PHOENIX – Super Bowl XLIX is not just one vowel away from becoming the most prominent commercial ever for laxatives, it’s also one scandal, fake or real, away from becoming the football version of “House of Cards,’’ if Bill Belichick played Kevin Spacey’s character, and all of the said cards were jokers.
In the early years of the Super Bowl, a handful of sportswriters sat around a hotel pool interviewing star players. Now the Super Bowl is a postmodern, Felliniesque farce, far more about entertainment than sport until the first kickoff lands on Sunday.
The bizarre has become commonplace at Super Bowls. One year a Raiders lineman went missing, and it turned out he was drinking in Mexico. A Falcons safety was named man of the year, then arrested for soliciting a prostitute. Doug Williams was asked how long he had been a black quarterback. Someone else was asked what kind of tree they would be if they were, you know, a tree.
Cowboys linebacker Hollywood Henderson said Terry Bradshaw couldn’t spell ‘‘cat’’ if you spotted him a ‘‘C’’ and a ‘‘T.’’ Two years ago, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was accused of using a PED — performance-enhancing deer. Lewis was using deer antler spray to aid muscle recovery. That year, the lights in the Superdome went out during the game.
When you pack two teams, two fired-up fan bases, casual fans, corporate America, the world media and the entertainment industry into one city for a week, you’re going to get the world’s worst-directed reality show.
The two weeks that led to today’s Super Bowl offered the following developments. Please read aloud in the basso profundo of the late, great John Facenda:
Truly in no particular order:
6. Men wearing barrels and superhero costumes asked silly questions on Tuesday, proving that Media Day no longer has anything to do with the actual media.
4. We spent three days wondering what happened for the 90 seconds in which a low-level Patriots employee took a bag of footballs into a bathroom. No, really.
7. We spent three days talking about Marshawn Lynch not talking, or not talking much, or not exactly auditioning to be the next Oprah when he finally did talk.
8. We spent three days quoting Bill Nye the Science Guy.
2. We spent three days getting rained on in Phoenix. Which is in the desert. Holding a Super Bowl in Arizona and getting rain is like holding a Super Bowl in New Orleans and making everyone eat nothing but toast.
5. Perhaps the best football player in attendance at the Super Bowl, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, was asked about an erotic novel written about him, and his party bus. Which strangely or perhaps fortunately are unrelated.
9. The genius coach and star quarterback of the Patriots, both of whom are known for obsessive preparation and attention to detail, both said they had no idea that the footballs their team used during the AFC Championship Game were deflated, even though the footballs used by their opponent during that game were fully-inflated.
3. Katy Perry showed up wearing a cheerleading outfit featuring an even number of footballs.
10. The starting running back and star of the conference championship game for a Super Bowl team admitted that he tried to get thrown off his previous team so he could sign with his current team.
That would be LeGarrette Blount, who walked off the field during a game while playing with the Steelers, and signed days later with the Patriots.
6. Seahawks star Richard Sherman announced that he might miss the Super Bowl to be present at the birth of his child.
Duane Thomas once said, ‘‘If it’s the ultimate game, why are they going to play it again next year?’’ Should Sherman apply Thomas’ philosophy to the next big game, or the next child?
Sherman also called out NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for dining with Patriots owner Bob Kraft before the AFC title game, and before “Deflatriots’’ became a noun.
5. Goodell bristled when asked about conflicts of interest. He didn’t answer the question, unless you think, as I do, that the bristling was the most revealing possible answer.
1. While Gronkowski was answering questions about erotic novels and Belichick was answering questions about deflated footballs, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was being tried for murder.
There you have the modern Super Bowl, a nexus of crime and punishment and bureaucracy, interviews about people not doing interviews, sports celebrities and non-sports celebrities mingling as if Phoenix was the set of a new “Entourage’’ episode, and two remarkable teams dying to see the first kickoff take flight.
“Time to play the game,’’ Seahhawks and former Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. “Can’t wait to play the game. Feels like we’ve been waiting forever.’’
Williams said that … on Thursday morning.