IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Non-sports fan’s guide to Super Bowl XLI

The true American holiday — Super Bowl Sunday – is a day much like Thanksgiving in that there is a lot of eating, drinking, bickering with friends and family and, of course, football.

The true American holiday is upon us. No, not Groundhog Day. Or President’s Day. It’s Super Bowl Sunday — a day much like Thanksgiving in that there is a lot of eating, drinking, bickering with friends and family and, of course, football. But for this holiday, you don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen roasting a turkey and concocting side dishes. For this holiday, the centerpiece is football, and guacamole, chips and beer are the only side dishes you need.

Now I’m sure there are those out there who say “why should I watch — my team isn’t playing,” or “I don’t care about football.” Well, do you skip Thanksgiving because you don’t like turkey? Do you tell your company you’d rather work on President’s Day because you aren’t a fan of the Commander-in-Chief? No, and no.

Super Bowl Sunday, for all intents and purposes, is a national holiday. There’s even clothing marketed just for the day (team specific, so it changes every year — a stroke of merchandising genius). Entertainers turn out in droves to see and be seen at the big show. Some even perform. And why not? Thirty-four of the last 35 Bowls averaged more than a 40 household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. If Sunday’s game is competitive, the TV audience could be 45 million viewers. Not even “American Idol” can match that.

And don’t forget about the parties. There is always a party. You’ve probably been invited to one (just like Thanksgiving, it is good manners to ask if you can bring something. If you forget to ask, just bring beer).

Besides, it’s your patriotic duty to watch the Super Bowl regardless of whether or not you know who’s playing in the game (hint – one team is from Chicago, the other from Indianapolis). We may not agree on our nation’s foreign policy, the war in Iraq or tax cuts, but we can agree on one thing — football, beer, guacamole — good. Here are five other good reasons to watch.

5. The game.That’s right, the Super Bowl, like many of us, is now a 40-something (40 is the new 30, right?). XLI to be exact.

In Super Bowl XLI, the Chicago Bears take on the Indianapolis Colts in Dolphin Stadium in Miami. Last year, I had a dog in this hunt — the Seattle Seahawks — but this year I honestly don’t care who wins.

According to MSNBC.com NFL prognosticator (and one heck of a nice guy) Jay Novacek, this is a match up of opposites. The Bears’ defense creates opportunities for its offense by keeping the other team’s offense off the field and forcing turnovers. The Colts’ offense, led by Peyton Manning, is the team’s most powerful tool.

Despite his staggering personal stats (including two NFL MVP awards), Manning hasn’t been able to get the Colts to the Super Bowl, earning him the “choker” label. The Colts seemed primed to get the job done last year, going unbeaten in their first 13 games before suffering a 21-18 divisional-round loss to Pittsburgh (the eventual champion). Indianapolis (15-4) started this season 9-0, but fans remained cautiously optimistic until the playoffs. Manning, his strong corps of receivers, including Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, and rookie running back Joseph Addai have made the Colts’ offense No. 3 in total yardage this season.

Defense, on the other hand, is what wins games for the Bears (15-3), and the focal point of that defense is linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher and Co. will try to force Manning and the Indy offense to make mistakes by putting a ton of pressure on his receivers. The Bears lead the NFL in forced turnovers this season (44).

Another key to a Bears’ victory is not expecting quarterback Rex Grossman to be the game winner. Grossman doesn’t come with the same credentials as Manning. If he does pull off the victory, he will “take a place alongside Trent Dilfer of the 2001 champion Ravens as the most modestly talented quarterback ever to win the big game” according to MSNBC.com’s Mike Celizic. Ouch.

Jay’s taking the Colts in this game (as are the Vegas bookmakers — Indy is a 7 1/2 point favorite), and so am I. It looks like it’s finally Peyton’s year. The Colts have been the best team in the NFL for the past couple of seasons and it appears that this time they might finally prove it.

4. I wanna be your … halftime show.Last year’s Super Bowl was in Detroit. I know what you’re thinking — a Motown halftime show, right? Not even close. It was the Rolling Stones, who, despite being a collective 342 years old, were still the top grossing concert performers of 2006. With their most decadent years behind them, the Stones weren’t likely to flash anything at an unsuspecting public. The same can not be said of this year’s halftime performer.

The Purple One himself, Prince, will take the field at Dolphin Stadium, a move that is guaranteed to raise the antennae of vigilance at the FCC. Will we be in for Nipplegate 2007? Doubtful, but Prince has been known to gyrate suggestively. He may be small, but he packs a mighty punch and is damn entertaining. Prince alone is reason enough to watch.

3. The commercials.This year, Madison Avenue will have to pony up as much as $2.6 million for a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl. If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you might as well pull out the stops and run some good commercials. Now I know you’re saying: “Good commercials? Isn’t that an oxymoron?” But some of these pieces are darn funny. Regardless of the company being shilled in the ads, there are always some winners.

This year’s much hyped commercial features FedEx. No, not the shipping company, but rather the future former Mr. Britney Spears, Kevin Federline. In it, the wannabe rapper plays, well, a wannabe rapper, who has a way with fries. If you can’t wait until Sunday you can watch it here. Federline’s wife, Britney, offered her endorsement skills to the NFL, but was turned down. Score one for K-Fed!

My continued favorite? “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker,” which debuted during the 2003 Super Bowl (“Break was over 15 minutes ago, Mitch!”). I can’t say it makes me want to buy a new pair of Reeboks, but it surely does make me laugh.

2. And coming this week on CBS …The Super Bowl is prime-time promo-palooza for the networks, which shell out billions (five networks paid a reported $3.1 billion for the rights to broadcast games) for the rights to show NFL games. The games draw big audiences (the only thing to outdraw “American Idol” last week? The Colts-Patriots AFC Championship game. By 10 million viewers), which make them great venues for promoting the latest on “Two and a Half Men” and “Criminal Minds.”

Guess what returns to CBS on Feb. 8? “Survivor”! Guess how many times you’ll be reminded of it during the game? To make it fun, do a “Survivor” pool. Have each person draw a number between 3 and 20 (1? 2? Please. CBS will cover that before the National Anthem). The winner will win 3 nights in the backyard of his or her choice with no food, water or toilet paper. Enjoy!

You don’t have to limit the game to just “Survivor.” Remember, you have three varieties of “CSI” to choose from — original recipe, New York and Miami.

1. What else are you going to watch?Sure, you could go to the movies. With most of America home watching the game, the crowds at the multiplex should be small, allowing you to catch up on the Oscar-nominated films and performances. Or “Epic Movie.” But for everyone else, frankly, what else is there to watch? Most networks will opt against airing new episodes of their prime-time shows, not wanting to waste valuable (and expensive) programming on a diverted audience. So, no new episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Besides, don’t you want to be able to chat knowingly with your co-workers about those wacky commercials? Or Peyton Manning’s latest choke. Sure you do. Super Bowl Sunday is an American holiday. Tune in and celebrate.

Denise Hazlick spent 12 years working as a sports editor. She will be watching Sunday’s game, a cold one in hand, grateful that she no longer has to cover the Super Bowl.