The real winners and losers of Super Bowl LI
It's official: We are living in the darkest timeline.
In case you spent all Sunday sleeping – which, if you chose to do that, wise thinking in retrospect – the New England Patriots came back from 25 points down to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI in Houston.
But there's much more to the Super Bowl than who won on the scoreboard. Let's talk about the real winners and losers from yesterday's devastating joy-seeking missile strike.
Winner: All good football-loving Americans
Before I begin crying my face off about the Patriots' miracle comeback and the death of happiness, allow me to say this straight-up: Yesterday was an all-time football game. It was an incredible Super Bowl, complete with dramatic comebacks, insane catches of both the "freak of gravity" and "freak of athleticism" varieties, heroes and villains, the first overtime in the game's history and, to top it all off, a Bud Light commercial featuring a talking ghost dog.
If yesterday's Super Bowl was a blowout, we would've been talking about how awful the playoffs were and how there was exactly one enjoyable game over the past month of elite competition. Instead, we're going to talk about one of the best Super Bowls of all time. It was everything Roger Goodell would've wanted from the capper to what had otherwise been a bad year of headlines and football games for the NFL. OK, well, maybe not EVERYTHING ...
Loser: All good Patriots-hating Americans
Hey, check this out: Thanks to the wonders of science, here's a reaction shot of every single American who lives anywhere other than New England when the Falcons gave up the game-winning touchdown.
HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO US, ATLANTA!?
Loser: Atlanta Falcons
But seriously, Atlanta, how could you do this to us? There we all were, having a great Sunday night, watching the Patriots get beat into the dirt and listening to the Schuyler Sisters do an awesome rendition of "America the Beautiful" – complete with a "sisterhood" improv line that delighted everyone across the country, including Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. George H.W. Bush was all alive and well and flipping coins. We were making fun of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and having just a jolly, festive day, united as Americans.
And now, an emotional wasteland, salted so nothing can ever grow again. Yes, the Patriots won the game, but the Falcons did their damnedest to lose it. In position for an essentially game-winning field goal, all they had to do was not lose one-fifth of a football field in yards. They did. All they had to do was hold the Patriots once – even on just a two-point conversion. They didn't. Given a little less than a minute to rally down the field for a triumphant winning kick attempt, they dinked little three-yard passes to the tight end. You have Julio Jones, Atlanta; you are aware that Julio Jones, an actual miracle worker, wears your jersey, representing your team? It was like the ghost of Mike McCarthy stole that drive.
Watching the Falcons' lead evaporate, from 25 to 19 to 16 to 8 to nothing, was like being Maggie Gyllenhaal's Rachel in "The Dark Knight," watching the timer tick down on a bomb, nervous but also certain and hopeful it will turn out all right, only to realize nope, no one's coming to save you ... and then blowing up. You hurt me, Falcons, and you hurt America. You gave me the kind of emotional devastation that I only allow my actual home team to provide.
Winner: New England Patriots
There may have been cheering and confetti and all that good stuff, New England Patriots, but make no mistake: No one living more than 40 miles outside of Boston is happy for you. No one wanted you to win – and they certainly didn't want you to win like this, stealing the happiness from a much more fun, lively newcomer.
Another year of Tom Brady's dumb mug and celebrating him fist-pumping and screaming like a mad man before the game even started. Another year of applauding the genius of the grumpiest man ever made. Another year of New England fans praising themselves for being gritty underdogs finally getting a break despite living in one of the most championship-rich cities in the nation – and no-doubt losing their minds when Mark Wahlberg makes a movie about this Super Bowl (starring himself as the unsung blue-collar no-nonsense everyman hero, natch) seven months from now.
This was Duke winning the championship on a Grayson Allen buzzer beater. This was the bully jock and the snotty queen bee winning prom king and queen. This was discovering the boyfriend who cheated on you with your best friend living a much better life than you, with two adorable kids, a mansion of a house and a yearly vacation to Bali with his wife, your former best friend. This was everything wrong with the world.
Think that's hyperbole? Here's somebody who was jazzed about the Patriots win:
Rooting for the Pats!— Richard 🐸 Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) February 6, 2017
1/ Belichick & Brady support Trump
2/ Three White widereceivers
3/ Consistently NFL's whitest team
4/ ATL is dreadful
That's that Nazi guy who keeps getting punched on the street because he's a Nazi. And when a Nazi is happy, the world is dark and cold.
Winner: Tom Brady
We all agree that James White should've been the actual MVP yesterday, correct? The former Badgers running back grabbed 14 catches (a Super Bowl record) for 110 yards, along with 29 rushing yards, for a total of three touchdowns and a two-point conversion (another Super Bowl record for most points scored). Even Tom Brady admits that White should be the one doing wheelies on the field in a new MVP-smelling truck.
But no, Brady won the award. A quarterback who was overtly miserable for the first half of the game, missing targets and throwing a pick-six in the house Matt Schaub built. A quarterback who should've been picked off twice during the two clutch drives, only for the Falcons to botch both interceptions. A quarterback who, I mean, come on, has enough trophies, jeez.
But the revenge tour is now complete – and on that note ...
Loser: Roger Goodell
No one hated watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl more than Roger Goodell – which is a problem when you're the guy who then has to hand off the trophies and make a nice little speech to the Super Bowl-winning team. Goodell spent seemingly a decade trying to get justice and due punishment for the crime of using mildly squishier footballs in a blowout of a game – while meanwhile being lax on actual real-life concerns like domestic abuse – and wasting our nation's courts' time, just to have to crown his cheating white whale champion of the league with lusty boos raining from the heavens.
Roger Goodell's life may have been written by George R.R. Martin.
Winner: This catch
Congratulations, New England: You finally landed on the right side of an iconic Super Bowl catch.
Loser: That catch
We should still be throwing roses onto the field for Julio Jones after this athletic fresco he painted. Alas, this shot now gets to sit next to Marcus Paige's shot to almost win the NCAA Championship last year, a great moment that means nothing.
Loser: Super Bowl commercial breaks overall
What was once half the fun of watching the Super Bowl is now weirdly the most predictable aspect of the big day. Most of America can safely tune out of the commercial breaks as though they were just a regular everyday ad break, now that we've seen them a week before the big game. Even when an ad breaks through the clutter, the odds are good that it'll be only half of the actual commercial, the rest of it somewhere online the ad is trying – and failing – to direct you to. So basically, it's an ad for an ad – usually a bad ad at that since trying to chop a 60-second joke or concept into a cheaper 15-second burst results in the viewer just being confused.
Listen, ad execs: We've all decided that Super Bowl Sunday is the one day a year that we forget that ads are just trying to remove us from our hard-earned money in the name of sugar water and dusty orange chips, and instead pretend they're simply entertainment. And you're messing that all up. So stop revealing your ads six months ahead of time, stop cutting them down into barely the joke and stop trying to make me go to your website – because we both know I'm not. And PLEASE never show me Mr. Clean's tight-jeaned man canyon again. It's time to Make Super Bowl Ad Breaks Great Again! #MSBABGA (gotta rethink that acronym).
Winner: Lady Gaga
FULL VIDEO: Lady Gaga SLAYS the Halftime Show 😭😭😭https://t.co/pk5uLNlM9q— LVL GAGA (@LVLGAGA) February 6, 2017
Anyone craving some vintage Lady Gaga craziness on one of the world's biggest stages – maybe she would perform in a body suit made of ignored NFL concussion studies, or dance with actual live sharks dressed as chandeliers – was probably left hungry at the end of Lady Gaga's set. No, it was a fairly safe collection of Stefani Germanotta's greatest hits – as much as the word "safe" can apply to a performance that involved jumping from the roof of the stadium like a glittery, jittery Batman – plus some "America The Beautiful" early on to appease the crazy red-staters that were concerned she'd host a satanic liberal blood orgy in front of America's eyes (only half-joking).
But even when she's playing it by the book, Lady Gaga goes all in. She's a constant, hard-w0rking performer on stage – dancing, singing, hustling across the stage fifteen times over, changing costumes. Even if you were lukewarm on the show, you had to respect Gaga's moxie. She's a real performer, not just a pop star – and in a world of Ariana Grande and other blandly interchangeable Top 40 songstresses, that's what makes her special.
Loser: Whoever directed the halftime show
Lady Gaga was energetic and awesome, and her setlist was almost entirely hits from her golden age. So why did the show feel just ... fine? Maybe blame the fact that it didn't have the bright LSD screwball weirdness of Katy Perry's show or the escalating power of celebrity at last year's Beyonce v Bruno Mars dance battle (I feel like there was somebody else there too ... eh, moving on). But I'll go ahead and blame the director.
There was no real rhythm to the show, instead hopping quite literally from an America tribute to pop songs and then scurrying back and forth across the stage for song after song, and the shots selected didn't make any sense. Lady Gaga fell from the ceiling of a stadium, and instead of following that, we got baby drones making Pepsi logos and American blobs in the sky. Cool – but a human being is doing something death-defying right now! It didn't improve after Gaga landed either, using a lot of wide shots and odd angles that felt like we weren't seeing the best moments from their best sides.
By the time Lady Gaga caught a pass and disappeared, hopping into air, it didn't feel like the culmination of the show. That's not on Gaga; she was awesome and performed the hell out of her hits. It just didn't come together as a televised show.
USA! USA! USA! It's been a rough while for some of America lately, but Sunday – from the Schuyler Sisters to Luke Bryan's surprisingly solid (and surprisingly long) anthem to Gaga's brief America tribute – did a great job of making everyone watching feel united and patriotic. The night even basically ended on a Peter Berg-directed Hyundai ad about troops watching the game and reuniting with loved ones, one more final hug for America.
A lot of people tuned in Sunday for a bit of escapist relief, yelling and cheering about something on social media that wasn't political for a change, and for most of the time, the Super Bowl did that. I mean, look how happy Dan Quinn was!
And then the Patriots won.
Loser: President Trump
If there was an overall theme to yesterday's ad breaks, it was giving a low-key middle finger to Donald Trump's recent policies and attitudes. From Budweiser's much ballyhooed immigrant-focused ad to 84 Lumber's also immigrant-focused ad, celebrating diversity and what America represents to so many people was in the not-so-subtle background of many of the big ads. Translation: There are a lot more brands for super Trump stans to attempt to boycott starting today. After all, the ones against "Rogue One," "Hamilton" and Starbucks went so well...
Winner: It's A 10 Hair ad
Unsurprisingly, many of the ads that made the biggest impact from yesterday's game were ads that nobody had seen until yesterday's game. For instance: It's A 10 Hair's "Four Years Of Bad Hair" commercial.
For one, it was genuinely funny, starting off like a daring anti-Trump political ad before revealing it was just about fighting off bad hair, not a bad presidency. But most importantly, it was actually an effective ad. Some of the fun, cute ones – Ford's stuck ad, Buick's Cam Newton pushing down kids number – didn't exactly tie into the product all that well, while It's A 10 perfectly melded a funny concept with the actual product it was attempting to sell.
Now, about the brand's name, though ...
Loser: The immigrant ads
Yes, Budweiser and 84 Lumber's immigrant-themed ads were timely and important and meaningful and et cetera – but when they actually hit during the game, I'll admit they were kind of duds.
84 Lumber's ad was powerfully done ... until it just stopped and forced me to go to a website to see the whole actual ad. How moving – I'll pass; I've got a game to watch instead (especially since – spoiler alert – the little girl was definitely making an American flag). As for Budweiser's spot, it was a well-done bit of storytelling ... that I'd already seen and witnessed get thinkpieced to death a week ago. So instead of being captivated by the ad, it was dead air I used to get a refill on snacks. A good use of your millions of dollars, Budweiser.
Winner: "Stranger Things"
If I was smart or had cognitive powers, I would've stopped the game right at this point and just watched the "Stranger Things 2" trailer on repeat for a couple hours. There wasn't much of a story to be gleaned, but the imagery looked incredible – huge spider monster thing; are you kidding me!? – the set-up of an old-school Eggo ad was fun and it was the perfect overall tease. Now I'll have a valid reason to stay inside and watch TV on Halloween other than my general social awkwardness.
Loser: Johnny Depp
The good news is that the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, despite having no real reason to exist other than the franchise performs stupidly well overseas, actually looks pretty solid.
The bad news is that Disney clearly has no idea how to sell this movie – or at least its star, Johnny Depp, who's proven to be box office poison in recent years for all sorts of reasons. Captain Jack Sparrow only showed up for about a second or two at the end of the mini-trailer – and even then, he was unrecognizable under a thick layer of mud. And unfortunately for the movie, I was more excited for the movie before he showed up covered in lumpy chocolate ice cream.
Winner: Tide's stain ad
A lot of work went into this oddly successful Tide Super Bowl ad, starting with a Fox Super Bowl halftime tease featuring Terry Bradshaw with a stain on his shirt. It seemed simply odd, but probably just a gag from the Pregame Show team that I wasn't paying close enough attention to catch. But later, it turned into a whole big extravaganza, with Bradshaw running across the field, driving across the city and winding up in National Treasure Jeffrey Tambor's home, watching ... something about gazelles? I don't know, but it ended up delightful.
Before the game began, Snickers was very excited about filming the first live Super Bowl commercial. However, most viewers after the game would have a hard time remembering that Snickers had an ad (it was the one with Adam Driver and cowboys and stuff falling apart).
The premise for the ad – that being hungry ruined the commercial – didn't set itself up fast enough to make sense, so most people didn't really get the gag until thinking about it, and the live aspect of the ad was just Driver saying the current score, which came off more like a lucky guess than the magic of live television. I guess when you're hungry, you make a Super Bowl ad that leaves no impact and wastes your ad budget for the year.
Winner: Incredible Dog Challenge on NBC
While some of you suckers were on your seventh hour of Super Bowl pregame coverage, telling the inspirational story of the Gatorade cup provider who lost his appendix last year in the middle of a pre-season game, I was watching the Incredible Dog Challenge on NBC – soon to be renamed the Greatest Athletic Competition Put On This Earth (on NBC).
Imagine dogs launching themselves into pools – for distance AND height – like awkward torpedoes, all while trying to grab a summer sausage-looking chewy and eyeing it up like a long-lost lover. Imagine dogs running through tubes and onto seesaws while an awkward trainer points and flails in a way that almost looks strategic. Imagine one of those trainers then biffing it, causing Crackers the Dog to drop in the standings! Imagine a herd of dogs racing over hurdles, one backflipping over the obstacle with its legs adorably splayed out to the heavens. And then imagine them running into a tiny hole at the end at full speed!
I don't have to imagine these things; I saw them. And no amount of irritating Patriots victory can take those lovely images away from me. The best athletic contest was NOT on Fox yesterday, that's for certain.
Loser: Katie Nolan
Who was the genius that put Katie Nolan, one of the smartest, brightest and most entertaining sports commentators working right now, on social media monitor duty? That's a job for a very photogenic intern or the network's fifth-best host, not the only tolerable personality on the entire channel. She shouldn't have been stuck telling me "The Twitter is blowing up about Lady Gaga's show!" or having to read my, or anyone else's, dumb tweets about that Bai ad.
I don't need the TV to tell me what's on social media; I'm probably already on social media, already five minutes away from what you're saying I'm talking about. What a waste of Nolan.
Winner: That time the two rival helmets found love
In the middle of the Falcons' collapse, at least we were able to take a moment from the nightmare and celebrate two helmets, born of different families, joining together to form a bond no mere sporting contest could break. *plays Rihanna's "We Found Love In A Hopeless Place" on repeat for an hour*
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