By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Feb 13, 2023 at 5:31 PM

The world's favorite unofficial holiday kicked off Sunday night with Super Bowl LVII and the Kansas City Chiefs coming back for a 38-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, a great game that ended with an even greater anticlimax. (Unless you were a light pole in Philly; then you probably enjoyed avoiding yet another onslaught of climbers doing their best drunken "Free Solo" impressions.)

But who REALLY won Sunday's big game? And who REALLY lost? And who REALLY thinks Roger Goodell regrets saying NFL officiating has "never been better"? Let's talk about the real winners and losers from Super Bowl LVII ... and then go into a cave for four days of totally normal pitch-black reflective solitude. 

Winner: Kansas City Chiefs

Go figure! The winning team is a winner!

But truly, though, the storyline going into Super Bowl LVII was that all the pressure was on the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. The Eagles were an unexpected success story this season, with a young core that should run rampant over a mediocre conference for a few more seasons. The Chiefs, though? They had something to prove. Sure, they'd won a Super Bowl before – but for many in the sports media, in a post-Brady universe, that's simply not enough anymore. If you want to be anointed as great, as a dynasty, you have to win – all the time – and before Sunday, Mahomes and company had lost just as many Super Bowls as they'd won, a scale that would tilt against them with a loss in this weekend's big game. Add in a tough conference with the likes of Joe Burrow, Josh Allen and more vying for the AFC's Super Bowl slot, and a loss yesterday would make the overwhelming storyline: Is the Chiefs dynasty over before it ever started?

Instead, thanks to an incredible second-half offensive flurry, the headline is: The Chiefs are a dynasty. Instead of complaining about losing two Super Bowls in four years, sports talking heads are praising them for winning two Super Bowls in four years. It's no longer enough to watch greatness; in the current sports discourse, the stats MUST match it. Anyone who watches the Mahomes-led Chiefs knows they're watching a really good team. (As well as a really fun team, which weirdly means they have to prove it more – as though sports nerds don't want to admit they're impressed by clearly impressive things.) With Sunday's win, the numbers confirm it too. 

Loser: Refs

It was all coming together. Mahomes was leading the Chiefs on a scoring drive that was going to leave just enough time on the clock for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles to attempt to return serve one last time. Regardless of who won or who you were rooting for, the table was set for an all-timer Super Bowl ending. 

And then they called holding. And then, instead of the exciting conclusion the game seemed to be leading toward, we got a minute and a half of dudes running out the clock, an easy and inevitable field goal, and a Hail Mary without a prayer. Not since the finale of "Game of Thrones" had so much promise, intrigue and excitement led to so little. 

Listen, I get all the arguments. Yes, the refs had made calls earlier that went the Eagles way, so the universe balanced out. But those were bang-bang coin toss decisions litigated by the NFL's increasingly impossible and philosophical methods of determining a catch and possession. ("Sure, he has control of the ball – but who can REALLY have a sense of control as but a small human being living in this massive chaotic universe outside of our miniscule sense of reality? In conclusion, first down Philadelphia.") And yes, technically, by the rule of the law of football, there was holding. But boy, for essentially the deciding play of the biggest game of the year, you want to see something more obvious, more conclusive. If it's gonna be decided by a penalty, you want to see the receiver's jersey get clearly yanked and held. You want this big, loud, exciting spectacle to be decided by a fittingly big, loud, exciting play, not a little debatable pedantry. You want the penalty to fit the crime – and other than for hardcore Chiefs fans, on that play, the scales of justice sure feel uneven here. 

I had no skin in this game. I had no money on either team, and I would've been fine with either team winning. (My favorite team wasn't there. Yes, that's right: the XFL's Arlington Renegades.) I just wanted good entertainment worthy of the giant hullaboo that is the Super Bowl – and we got that for about 58 minutes and 30 seconds. And then ... well, it's just hard not to feel like we were robbed of the memorable finale we deserved. Instead, Super Bowl LVII will be memorable for what could've happened rather than what did.

Winner: Jalen Hurts

Sure, the Eagles may have lost – but their star quarterback Jalen Hurts has nothing to feel bad about. Stepping into the spotlight for his biggest game as an NFL quarterback, Hurts looked pretty comfortable in primetime, running for three touchdowns and 70 yards plus more than 300 yards in the air. If Philly had pulled off another Philly special and won on Sunday night, he'd be the no-doubter MVP. Instead, he'll have to settle for a noble effort in a loss – though this season is a win for Hurts in just his third year in the pros, going from a question mark at the Eagles helm just a season ago to an exclamation mark clearly there to stay. And considering how good he looked this season and in the Super Bowl – plus how mediocre the rest of the NFC appears to be – Hurts shouldn't have to wait long for his second chance at winning that Super Bowl/MVP combo.

Loser: Philly's defense

Forget an East Coast or West Coast media bias: Apparently there's a Philadelphia lean to sports coverage, because before the Super Bowl, all I heard was how the Eagles were secretly one of the best teams we'd ever seen statistically – particularly their defense. Nevermind that the Eagles had one of the easiest schedules in the league this season, then got to waltz into the Super Bowl playing an overperforming but underequipped New York Giants and a San Francisco 49ers team literally without a quarterback: On paper, Philly was growingly the consensus pick. 

Well, apparently that secretly great NFL team stayed in hiding during the Super Bowl – or at least certainly the defense did. While they played well enough in the first half, putting Kansas City in a ten-point hole at the half, the Eagles defense couldn't stop the Chiefs in the second half. No, literally: Philadelphia never stopped Mahomes and the Chiefs in the second half, giving up points on each of Kansas City's drives, unable to sack the quarterback despite the fact that his ankle was desperately trying to remove itself from Mahomes' body. In fact, of the Chiefs' eight total possessions on Sunday, six led to points – and it would've been seven if Harrison Butker hadn't shanked a first half field goal. I know Mahomes – even hobbled – and the Chiefs' deep roster of weapons is a tough ask to contain, but for a group that with a great resume and a remarkable amount of praise coming into the Super Bowl, Philly was far from special on defense on Sunday.

Winner: Rihanna

There was a lot of talk prior to Sunday's halftime show about who Rihanna would bring out for her concert. Would Jay-Z be a special suprise guest? Or what about her multi-time collaborator Eminem? And what about Tom Holland, whose Lip Sync take on "Umbrella" is arguably his most famous achievement (more people have certainly seen that than "Chaos Walking" and "Cherry" combined) and who was allegedly in Arizona around the time of the Super Bowl?

Finally, the halftime show arrived and Rihanna's special guest ... was no special guest. (Well, I guess there was a surprise reveal: not a performer but a pregnancy, as the hitmaker took the Super Bowl stage before officially announcing her second child was en route.) And in the end, none was really needed – even if her movement was limited with the pregnancy and with being on a suspended platform giving everyone watching all kinds of vertigo. (Though, even without that, Rihanna's always delivered more of a relaxed vibe on stage rather than a Lady Gaga or Beyonce-like full-sweat, capital-P Performance.)

Instead, Rihanna just relied on her catalogue of songs. And since music has turned almost more into her side hustle next to her wildly successful Fenty beauty and fashion work, it's easy to forget that her catalogue is filled wall to wall with iconic bangers and bops that can get anyone and everyone moving. So, for almost 14 minutes, Rihanna confidently reminded you of that fact with hit after hit, performed maybe not with a ton of dynamic movement (like I or anyone else would even bother to show up if tasked to dangle above a football field, while pregnant at that) but with plenty of unbothered yet engaging star presence and with a ton of wow-inducing spectacle surrounding her.

But really: Props to the production team on this show, because the Super Smash Bros-esque platforms, vivid choreography and eye-grabbing costumes made for a really visually mesmerizing and compelling concert – especially with the drone photography capturing it all from thrillingly unexpected angles. I've heard before that the halftime shows are often better in the building than on the broadcast; thanks to the dynamic camerawork, capturing shots like rows of precise dancers hovering at different levels above the field and zooming out on Rihanna standing high above the stadium, this concert felt like it might've been the opposite, delivering on all the visual spectacle and the superstar energy you'd expect from a modern Super Bowl halftime show.

The only thing it was missing? A new Rihanna album at the end ... or at least an update? (One of these years, it'll finally happen. Probably. Maybe.)

Loser: Grass

Electrical malfunctions. Clothing malfunctions. Playcalling malfunctions. (Amirite, Seahawks fans?) A lot can go wrong at the Super Bowl – but in all the craziness, at least you can always trust the ground beneath your feet. Right?

Wrong, apparently at this Super Bowl, which was more like a Slip-n-Slide covered in bananas and soap bars. From tackles to basic kickoffs, players seemed to be struggling throughout the game to get a grip on the Arizona stadium's turf – something players from both teams confirmed in the locker rooms afterwards. Some blamed the type of grass, a hybrid specifically grown for the biggest sporting event of the year. Others blamed all the paint on the field, between the logos to actual paint on the grass itself to make it look all green and happy. Well, it did indeed look green – but no one looked happy. No matter the final culprit, maybe next time we stick with what worked for the previous 20 weeks or so rather than trust the most important game of the season to mystery lacquered gremlin grass?

Winner: The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

Sunday's broadcast was filled with retro throwbacks – from "Grease" to "Clueless." But clearly the most influential old school icon was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from "Ghostbusters," who apparently inspired the looks for Rihanna's entire dance squad. 

Listen, if I was tasked with dancing on platforms dangling dozens of feet over the ground, I would have no complaints finding out our costumes were extremely soft and puffy.

Loser: Being a good sport, Philly fans edition

Imagine standing on the field at the Super Bowl, there to earn the title of Walter Payton Man of the Year, one of the league's highest honors given to a person not based on their play but on the quality of their character as a human being. The entire league is gathered to say, "You are a good person who cares about people and your community." Surely all fans could put aside on-field rivalries to acknowledge a person's dedication to generosity, kindness and the greater good of mankind, no?

Uh, have you met Philadelphia fans?

Actually, considering how their recent seasons have ended, those might've actually been Cowboys fans booing.

Winner: Being a good sport, Philly players edition

Eagles players would have all the reason in the world to be saltiest human beings since Lot's wife after the Super Bowl, thanks to the world's weakest holding call ruining their shot at tying or winning the game. But instead, the Philadelphia locker room was shockingly accepting of their fate – from Eagles center Jason Kelce (who, did you know, has a brother on the other team!?) ... 

... to even James Bradberry, who was guilty of the brutal holding call and who would have all the reason in the world to be bitter about having the loss pinned on him.

That sound you just heard was everyone hopping on the bandwagon for the Philadelphia Eagles redemption tour storyline next season.

Loser: The Ram ad

I was just telling everyone at my Super Bowl gathering that I actually thought the big game ads were living up the hype this year, with no real groaners in the bunch ... and then this Ram ad showed up, busting out the best joke of 2007 and running it into the ground.

It's like they're talking about sex but not actually! Worst of all, the "unable to hold it" concept and its tie-in to the product – electric Ram trucks – never quite gelled together, perhaps with too much time spent on people talking about how unsatisfying electric cars are and not enough time emphasizing how this one is better. In an otherwise solid crop of ads, this was the only one that really got eye-rolls.

Winner: Giannis

Even when the sporting event isn't basketball, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins – as seen by his great punchline moment in Google's overall solid Pixel commercial.

Get yourself an all-time great player who's fine making fun of himself getting dunked on in front of a global audience. 

Loser: U2

This is going to come as a shock, but the band behind "we're going to sneak into your iTunes and give you a new album you didn't ask for" had another misguided promotional idea.

I swear, if the all the spy balloons and unidentified objects NORAD's been shooting down this week turn out to be U2 concert ads, we're pulling an NCAA punishment and retroactively vacating U2's name off "The Joshua Tree." Or maybe we'll pull an "All the Money in the World" and replace the band with four Christopher Plummers. 

Winner: FOX's camerawork

Rihanna's halftime show wasn't the only place the camerawork was worthy of hoisting its own Lombardi trophy. Maybe this has been done before – but whenever the Chiefs or Eagles got close to the endzone, FOX's broadcast cut to a higher camera shot straight down the goal line, finally delivering the clearest perspective to see if a ballcarrier had actually broken the plane for a touchdown. (Take that, pylon cam!) It took a brief moment to get used to the high-angle perspective, and no plays during Sunday's game really necessitated the shot (thankfully, heaven forbid the refs got MORE involved in the final result) – but I can see it being very helpful next season for viewers with close endzone plays rather than the regular murky shot taken at more of an angle and from a lower perspective.

Add together that little change and other dynamic flourishes – like the typical booth shot looking at Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen, only for the camera to move past them and out the booth window to look over the field – and Super Bowl LVII was a really captivating watch. 

Loser: The state of network television

Gather 'round, kids: Old Grampa Matt has a fun story to you. There was once something called "network television." I know, those channels that are just sports, game shows and police procedurals about Chicago: People used to really WATCH them! In large numbers, too! Not only that, but when the Super Bowl ended, after all the confetti and postgame chatter, there normally was a show on afterwards that would be the network's most popular and important program. Those are long gone now, though, as proven by FOX's big postgame programming being ... "Next Level Chef"? That's right: "Not Hell's Kitchen" was the big Super Bowl show. Makes watching all those ads for CBS shows that definitely don't exist (no one can prove "East New York" is a real show) seem damn near dignified. 

Winner: Dogs

If you can't be funny or creative in a Super Bowl commericial, just get a puppy – an effective formula, if this year's big game is be believed! Both Amazon and puppy food company The Farmer's Dog went for the tearducts this year – the former telling the tail tale of a dog wrecking a house of out loneliness until his family orders him an adorable four-legged friend to keep him company and the latter showing a pup growing up with its human family through the years thanks to the power and care of their expensive dog food – and both landed like high-quality "This Is Us" episodes.

At least judging by the teary reactions from others at my Super Bowl party, definitely not me. Nope, I didn't cry at all. I was too busy grilling giant steaks while watching action movie explosions and talking about car engines. Definitely wasn't sobbing.

Loser: FanDuel

As anyone who's been in a fantasy football league with me knows, I don't know much about gambling. But I've never felt as confused about betting on sports as when FanDuel aired its big Kick of Destiny with Rob Gronkowski, which looked like a good kick ... until everyone in the ad yelled about how he missed it.

It looks like the kick is good! Am I getting legitimately gaslit, because that kick looks like it went right between the uprights?And if not, what insane jet engine was perched off-screen at the goalline to blow that kick at apparently a 90-degree angle to the left? Of course, as with everything in the 21st century, there's a bunch of online truthers saying it was all CG anyways – so now I don't know what or who to believe. All I know is I'm going to keep losing my money the old fashioned way: alcohol. Speaking of which ... 

Winner: Bud Light

Bud Light's typically a big Super Bowl player – but normally it's with catchphrases that irritatingly get beaten into the ground (looking at you, "dilly dilly") or with a sense of humor and tone that goes straight for the Axe body spray users in the audience. This year, however, Bud Light went strangely subdued ... and, as a result, strangely charming with Miles and Keleigh Teller dancing around to on-hold music. 

Between this and "Top Gun: Maverick," turns out everyone loves watching Miler Teller get into music! The "Footloose" remake was just ten years too early! But anyways, what a weirdly charming and relatable ad from Bud Light! Shame about the beer, though ... 

Loser: "Batman" "The Flash"

"The Flash" is one of the big superhero movies coming to theaters this summer ... though you would be forgiven for thinking it was actually a new Batman movie considering how the title character seemed like an afterthought in Sunday's ballyhooed trailer. In fairness, considering star Ezra Miller's plethora of problematic headlines over the past few years and that The Dark Knight is objectively more popular than the The Flash, it's not the most egregious decision.

Making the big climactic moment in your Super Bowl commercial Michael Keaton looking profoundly bored while collecting a paycheck? Slightly more egregious. 

That's Michael Keaton playing his character from "Birdman" playing Batman, apparently. Anyways, considering how oddly glossy the footage looked – it doesn't look like there's an actual physical set in the entire minute-long teaser – and how cluttered the Super Bowl clip was with superhero cameos and DCEU tie-ins meaningless for most casual fans, this first ad for Warner Bros' big blockbuster bet looks about as good as betting against Patrick Mahomes. (Maybe the official long trailer plays better. Most people wouldn't know, though, because they played the hacked-together edit during the actual big game. Weird way to spend $7 million, showing a massive audience the worse version of your commercial!)

Winner: Ben Affleck

Everyone's favorite sad famous guy actually had much to be happy about on Sunday.

For one, his star-studded new Nike movie "Air" – the rare wide theatrical release from Amazon Studios – looks pretty good. Sure it looks like "Brands: The Movie" – because, as we all know, the most exciting part of sports is the boardroom meetings about Ad/PR – but it also looks like a movie I'm going to watch because the cast is loaded (Matt Damon, newly crowned EGOT Viola Davis, Affleck in loud '80s clothing) and the subject, Nike's revolutionary shoe deal with a rookie Michael Jordan, could be done well with a good snappy script that's less reverent and more real about the business. Yes, it would appear to be "Moneyball" but with somehow even less on-field action – but you know what movie's really good? "Moneyball." 

More importantly, though, is what happened on Sunday with Affleck and his one true love: Dunkin Donuts. His ad as a chatty Dunkin employee – complete with J.Lo dropping by at the end to drag him back home (but not without a box of donuts) – was actually quite delightful and scored as an early advertisement winner. Plus, if he didn't before, he probably now has a lifetime pass for free Dunkin anywhere at any time – so that's a million percent win.

Even if both ads bombed, though, Affleck still would've had a great Super Bowl because at least he's not at the Grammys. 

Loser: M&M's

The candy tried to take the bizarre blowback to its candy mascots and use it for viral marketing, saying weeks ago that they were benching the famed characters in favor of Maya Rudolph. Just one problem, though: Not one person believed it. Everyone knew it smelled fishy – and indeed, all that weird hubbub and online debate about giving into dumb discourse paid off in an unfunny and just plain confusing Super Bowl ad where Rudolph not only is the new face of M&M's but also turned them into clams, I guess?

To top it all off, the M&M candies (surprise!) came back with a post-Super Bowl bit to announce that they never actually left ... that nobody saw because the game was over. Not that anyone needed to see the announcement, because no one believed they were gone in the first place, making this whole debacle the candy's worst decision since getting rid of the Crispy M&M's. Did Mr. Peanut and Baby Nut die for naught!? (Ironically, Planters used its Super Bowl ad to make fun of the very ad campaign M&M's foolishly tried to replicate.)

Winner: Workday

First of all: Congrats, Workday, on having the money for a Super Bowl ad – and one with a bunch of pricy stars at that! Who knew!? But also: Congrats on a very entertaining ad, making fun of corporate types overusing "rock star" as a compliment. HR: not famously great material for a funny Super Bowl ad. But they pulled it off thanks to the good use of its cast of (actual) rock stars plus a well-timed squeak during Paul Stanley's exit. 

Loser: Canada

Crown Royal's ode to America's hat was amusing and full of interesting factoids that I won't look up because advertisements shouldn't require additional homework or research. (Hey, ad execs: Stop it with the QR codes and the "go to our website to watch the actual ad with the actual jokes in it" nonsense.) But no, Dave Grohl, I will NOT say thank you to Canada for Hawaiian pizza. Anyone who gives the world Nickelback needs to do a lot of apologizing first. (Though, in fairness, poutine does go a long way towards atonement.)

Winner: The ads in general

For several years now, the famous idea that the Super Bowl ads are often better than the game hasn't been accurate. Between lazy marketing teams, companies ruining the fun by debuting their ads well in advance, commercials that are just commercials for going to a website to watch the actual commercials and the existence of crypto, the entertainment side of the big game has been more reputation than reality. But in this year's game, the ads were ... pretty good! Across the board, there were fewer groans and more earned giggles – from the surreal Adam Driver Squarespace ad to the Doritos Jack Harlow triangle spot to the Diddy "not a jingle" jingle and the "Breaking Bad" reunion for PopCorners. 

A lot of ads were genuinely amusing, and several of the star-studded spots – traditionally where more effort went into booking big names rather than coming up with anything funny or interesting to do – were worth the big names and bucks. Even the misfires – like the Pepsi commercials that were less about the product and more about how actors are lying to you in commercials – weren't as awful as in past years. Congrats, capitalism, you did great!

Loser: Roger Goodell

The minute the NFL commissioner decided to describe the state of refereeing as "never been better," a fuse was lit – and it was only a matter of time before those words would blow up right back in his face.

Welp, it didn't take long, as the "it's been _ days since a bad call controversy" sign got erased at just four thanks to Sunday night's game-deflating holding call. I'm sure the NFL will release a quote later this week saying that ACTUALLY that call was very clearly right, and that ACTUALLY it thinks the conclusion was great because people were talking about the game the next day. And that ACTUALLY they can't hear any of our complaints anyways because the sound of their wave pool filled with money is too loud. But at some point, they can't leave audiences walking away disappointed and robbed like it's an A24 horror movie.

I'm not going to naively pretend a mass exodus of viewers is coming (cue ratings saying it's the highest rated broadcast in the history of broadcasted things) because the Super Bowl is too big to fail. But after these two final weekends of games, when it comes to things I'm looking forward to seeing next season, "the game on the field deciding the game on the field" is high on the list. Followed closely by a flip-up ayahuasca darkness retreat tent, just like one of the blue medical tent, on the sidelines of whatever team Aaron Rodgers plays for. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

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.