostly cardboard crowd to sprint around and gain more yards than the Kansas City Chiefs. In a night of disappointment, this American hero brought a rare moment of joy.
OR SO WE THOUGHT! As it turns out, it wasn't just a random fan trying to inspire the nation to believe in fun and happiness again, but actually yet another ad – this time for a porn site run by a crappy YouTuber. More evidence that we live in purgatory!
Winner: The first 20 seconds of the M&Ms ad
For the first two-thirds of this candy commercial, it seemed like we had an early winner for ad of the night. The 30-second spot is modern and of-the-moment without feeling desperate, it's an ad about coming together without being preachy or hitting the wrong notes, and most important of all, it's actually funny – a growing rarity in Super Bowl ads relying on celebrity sightings and QuIrKy rAnDoM! But then ...
Loser: The final ten seconds of the M&Ms ad
I don't know how clearly we have to say this, M&Ms, but for the last time: We don't want to think about brutally murdering a speaking, thinking and feeling creature when we eat your chocolate candies.
Dan Levy is a very charming performer – but even he can't make "don't mind the terrified howls coming from my van; it's just a member of your delicious species I've kidnapped to kill and eat during a binge-watch" land as just a goofy joke. I'm already feeling bad about diabetes and cavities when I'm eating candy; I'd rather not add the haunting screams of a sentient M&M whose life I ended as a snack.
Typically, you drop your Super Bowl ad a week before, get into the conversation days before the actual thing hits TV screens – good thing you paid all that money for that spot! – and finally air to people leaving for the bathroom since they already saw the spot. This year, Budweiser played the hype game a little differently, passing on debuting a spot early by doing the opposite: saying they didn't have an ad this year.
But then ... they did.
No, BUDWEISER didn't have a Super Bowl ad for the big game this year. But Bud Light Seltzer with Lemonade did. And so did Bud Light. And Anheuser-Busch in general. And there was the Bud Knight cardboard cutout in the crowd given a long, loving zoom-in shot during the game. And there was the "fan" representing Bud Light Seltzer in the stands.
Sure, it was a cheap wordplay end-around – but in the process, it meant every Bud commercial felt like an event again, a surprise that grabbed your eyes for those 30 seconds and hadn't worn out the joke days before (though these ads were out for a week early, but the announcement hogged all the attention). And best of all, many of those jokes were pretty solid, much like the lemons commercial.
They tricked us – but it was a trick that worked out for them and the audience. I'm still not drinking the stuff though ...
Loser: Bruce Springsteen
Congratulations to Jeep and Bruce Springsteen for indeed uniting America ... in hating their preachy Super Bowl ad. Way to read the room. And way to leave Alaska, Hawaii and the UP out of the map at the end. NOT SO UNITED AFTER ALL, HM!?
Winner: Cadillac's Edward Scissorhands ad
Many of the star-studded ads this year – Shaggy, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher selling Cheetos, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton's not-so-meet-cute for T-Mobile, Wayne's World officially selling out for Uber Eats – fell flat.
Maybe some of that money used to buy celebrity endorsements could be also given to a writer to give them something actually funny to say! But Cadillac's "Edward Scissorhands" riff starring Timothee Chalamet and Winona Ryder was one of the few winners, not only having fun with the unwieldy blade fingers but also tying it in well with what they were trying to sell: its new hands-free driving car.
It's a starry, high-concept Super Bowl ad that actually delivered. A round of applause, though not from you, Edgar Scissorhands. Best keep those to yourself.
Loser: CGI people
Just because you can make CGI people doesn't mean you should. Verizon's starry 5G ad featuring a computer animated Samuel L. Jackson was more creepy than entertaining – and that was before he got chomped by a shark. (I did appreciate the "Deep Blue Sea" reference, though.)
But the greatest offender here was the NFL itseslf with its resurrected Vince Lombardi 2.0. Any wonder to be found in the NFL's pregame video clip was ruined by staring at the eerie computerized zombie. When he picked up that ball to hand to the kids, the kids should've run in the opposite direction in terror at the "Polar Express" character awkwardly wandering around their neighborhood. The moment was supposed to be inspirational, but it only inspired nightmares.
Almost every studio bailed on a big Super Bowl ad this year, which makes sense considering they don't know when they'll even be able to release the damn things. So congrats to the first look at the new M. Night Shyamalan thriller "Old" for winning by default – though the trailer itself looks pretty intriguing, with a family vacation to the beach taking a hard right turn to horror town when the kids start aging exponentially fast amonst other unsettling things.
Shyamalan is a mixed bag, but it's an interesting concept; he's a terrific craftsman and hey, even his bad movies aren't boring. (Well, except "The Last Airbender.") Plus, it's a new movie! Remember those!?
It makes sense that big movies would sit out the big game, not wanting to spend $5.5 million for summer movies that might not even come out by summer; but where were the streaming services?
This could've been an opportunity to truly stake their claim as the new kings of entertainment. The only one that really put a significant foot forward on Sunday was Paramount+, aka the revujinated and jumbo-sized new version of CBS All Access. But Paramount+ has already lost by arriving to the streaming battlefield after the war's pretty much over. No one wants to add ANOTHER service to their ever-growing list and I'm not sure "Young Sheldon" and Snooki jokes (in 2021?!) will help.
Winner: Tampa sports fans
Apparently, despite their attendance numbers, Florida sports teams actually do have fans – and in the case of Tampa Bay, they're living in a golden age. Over this past year, Tampa teams have won the Stanley Cup and the Super Bowl while at least making it to the World Series. The only one of the major four sports they didn't go the championship in was basketball – and that's because there is no Tampa NBA team. They get the great weather AND the unnstoppable sports luck? Unfair.
Anyways, congrats to the 17 Tampa sports fans. You deserve it after having to look at those heinous Bucs jerseys over the past five years.
With some awkward guy (who turns out to be the CEO) plinking away some weird oat milk song in a field, this Oatly ad gave me bad flashbacks to acoustic open mic night in college. And it's not even a new ad! Instead, the Swedish ad – I now understand the rage Will Ferrell feels toward Nordic countries – is a retread from 2014, one that was banned in its native country (due to dairy industry lobbying, not due to crimes against ears). I appreciate their commitment to recycling ... but that's all I can appreciate about this awkward ad.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.