Monday, 8 February 2010

What's more important: the Superbowl's best plays, best ads or the 'triumph of the human spirit'?

So the Superbowl has been done and won by corporate America and those wearing Peyton Manning jerseys should be finished drowning their sorrows in Bud Light and drunkenly signing up for a cheap Go Daddy internet package. Saints fans may have moved on from their celebratory texting on their new Motorola phones to Googling "Timmy Tebow and Focus on the Family" (below) instead of a sly search for Megan Fox.

There may even be some out there counting the 'triumph over adversity' style news stories that are piling up on the news pages as sports reporters are encouraged to go beyond the 'Saints win, Colts lose' stream and search for meaning in a game that shouldn't, in my opinion, be linked with mentions of a hurricane or Oprah.

As so many news reports are sydnicated these days, it's hard to know whether a well-meaning hack was looking for a deeper meaning in this UK Telegraph report or just a link to an internationally-known event to attract those who know nothing about the American brand of football:

"Quarterback Brees completed 32 of his 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns to earn the Most Valuable Player award, with the Saints winning in their first Super Bowl appearance after 42 years in the National Football League - and four-and-a-half years after their city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina."

As a former sports journalist, I understand the need to drag in empathy-winning material to make an otherwise dull story exciting or push a slightly interesting story into backpage gold. There was one story I remember where a champion cyclist was tipped as favourite to win the first desert ride across the harsh Australian outback, only to have his sole bike wrecked in a minor collision a day before the start. He managed to wrangle a sub-standard loan bike from a friend and was still able to not only complete the ride but win (not in record time, that would have been too much). It was a great story but in the end the most important details were the riders, the conditions and the overall event itself, not any external hype.

I think it's either the fault of lazy reporting or an editor who wants the front page too much, when a sports story focuses too much on the human interest angle. Yes it matters that the Saints could re-emerge after Hurricane Katrina to win the game because ordinary fans celebrating on the New Orleans streets (or maybe just those intervewied by the WaPo) claimed it as a victory over the flood.

But is it important that a PETA ad was banned from the prime-time viewing slot because of partial nudity? This is barely news, any more that it was when PETA ads were being banned four years ago.

What did matter was that a Colts player battled on through injury, that Tracy Porter intercepted a pass by the Colts star quarterback to touchdown at the opposite end for the win. No marketing slogan or emotive story should take the limelight from details like that.

If they do, then we may as well Tivo the game and next day just watch the ads, eat Frito-Lays and drink Pepsi from one of these ridiculous party packs (above) and convince ourselves that winning a football game really can help people recover from a natural disaster.
PS. I loved this post from The Onion on the true meaning of Christmas a Superbowl win

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