Monday, February 02, 2009

A Day for Americana: Superbowl XLIII

American Football is a quintessential athletic pursuit in suburban backyards, city streets, High Schools and universities throughout the United States. The Superbowl, pro football's yearly championship game and advertising spectacle, couples a love of spectator sports with a tongue in cheek embracement of the glitz and promise of America's over the top consumer culture. The advertisements played during the Superbowl telecast can be quite funny and also quite revealing. It is as if the advertisers pull back the curtain, just once a year, to reveal the holy relics of our shared nation. And sometimes, though rarely, the actual game played on the field overshadows the games planned in corporate boardrooms in the months leading up to the event. Yesterday, the game and the halftime show won out.

James Harrison intercepts a Kurt Warner pass and returns it 100 yards for a touchdown to end the first half.
John Biever/SI

Before the game, NBC's Matt Lauer interviewed President Obama:

Matt Lauer Q Let’s talk about this game today. You came out --- and most Presidents don’t pick a team -- you came right out and you said, look, I know the Rooneys, they’ve been good friends of mine, they endorsed me. I think you got the AFC championship ball --

President Obama: I did.

Matt Lauer Q So you said, other than my dear Bears, they’re closest to my heart. But I’m having a hard time understanding how you, of all people, wouldn’t associate with the Cardinals.

President Obama: Underdog --

Matt Lauer Q I mean, it is a Cinderella story, the team that came from nowhere to the big game –- the audacity of hope.

President Obama: Not to mention the fact that Kurt Warner is close to my age. (Laughter.)

Matt Lauer Q Right, exactly. How can you turn your back on the Cardinals?

President Obama: I love Kurt Warner’s story. I love -- Larry Fitzgerald seems like just a wonderful young man. It’s a great story. But Rooney didn’t just endorse me -- that guy was out going to steel plants campaigning for me. Franco Harris was out waving towels at my rallies.

Matt Lauer Q Do you have a Terrible Towel* in the other room?

President Obama: I do, actually, so

Matt Lauer Q Are you going to be waving them at the party?

President Obama: I’m not going to be rubbing it in, we’ve got some Arizona congressmen here and I may need their vote on the recovery package. (Laughter.)

Matt Lauer Q Give me a score –- what’s the score going to be in this game?

President Obama: You know, it’s tough to predict, but I think the Steelers are going to eke it out in a close one.

George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925) (Attended The Ohio State University)
Hold 'Em
22¼" x 21" India ink and crayon on assembled paper 1912
Football remains as much a display of strength and passion today as it did in 1912 when George Bellows created his drawing, Hold 'Em .

Kurt Warner was harassed by the Pittsburgh defense throughout the first half.
Simon Bruty/SI

XLIII Halftime Part I
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with the Miami Horns
10th Avenue Freeze Out, Born to Run

XLIII Halftime Part II
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with the Miami Horns
Born to Run, Working On A Dream, Glory Days

Larry Fitzgerald scores late to give the Cardinals the lead and the win?
Bob Rosato/SI

Ben Roethlisberger gets instructions from Head Coach Mike Tomlin
For the Pittsburgh Steelers individual victory was secondary to the triumph of the team, the city and the joy of competition.
John W. McDonough/SI

Santonio Holmes (Attended The Ohio State University) channels Lynn Swann and pulls in the winning touchdown.
Al Tielemans/SI

Jerome Sherman in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote:

President Obama "has noted that prominent members of the Steelers team supported his upstart candidacy last year, including owner Dan Rooney and the legendary running back from the Steeler's teams of the 1970's Franco Harris.

"Coach signed up with you, too," Vice President Joseph R. Biden, a Scranton native who is also rooting for the Steelers, reminded Mr. Obama.

"Right, Coach [Mike] Tomlin was a supporter," Mr. Obama said. "So I, you know, I wish the best to the Cardinals. They've been long-suffering; it's a great Cinderella story. But other than the Bears, the Steelers are probably the team that's closest to my heart."

Mr. Obama spent most of his adult life in Chicago. He even pronounces "Bears" like a native of the Windy City. But he was born and raised in Hawaii, thousands of miles from the hometown of any NFL team. He has told interviewers that, as a teenager in the 1970s, he became a fan of the Steelers of Harris and Bradshaw.

Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, returned the favor last year.

"This is the greatest speech I've seen since John Kennedy," Mr. Rooney told his son, Jim, in a phone conversation after watching Mr. Obama's victory rally following the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. "This guy connects with people like no one I've seen since John Kennedy. He convinced me that this is more than just a good politician. I want to stand up and say something for this guy. I want to be involved in this."

"In his formal letter of endorsement, Mr. Rooney said that Mr. Obama "has inspired me and so many other people around our country with new ideas and fresh perspectives. True sports fans know that you support your team even when they are underdogs," Mr. Rooney wrote. "Barack Obama is the underdog here but it is with great pride that I join his team."

"Mr. Rooney stumped in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia, riding on campaign buses on most Saturdays with his son Jim. At a rally before 15,000 people in the Mellon Arena in October, Mr. Rooney presented Mr. Obama with a black Steelers jersey emblazoned with the candidate's name and the number 08.

"Last week, Mr. Rooney traveled to Washington, D.C., to present Mr. Obama with a game ball from the Steelers AFC championship victory over the Baltimore Ravens."

More at:
Sports Illustrated Photographer Peter Read Miller On How to Photograph Sporting Events

*The Terrible Towel, created by Myron Cope, is a staple at every Steelers game.
Jerome Sherman in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Game Photos courtesy Peter Read Miller/SI, John Biever/SI, John W. McDonough/SI, Bob Rosato/SI, Al Tielemans/SI, Simon Bruty/SI

1 comment:

PeterAtLarge said...

Nice post, Gregg. You captured the color and diversity of the event. My post was a bit shorter than yours, but I enjoyed the spectacle on TV. Cheers...