Feb 03

Running Diary: Super Bowl XLVII

It’s been a while … actually about a year – the last was the 2012 Grammys … since I last put together a running diary piece for the blog. Since the Grammys are out next Sunday (with USC playing Washington in hoops at the Galen Center), and I was sticking around the house in recovery mode from a long few days in Phoenix for a work event/party, today’s Super Bowl seemed like a decent opportunity. After all, it combines one of sports’ biggest days with a binge of advertising – the profession I cover professionally (I do profess!) – making it a near-perfect viewing experience.

So, starting with the 3 p.m. Pacific time telecast kickoff, here we go:

Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore vs. San Francisco

Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans, broadcast on CBS

3:00: An apparently sober Joe Namath leads the broadcast. Already a big upset win for CBS.

3:10: The Raven mascot salues Baltimore’s “The Wire” legacy by dancing at midfield while under the influence of any number of drugs.

3:13: “Four-time Super Bowl participant Steve Tasker.” Ouch, Buffalo.

3:14: “… and The Honoring of America.” Hey, Jim Nantz, should’ve gone with “America. Fuck Yeah!”

3:15: Maybelline just dropped $2m for 15 seconds well before most women are paying attention.

3:15: L’Oreal at least brought the Beyonce tie in for their $2M just moments later

3:16: I’m guessing most sports fans agree: Hyundai deserves credit for bringing Gus Johnson to the table. “Hot Sauce!”

The Sandy Hook School Chorus was a great idea during the pregame.

The Sandy Hook School Chorus was a great idea during the pregame.

3:18: A possibly perfect moment with the Sandy Hook School Chorus is ruined by Jennifer Hudson’s 593rd consecutive appearance during a major televised event, all as the No. 3 act at best. #AttendstheOpeningofanEnvelope

3:19: Someone alert Fox News: the Sandy Hook kids are lip synching. #truthers

3:22: The hair on the sign language guy for the “America. Fuck Yeah!” segment is pretty fantastic.

3:24: Ray Lewis celebrates the line “land of the freeeeee!” That’s wholly unsurprising since he’s playing in the Super Bowl and able to tell people that he doesn’t have to talk about a murder he likely played a role in.

3:40: The Ravens strike first with an easy TD from Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin.

3:45: The Hyundai “Team” ad followed by Doritos’ goat is the strongest double during a break so far.

3:50: I’m still waiting for Nantz and Phil Simms to discuss “Swag” for the first time.

3:54: Niners’ K David Akers makes one from 36 yards. 7-3 Baltimore … not bad for SF with how shaky they’ve looked.

3:56: Just two ads in and I’m already filled with hate for Bud Black Crown. “Our kind of beer”? Right.

3:57: It’s been brought to my attention that 17 minutes ago, Ryan Seacrest tweeted, “That’s so Ravens.” He has 8.8 million followers, most of whom likely enjoy him. This immediately becomes the current leading example of what’s wrong with America.

4:04: Enough with the “Coach Jim” and “Coach John,” Nantz. You’re announcing a game that’s televised. We can see who you’re talking about.

4:05: Wow, the Niners’ Chris Culliver was awfully hands-on in that coverage based on his comments earlier this week.

4:07: Nice new ideas, Hollywood. “Fast & Furious 6”? Jesus. That’s close to Seacrest’s Tweet, but not quite.

4:08: The more ads for CBS comedies, the more I realize why I watch no CBS comedies.

4:09: Wow! The Harbaugh family is AT THE GAME! No way!

4:14: Culliver is NOT going to be a fan of that Calvin Klein ad if he’s TiVoing the game.

4:21: Flacco turns a LaMichael James fumble into a TD drive. 14-3 Baltimore.

4:23: #ThatAwkwardMoment where Stevie Wonder sold the soul of “Superstition” to Bud Light.

4:26: Shit, Sherlock Holmes is the villain in the new “Star Trek” flick?!

4:30: After Jim Harbaugh calms the hockey-style fracas (cough), the Niners need a stop to keep this from getting ugly.

4:32: Very professional look, “hat sideways on the sideline” guy, listening to Colin Kaepernick.

The Ravens tried for an early kill with this fake field goal that was stopped just short of a first down.

The Ravens tried for an early kill with this fake field goal that was stopped just short of a first down.

4:35: Gutsy call on the fake FG from the Ravens. Just short. Will Baltimore regret that?

4:35: If there was a time for Baltimore to go for the killshot, it was then. They’re still up 11 and have SF buried deep. Almost got it, but good work by SF D to scramble to stop it.

4:37: I don’t know why I found VW’s rasta white guy so funny. “Land of Ten Tousand lakes!”

4:44: Watching Culliver’s act throughout this game, it’s really not shocking he’s such an uninformed human.

4:48: The Taco Bell ad would’ve been much more enjoyable if I didn’t know what a shitty liive band “Fun.” is. Oh, and Taco Bell marketers – Spanish speakers aren’t really the ones buying your tacos.

Jacoby Jones embarrasses Chris Culliver (again) during SB XLVII.

Jacoby Jones embarrasses Chris Culliver (again) during SB XLVII.

4:48: What a shame that Culliver got beat on that play. I’m not really rooting for the Ravens, but that dude deserves bad shit to happen. 21-3, Baltimore.

4:53: This Tweet, courtesy of the always funny @SklarBrothers, rocks: “Culliver letting a lot of guys get behind him. He’s getting his ass reamed out there. #SB47 #sklarbowl”

4:57: “There’s nothing there.” Jim Nantz, quoting Tom Brady’s repeated deflections of Nantz’s romantic advances.

4:58: And everyone thought Akers was the Niners’ weak link. His FG makes it 21-6 Baltimore at the half.

5:03: I think Boomer Esiason lost his voice in the first half screaming at Kaepernick’s poor play.

5:11: Appropriately, Beyonce is stripping for her top strip-club hit.

5:17: Don’t ever let anyone tell you Beyonce doesn’t believe in herself. #beyoncewithbeyonceholograms

5:19: Who knew the other members of Destiny’s Child were still alive … Errr, umm, I meant available for this?

Beyonce turned out the lights at Super Bowl XLVII, perhaps in more ways than one.

Beyonce turned out the lights at Super Bowl XLVII, perhaps in more ways than one.

5:25: I’ll say this about Beyonce: that was a HUGE step up from Madonna’s performance last year.

5:26: “2 Broke Girls.” Comedy writers and show runners with old, inane, broke ideas, but millions of simpletons watching. That’s what I call the real “Honoring of America.”

5:32: Jacoby Jones, best dancer of the day. It’s 28-6 Baltimore after a 109-yard TD on the second half kickoff.

5:37: Highlight of the night! Someone finally got so sick of Phil Simms, they yanked his mic and knocked out half of the Superdome’s lights!

5:39: Is this the darkness Mercedes Benz has been promising leading up to the game?

5:46: This is slowly turning into the always enjoyable “sports journalists attempt to cover a news story.” If only it was on ESPN, we could really see it get butchered.

The Darkness, Charlie Murphy ...

The Darkness, Charlie Murphy …

5:48: Finally, a way that a huddle of game officials can look more incompetent – adding a bunch of NFL execs in suits with walkie-talkies to the group during a blackout.

5:52: Clooney, Pitt and the rest of the 11 are currently taking Harrah’s New Orleans for all it’s worth.

6:06: Why did power have to be restored to the Nantz/Simms press box?

6:10: “Third down and 13, let’s go!” Awesome work, head referee!

6:24: Michael Crabtree takes two big shots after the catch and goes in for the 31-yard score anyway. It’s 28-13 Baltimore halfway through the third.

6:26: Shocking it took til midway through the third quarter for the first Gangnam Style-themed ad. Thanks for not letting us down (and, by that, I mean letting us down), pistachio salespeople.

6:28: CBS’ ad campaign touting all of its “No. 1” shows really makes the American TV viewer look bad.

6:32: Ted Ginn punt return, Vernon Davis catch, Frank Gore run. NFL blackout controversy brewing. Baltimore 28-20, 4:59 to play in the third.

6:35: Is Beck’s Sapphire trying to split the douche vote with Budweiser Black Crown? #bombdiggity

6:38: What a great Budweiser Clydesdale ad, which was shot right outside my apartment building a couple weeks ago! I walked over to Walgreen’s for some items right through the heart of that fake parade while they were shooting it. I love living here.

6:43: There’s the Akers that SF fans were afraid of, as he shanks another FG attempt. But a running into the kicker penalty gives him another shot.

6:44: And he knocks this one through. Niners within five with 3:10 left in the third.

6:48: Right when the Ravens were in trouble, there’s Culliver letting Boldin get open and then getting seriously stiff-armed for a 31-yard gain. Bad coverage is so ga- err, unfortunate.

6:51: Deion Sanders as Leon Sandcastle. Strong entrant in the ad race from the NFL itself.

6:52: Jack in the Box “Hot Mess” ad was another amusingly solid effort during that break. Though I am kind of a sucker for the Jack ads.

6:55: Something about Phil Simms saying the word “possum” just seems right.

6:57: The Ravens take the field goal this time and lead 31-23 with 13 minutes to play.

6:59: Paul Harvey and Dodge tell all of us just trying to enjoy some football and laughs to go fuck right off.

Colin Kaepernick's TD run got the 49ers to within 2 early in the 4th quarter.

Colin Kaepernick’s TD run got the 49ers to within 2 early in the 4th quarter.

7:04: Kaepernick lopes in for the score, but the 2-point pass sails high. 31-29 Ravens, with just under 10 minutes left.

7:06: Was that a KIA ad or the story behind Scientology?

7:08: @BaileyLAKings is having a special day on Twitter. Great effort from a championship-level mascot.

7:11: Culliver’s at it again, rubbing his body all over another man’s for a PI call to give Baltimore a huge first down.

7:14: Great Tide spot, from all angles. “Jesus on toast” must be pissed.

7:21: Tucker’s second FG makes it 34-29 Baltimore with 4:19 left.

7:22: Good casting with Dafoe as Satan, but Mercedes spent a lot to build up to a spot that was, essentially, a chuckle at best.  It kinda fizzled, just like the lights at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

7:27: Kaepernick has an absolute rocket arm. Wow, that throw to Crabtree.

7:30: Rudd and Rogen, love these guys.

7:34: Fourth and goal … Incomplete, and Jim Harbaugh is dying for a holding call. Maybe he should have been dying for his team not to fall behind 28-6?

7:36: Phil Simms still believes there is no holding, ever. Now, apparently, on both sides of the ball.

7:37: “The more angles I see, the more confused I get.” – Phil Simms, coming clean after all these years.

7:41: And Dan Donati just got effed in his own Super Bowl squares pool with that safety.

7:45: Ball game. Baltimore 34, San Francisco 31. Turned out to be a helluva game. And no lame Nantz pun at the finish.

7:47: And now, one of my favorite things: the unexpected F bomb on live TV. You’re definitely my MVP, Joe Flacco.


"God is always right." Uh, ok.

“God is always right.” Uh, ok.

7:58: Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was much less creepy than after the AFC title win. He did, however, essentially thank New Orleans for having so many cocktails.

8:01: If I was a believer, Ray Lewis would be very close to making me hate god.

Good night everybody!

Jan 22

The Truth and Joe Paterno

I woke up to the news of the death of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno this morning, after an apparently short bout with lung cancer. The announcement – predictably given the news of the past few months – touched off a firestorm of commentary in the media, sports and otherwise, via obituaries, columns and Twitter.

The lead of the New York Times official obit of Paterno got it just about right but caused an outcry from the record-setting coach’s staunchest defenders regarding the inclusion of the sexual abuse controversy that brought an abrupt end to his coaching career in November. Meanwhile, others decried simple mentions of “RIP” on Twitter and Facebook as too much of a wish for a man whose inaction likely resulted in the continuing molestation of young boys by his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Jerry Sandusky retired from Joe Paterno’s staff in 1999.

When the Sandusky-Penn State story broke in November, I got wrapped up in it more than any “media firestorm” in recent memory. Perhaps it was the explosion of such an apparently huge and deplorable series of crimes committed (both legal and moral) by individuals who had previously built a nearly impeccable record of leadership and accomplishment. To say that Penn State was seen as a beacon of all that was “right” with the world of collegiate athletics prior to this scandal would be a massive understatement.

Watching what happened to the legacy of a man like Paterno in the passing weeks – as he essentially slipped away – was stunning and sad to someone who values the positives that sports can bring to a life. But to say anyone brought this end upon Paterno other than himself would be far from true.

There’s that word – true. Isn’t truth what this story is really all about? What was really true? How can two things at such distant ends of a spectrum of right and wrong about one person essentially both be true? It’s really appropriate, then, that I am reading a fantastic book called “The Night of the Gun” by New York Times columnist David Carr. In the book, Carr – a former drug and alcohol addict who nearly saw his life slip away – uses his vast investigative journalism skills to basically tell the story of his own life, via interviews with those close to him during different parts of it, as well as documents and other tidbits that help him put together a story that will be closest to the “truth” about his life.

Carr often opens chapters with quotes from famous writers that have some sort of relevance to the upcoming information. One of those quotes couldn’t be more fitting to the story of Paterno and how different people are reacting to the news of his death:

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

An Irishman who pondered truth.


Truth: Paterno won 409 games, more than any other NCAA Division I football coach.

Truth: Paterno’s success on the field and his commitment to improving the educational capabilities of Penn State are the two biggest reasons the school has become what it is today – a rare highly-regarded state school in a part of the country (the Northeast) where state schools are usually given short shrift.

Truth: Paterno turned out a series of exceptional graduates in his 46 seasons as head coach, both on and off the field.

Truth: Paterno was a family man, loyal to his wife Sue, his five children and numerous grandchildren. Sue and all five of his kids attended Penn State.

Truth: Paterno maintained an everyman image in secluded Happy Valley, making him both a larger-than-life hero as well as just a friendly “average Joe” (pardon the pun) to those closest to him – both in the community and in the local media.

However …

Truth: Grand jury testimony given in the investigation of a 2002 incident involving Sandusky and a boy in the Penn State locker room showed Paterno’s efforts to seek out the truth and protect those most innocent among us (children) woefully and shockingly lacking from a moral, if not necessarily a legal, standpoint.

Truth: Paterno held so much power in State College that it’s essentially accepted that he laughed off the president of the university and athletic director when they tried to force him to retire in 2004, following a series of poor seasons.

Truth: That overwhelming power vacuum in remote, sheltered Happy Valley and his lack of action in the 2002 Sandusky incident must call into question Paterno’s knowledge and action during the Penn State police’s prior investigation of Sandusky in 1998 and Sandusky’s then supposed “retirement” following the 1999 season. How could a man with the power Paterno wielded in State College NOT have known about the Penn State police investigation of a man who’d been a key part of his staff for more than two decades? And just why did Sandusky “retire” in 1999, when all indications had been that he was the heir apparent to Paterno?

Truth: Paterno was hounded by rumors of improper intervention when Penn State players found themselves either in legal or scholastic trouble in recent seasons since the Sandusky investigation came to light. In the past, most would have written those rumors off as the bitter recriminations of those who may have felt “wronged” by Paterno or Penn State. Now?

So what is the ultimate truth of the story of Joe Paterno? His many great qualities, his incredible commitment to education, his loyalty to Penn State, his concept of what he called “the Grand Experiment” – success with honor – and how he and generations of Penn State players lived up to it … are those things enough to overcome the indubitably horrific choices he made in the Sandusky matter? Where is the balance? What truth wins out?

Of all the things I read about Paterno’s death today, this piece by Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com – one of Paterno and Penn State’s most outspoken critics since November – really hit home. Joe Paterno was a man. He was not the god many Penn State fans – many football fans – seemed to idolize him as. Nor is he the personification of evil that many people – people who are understandably angered by his lack of moral action and leadership in perhaps the greatest test of his life – would believe.

David Carr investigated his life’s own truths.

He was as fallible as you or me. He was as fallible as a writer like Carr, whose self-investigation hits home with me. Trust me, after the past couple years of my own life, I know what it’s like to feel fallible, to wish you’d done more, to suffer from guilt – but also to understand that those things aren’t the complete truth of your own life. Carr finds in his book that he is, in fact, a drug dealer, a drug addict, a general fuck-up. But he also finds that he is a committed father, a spectacular investigator, an excellent writer. All of those truths are a part of Carr the man.

And … all of the truths you have read about Paterno are part of him. You can laud Paterno for the massive achievements for the bulk of his life, while also maintaining high levels of anger, shocked disbelief and a complete loss of respect for this one massive mistake that will (and should) color his legacy forever. Mostly, today, you can mourn for his family and friends at their loss, while also mourning for the children whose lives were likely irreparably harmed by his inaction.

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” And there are few things truer than that.