The Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl 29-17 over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, but after nearly a week of hype, strange parties, pseudo celebs, endless game speculation, lots of sun, a torrential downpour, a purple halftime act and an MVP award to some guy named Manning, there were plenty of thumbs ups and thumbs downs – on and off the field.
Thumbs up: Tony Dungy
As Jimmy Cannon wrote of boxer Joe Louis, "He's a credit to his race, the human race."
Dungy will go down in history as the first African American coach to win the Super Bowl, and considering the obstacles and lack of opportunities, that accomplishment shouldn't be minimized. But can't people of every race take some pride in this guy?
There can't be a more decent, professional or humble head coach in football (although the Bears' Lovie Smith might be equal). The dignity and strength Dungy displayed in December 2005 when one of his sons committed suicide was an inspiration to all. And Sunday, he was at his best as a coach bringing his peaking team to full throttle and shedding any doubt that he could win the big one.
Thumbs down: Rex Grossman
Every wise guy in America was pushing him for MVP by the middle of the fourth quarter. Hard to argue that anyone did the Colts more good.
Purple Rain, indeed. Look, I have no idea why the Super Bowl often has halftime shows with people who haven't been big in a decade, but whatever. I'm sure some people were really into it.
I will say the scarf was the worst idea this side of starting Grossman, and Janet Jackson has got to wonder how Prince can get away with a phallic symbol of a guitar. But considering he had to perform live in the middle of a monsoon, I think he should be complimented for neither falling down nor electrocuting himself.
Three suggestions, though: 1) Where was Morris Day? 2) Where was Chappelle? 3) If they had just let the incomparable Florida A&M band perform, it would have been 100 times the show.
Thumbs up: Peyton Manning
He played well enough in these playoffs to get the job done, making big plays when they mattered most and playing within himself to demoralize four successive defenses. On Sunday, he was an efficient 25-for-38 for 247 yards with one touchdown and one pick. He is a popular and deserving champion, a guy who is tough to root against.
Best of all, by winning the MVP, Manning might get a little recognition and even his own commercial or two.
Thumbs up: Dominic Rhodes, Joseph Addai and Jeff Saturday
The two running backs (Rhodes and Addai) combined for 190 yards that controlled the clock, wore down Chicago's defense and allowed Manning to keep it simple amid the deteriorating conditions. Saturday anchored a bruising offensive line that should completely shed the Colts' image as soft. They took it right at the vaunted Bears.
We suppose there can't be tri-MVPs, but it wouldn't have been wrong to give it to all of them.
Thumbs up: Miami as a host city
There were single-digit temperatures and viciously colds winds in Illinois and Indiana on Sunday, which means the fans that got to go to South Florida for the game were treated (despite the rain) to mostly dream weather. Throw in the beaches, the nightlife and the impressive restaurants and you can see why Miami has hosted this event a record-tying nine times (New Orleans being the other most popular venue). Few will complain it's returning in three years. The Super Bowl should be in a glamorous place, right?
Thumbs down: Miami as a host city
Then again, the demand for hotel rooms and airline seats from corporate packages, pseudo celebs and wealthy fun seekers was so great that most good spots, no matter how overpriced, were snatched up long before the participants of the game were announced.
While the NFL loves the decadence and unbridled commerce that surrounds the game, it doesn't do much for real football fans. South Beach, the hub of activity this week, was virtually devoid of actual fans, replaced by outrageous largesse and the vapid party set. It might be nice that there are booming dance clubs there, but when it costs $3,000 to get a small table, who exactly got to enjoy them?
Most Bears and Colts fans were stuck in outskirt, suburban hotels, minus either the cash or the connections to get close to the glamour. For too many people at the Super Bowl, the game was of no concern.
Say what you want about past locations such as Detroit and Houston, but there is something positive about real fans overrunning a city and having access to the full experience, not stuck outside a velvet rope.
Thumbs down: Super Bowl celebrities
It was expected Miami would bring A-list celebs back to the Super Bowl, but other than the ones who already live there, this again was an almost horrific parade of has-beens or never-heard-ofs. Jack Nicholson isn't hitting one of these semi-cheesy Super Bowl parties.
Now if you want to see Ian Ziering and Pauly Shore walk around wishing it was still 1988 while trying to talk up one of LC's friends from "The Hills," then you're in luck. It actually is a good boost of self-esteem for the rest of America that your Super Bowl party was almost as starless as the ones in South Beach.
The NFL may be the sporting juggernaut of America, but it never can bring out the rich and famous like the NBA, as the Feb. 18 All-Star game in Las Vegas will prove.
Thumbs down: Alex Rodriguez
Speaking of Pauly Shore, he had a birthday party (perhaps his 53rd?) on Wednesday in Miami. We know this because it was so lame that Pauly himself personally invited us. Anyway, we attended, sheepishly being more interested in the unintentional comedy you'd expect out of a Pauly Shore birthday party. The laughs peaked when the lone celebrity attendee (other than Pauly) arrived – none other than A-Rod.
Rodriguez has a $252 million contract. He is a former MVP. He may one day be baseball's all-time home run king. Yes, he's terrible in the playoffs, but still … Alex Rodriguez couldn't find a better thing to do on Wednesday of Super Bowl week?
Derek Jeter never would attend Pauly Shore's birthday party. If he happened to innocently be at the club and the party broke out, he'd sprint out of there like an infield single was at stake. A-Rod? He sat down and had dinner. It's really all you need to know about the New York Yankees.
Thumbs up: Shaq
Each year Maxim and Playboy spend, literally, millions trying to outdo each other in hosting the most extravagant Super Bowl party. But Shaquille O'Neal is the self-professed "King of South Beach," and not even Hef walks in and outdoes Shaq.
The Big Cruise Director rented out the Versace mansion, got the best group of celebrities to attend and got the vibe going so good that, according to thebiglead.com, Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens actually hugged.
Shaq – making the world a better place one drunken night on Ocean Drive at a time.
Even: Violent ads
There was a lot slapstick violence used as the punch line in a number of Super Bowl commercials. There was the guy who got wiped out by a meteor, the rock-paper-scissors match, a series of face slaps, even a jungle/office war.
The New York Times theorized that all the violence was the result of the war in Iraq. I'm serious. They printed this (at least online). Not that they offered any proof or experts who agreed, but hey, it's only the Times. It's not like it's supposed to be a serious newspaper or anything.
Now, this is not designed to make any statement on the war, but I'm guessing the trend in eye-gouging and shin kicking was probably just the work of unimaginative ad execs trying to appeal to young men.
But hey, what do I know? I'm now rattled at the idea there is a subliminal message to the Three Stooges episode I watched Saturday.
Thumbs down: Cedric Benson's injury
When the bruising Bears running back was knocked out early, Chicago's chances took a crushing blow. Lovie Smith wanted to win this game on the ground – with Grossman as his QB he had little choice, of course – and while Benson doesn't put up big numbers, he does deliver the kind of big hits that soften defenses for Thomas Jones. In this case, Benson was irreplaceable.
Thumbs up: The referees
They got ripped a year ago – and will be forever hated up in Seattle – for a series of questionable calls. But on Sunday, there were few mistakes as the officiating was hardly mentioned at all. That's the ultimate sign of success for the zebras.
Even: Adam Vinatieri
OK, so he won his fourth Super Bowl ring by booting three field goals. Big deal. The supposed most clutch kicker in NFL history botched a 36-yarder to end the first half sending people across the country with a Colts 9 square reeling and forced to listen to the lucky jerk with a 6 all half.
Thumbs down: Returning the opening kick for a touchdown
Didn't work for Ohio State in the BCS championship game and didn't work for the Bears on Sunday.
Thumbs down (at least from Baltimore): "The Colts of … Indianapolis"
CBS' Jim Nantz said it with serious inflection when declaring them Super Bowl champs. Nice rub in the face of old-time Baltimore fans who still boycott the Mayflower moving company. Not that the City of Baltimore didn't then steal the Browns from Cleveland, which is why Cleveland hates Baltimore but loves Indy (my enemy's enemy is my friend) and, well, why this is essentially as confusing as the whole Sunni-Shiite situation.
Anyway, Nantz's call won't go over well in Baltimore. He just better hope Marlo Stanfield wasn't listening.