In the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVII, I made a point of recording and watching the NFL Network's marathon of half-hour "Film Session" broadcasts of (nearly) all of the previous XLVI Super Bowls. I think I jumped in somewhere around the time William "The Refrigerator" Perry tumbled into the endzone to help the Bears beat the Patriots way back in 1986.
A quick list of my favorite moments from the 26 Super Bowl recaps that I watched: The time Jerry Rice scored all those touchdowns (more on that later), the time John Elway did his helicopter dive, the time Steve McNair came this close to bringing the Titans back to beat the Rams, and all the times that they showed the Buffalo Bills proclaiming, "This is our year!" (Just to recap: it was never their year. Not once in the four times they thought it was their year.)
But one thing I had never seen until this year's version of the Super Bowl was 34 minutes of random semi-darkness in the middle of the game. Things didn't look that dark even for the Raiders when they got steamrolled by Jon Gruden and, against all likelihood, Brad Johnson back in 2003.
As we sat there waiting for Steve Tasker to figure out how to form words into coherent sentences like a big boy, I had time to wonder a few things.
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1. What in the world is going on here?—Ok I admit that this was not an original thought. This was the collective first thought of everyone watching the game. Well, except for Alex Smith, who probably just thought he had another concussion.
2. Why didn't I put chili on my first hot dog of the afternoon?
3. Who brought the chili, anyway?
4. Why weren't the chili people here sooner?
5. Do the players get to eat chili dogs during the blackout?
6. Which player would be the most likely to wander off and do something random like go get a chili dog?—When I was growing up, I had a book of amusing sports stories, one of many that I really enjoyed. This one in particular told the story of Major League Baseball player Gates Brown, who, while playing for the Tigers in 1968, decided to sneak out of the dugout (he wasn't in the lineup that day) to grab a couple of hot dogs from the clubhouse. When he got back to the dugout, he was immediately ordered in to pinch hit, so he hid the hot dogs in his jersey to keep the manager from finding out. Of course Gates lined a double into the gap and had to slide—head-first, no less—into second base. With ketchup and mustard all over his jersey, the jig was up, and we were all left with one of the more amusing sports anecdotes.
Of all the players in the Super Bowl, I could see somebody like Randy Moss sneaking out for a quick bite. It certainly looked like he thought he wasn't in the lineup for most of the game.
7. Why in the world does Randy Moss think he's the best wide receiver in NFL history?
8. I mean, I know he was good, but …really? Randy Moss, best ever?
9. Would Jerry Rice have been a more productive receiver, at age 50, than Moss was on Sunday?—Almost assuredly yes. Rice looks like he could be the No. 3 wideout on at least a dozen NFL teams next season. Of course, I may have been swayed by watching the replay of Super Bowl XXIX too many times. Sorry, Chargers fans.
10. Do the Chargers have a chance at going to the Super Bowl next year?—Almost assuredly no. They made some good moves, don't get me wrong. But any division with Peyton Manning is at a pretty big disadvantage right off the bat. Sorry, Chargers fans.
11. Which Chargers fan in my fantasy Football league (FFL) will draft Philip Rivers next year?
12. Which Chargers fan who drafts Philip Rivers in my fantasy football league next year will I have to repeatedly console as the season goes on?
13. How soon is too soon to draft Robert Griffin III in my FFL next season?—It is never too soon to draft Robert Griffin III.
14. How will this whole blackout thing affect the teams going forward?
15. Was Beyoncé anywhere near the power lines in western Arizona on or around Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011?
16. Why does baseball season last for something like 18 months and we can only watch the NFL during the fall and winter?
17. Oh right, player safety. Why is the league pushing for an 18-game season again?
18. Why doesn't the NFL have a minor league system like MLB and the NHL?
19. Who wouldn't go see a game between the minor league affiliates of the Ravens and 49ers featuring the top draft picks battling for a chance to play in the NFL?
20. Isn't that pretty much what we're expected to pay to see when the Jacksonville Jaguars play against the Cleveland Browns?
21. Is Cleveland the worst place to live for a sports fan?—Almost assuredly yes.
22. OK seriously, why didn't I know about the chili until now?
23. Which team has more to gain from this blackout?—Obviously the 49ers, as we all knew at the time and can see in retrospect. At the time, though, as the announcers talked about the 49ers getting the chance to catch their collective breath, I was more worried about the Ravens and the inevitable realization that they were leading by a lot in the Super Bowl and the accompanying panic that must have been bubbling just beneath the mental surface. Sportscasters talk about "icing" the kicker before a big field goal at the end of the game. This was like 34 minutes of a psych-out for everybody on the Baltimore sideline.
24. Wow, what did John Harbaugh just yell at that guy in the suit?—Almost assuredly something we can't print.
25. Is Joe Flacco about to become one of the best quarterbacks of this generation?—I can honestly say that I didn't see this one coming, but apparently yes, he was. How about that?
26. Seriously, how about that?—The dude rocked a unibrow for like, six years. Now he's a Super Bowl MVP. Crazy.
27. Does temporary purple hairspray easily wash out of a jersey?—Long story, but apparently yes, it does.
28. Is it cool to have more than one favorite NFL (or any other major sports league) team?—I say yes, within reason. I've had this discussion at length with a Chargers fan who grew up in the Lake Tahoe area and was always a 49ers fan before he moved to the San Diego area. This season, amid the struggles of the Chargers, he wondered if it was OK to add the 49ers to his favorite teams without abandoning the Chargers. I said yes because I have a mental tally going on of two columns: teams I like and teams I don't like. I have a favorite NFL team (the Miami Dolphins, for better or worse), but I also have teams that I like to root for and teams that make me feel like I stepped in dead bugs. For the record, the 49ers and Ravens are both on my "like" list (my brother is a big 49ers fan and one of my really good friends is a big Ravens fan). But in my opinion, as long as a fan doesn't abandon his or her team during the hard times, I say it's OK to have other teams that you like to follow when they're doing well. In case you couldn't tell from earlier, I had Robert Griffin III in all three of my fantasy football leagues this season, and watching him play this year was really fun, so I've decided that the Redskins are going to be one of my teams to watch next season. And I'll try my best not to remember that the Dolphins were this close to trading for the No. 2 draft pick that would have sent RGIII to Miami.
29. Why did I pick the Dolphins as my favorite team?—I'd like to visit seven-year-old Dan Kidder and ask him that very question. Look dude, just because you have the same first name as the quarterback doesn't mean they should be allowed to disappoint you for the next 25 years. But if you insist on picking Miami, then do yourself a favor and travel to Michigan sometime in 1999 and find a way to get a guy named "Tom Brady" to really make the most of his Organization Studies degree with a career in interior design.
30. How long do stadium lights take to turn back on?
31. Why didn't anyone listen to Bill Cowher's pre-game prediction?—I mean, he only played against the Ravens twice a year for 11 years. He might know something about them.
32. Is hindsight really 20/20?—Almost assuredly yes.
33. Should I go back for one more chili dog?—Given that hindsight is 20/20, almost assuredly no.
34. How is this game going to end?—In thrilling fashion. It was a game full of twists and turns, record-setting kick returns, wild swings of momentum, timeless performances, manly tears of joy, and one huge fourth-down play that the officials absolutely got right.