$.01--The game

Super Bowl LVII was one of the most exciting, closely played games of the 57. Two tremendous offenses, outstanding quarterbacks and brilliant play callers went toe-to-toe to the very end.

Harrison Butker slammed home a 27-yard field goal with eight seconds on the clock to give Kansas City the title, 38-35. It capped off what was almost a perfect second half by Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and the Chiefs offense. Mahomes completed 13 of his 14 passes after the half, and the one miss was an intentional throwaway in the end zone. Kansas City got the ball four times and scored three red zone TDs. They could have scored another on the last drive, but smartly opted to burn clock instead of running into the end zone.

Mahomes, Isiah Pacheco, Juju Smith-Schuster and the Kansas City offense made it look awfully easy against what had heretofore been a great Eagles defense. They repeatedly caught the Eagles defense in various states of confusion and manipulated the action into an offensive advantage. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles just couldn’t match the dynamic explosiveness on the scoreboard. A fantastic punt return from Kadarius Toney and a couple of great catches from all-world TE Travis Kelce deserve special mention in the dominance, no doubt. Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy drew up a fantastic plan and the Chiefs players executed it artfully. The two red zone touchdowns, mirror images of one another, were expert adjustments from the Chiefs that deliberately exposed the Eagles’ plans of attack.

Alas, the great action will be overshadowed by a very iffy officiating call and perhaps the worst conceivable field conditions for an indoor venue.

The officiating controversy came very late. Eagles CB James Bradberry was flagged for defensive holding on Smith-Schuster on a whip route in the red zone. Bradberry did indeed grab some jersey as the wideout made his initial break, but it was brief and no more than what had been allowed to flow all night long. Bradberry even admitted after the game he was guilty, but that won’t ameliorate the angry masses who feel like the questionable call wasn’t legit. It was certainly an odd time to enforce that infraction in a game that featured a whole lot more of that type of play from both defenses.

Then there was the playing surface. The grass field was slick. As Eagles OL Jordan Mailata told reporters after the game, it was “like playing on a water park.” There appeared to be at least one player on one team or the other losing his footing on every play. The much-ballyhooed portable grass field didn’t handle the desert condensation levels or the stress of the game or the lengthy halftime show at an acceptable level for the biggest game of the year. 

Those detracted from an otherwise great game. The problem for the NFL is that both of those detractions were eminently avoidable, or at least controllable circumstances. The Chiefs, the worthy champs, have nothing to apologize for. They played greater, for longer, than a very good Eagles team. Congrats to the Chiefs for being the best when it mattered the most.

$.02--Super Bowls often create legacies. Sunday night’s thriller is the latest entry into the Patrick Mahomes growing legacy of greatness.

This was Mahomes’ second Super Bowl title. He also won the MVP during the regular season, his second such honor. Mahomes has now picked up his second Super Bowl MVP too, and both were well-earned. In just five seasons, Mahomes has already surpassed the accomplishment of many of the men considered the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

That, of course, begs the question of where Mahomes fits into the pantheon already. Just five years in and Mahomes has more titles than Aaron Rodgers or Steve Young (as a starter), more MVPs (and playoff wins) than Dan Marino or Drew Brees. He’s done so with a unique style that blends the traits of the top passers with the derring-do of the most creative and physically impressive of all time. It’s premature to anoint Mahomes, but he’s well on his way up the historical QB ranking ladder and he’s not even close to his athletic peak yet.

Then there’s Andy Reid. He’s now led two different Super Bowl winners in Kansas City. There is a definite delineation between coaches with one title and those with more. Reid gets some extra credit for leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl back in 2004.

The consistency with which Reid wins is impressive. He’s been the coach of the Chiefs for 10 seasons. They’ve won at least 10 games in nine of those years and went 9-7 in the other season (2014). In 14 years leading the Eagles, Reid posted winning records in all but the first and last. He’s 247-138-1 in his career with a playoff record of 22-16 in 24 years, ranking fifth all-time in wins. The next man on the list is Tom Landry, who is still a football deity in many parts of the country. Landry’s career mark is 250-162-6 in the regular season, 20-16 in the postseason and like Reid, he’s got two Super Bowl titles. That’s some lofty company for Reid, breathing rarefied air that not enough folks credit him for even sniffing.

$.03--The halftime show

Rihanna was the featured performer for the halftime entertainment. As someone who is almost completely unfamiliar with her body of musical work, it made for an interesting choice.

It took three song snippets before I heard one I knew I recognized. In a case like that, the staging and spectacle had better be compelling. This halftime show set design didn’t pull that off, not with the floating platforms and simplistic choreography that appeared to be much more suited for few thousand in the stadium than the hundreds of millions watching at home. The tight camera shots surely didn’t do it justice, and that’s a failure by the production design, not Rihanna or her performance.

I heard a couple of songs I thought I knew. To be honest, I wasn’t aware they were different songs. A singer with very little musical variety in her repertoire needs more action, more compelling visuals, more something to keep non-hardcore fans engaged. No guests, musical or otherwise, was a poor choice by the promoters and producers. Rihanna herself was fine, though her apathy at lip-syncing grew more evident as the show progressed. The spectacle around her was lacking, especially compared to recent visual spectacles we’ve been treated to in recent halftime shows. The supporting dancers were performing relatively generic moves in bland costumes that made them look like extras in a low-budget hip-hop video, not dynamic, attention-grabbing moves worthy of the biggest show on earth.

This one won’t be one of those folks are talking about in coming years. The halftime show was nowhere close to as compelling or inspired as the game itself.

$.04--The Hall of Fame class

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the induction class of 2023 during the Super Bowl lead-up. It’s a sterling class of modern names headlined by two first-ballot enshrinees.

Joe Thomas and Darrelle Revis were no-brainers as first-year eligible players. Thomas is the greatest offensive lineman of the 21st century despite playing on some truly dreadful Browns teams. Revis was the league’s preeminent coverage corner for a decade (2007-2016) and the player most current NFL CBs cite as a major influence. They’re both familiar names to even the most casual football fan and deserve the special recognition of benign first-ballot enshrinees.

DeMarcus Ware, Zach Thomas and Ronde Barber all earned their gold jackets too. There is some consternation over Zach Thomas, who spent most of his career racking up tackles with some relatively anonymous Dolphins teams. I would’ve picked a couple other finalists (Willie Anderson, Torry Holt) over Thomas this year, but in no way does that make No. 54 undeserving of being honored in Canton.

Don Coryell, the godfather of the modern aggressive passing attack, made it as a coach. Coryell’s concepts are still prevalently evident today. He had some pretty impressive success as the head coach of the Chargers and Cardinals when those franchises had long reputations as dead-end jobs too.

Joe Klecko, Ken Riley and Chuck Howley round out the sterling class. I’m old enough to remember Klecko and the “New York Sack Exchange” as well as his small part in the great “Cannonball Run”. I remember the tail end of Riley’s career with the Bengals, in part because of the reverence the Browns (I was a Cleveland kid in the 70s and early 80s) broadcast crew showed him.

Congrats to the HOF class of 2023. I’ll see you in Canton in August.

$.05--The ads

Ah yes, the advertisements. This was one of the more humdrum years for the ads, with several good ones but nothing that figures to launch epic campaigns or change the cultural zeitgeist.

One big early winner was Dunkin with Ben Affleck. He played it very well. Jennifer Lopez put a fun twist on the ending too.

There were several movie trailers as ads. I don’t really get the rationale behind more installments in the Fast and Furious or Indiana Jones series, but the trailers were at least engaging. Won’t see either film in the theater unless I get a raise soon, however…

Caddyshack is one of my all-time guilty pleasures, and the Michelob Ultra spot honoring it was worthy. One was enough, however.

The biggest loser? Any commercial that asked folks watching to scan a QR Code. Nope. Not gonna do it, sorry.

The Pixel camera spot about fixing and cropping photos was a family favorite. The beer-drinking adults in the room (read: me) liked the Blue Moon/Coors/Miller duel commercial. Everyone liked the Pop Corners ad done Breaking Bad style.

Usually reliable, the M&Ms with Maya Rudolph was one that should have melted on the drawing board. The postgame “return” from the candies was too little, too late.

Our first local ad in the Grand Rapids market was the local utility company offering massive signing bonuses for new linemen and workers. Interesting.

The Crowdstrike spot just before halftime was a winner. As was the “rock star” ad from Workday featuring actual aged rock stars Ozzy Osbourne, Joan Jett and Paul Stanley among others. Fun.

One of the most anticipated spots was Gronk kicking a field goal for FanDuel. It turned into the worst, hands down. First, his kick sure looked good even though the ad stated otherwise. Secondly, the kick didn’t look live at all, as promised. Sure appeared to be CGI. All that hype for a big fat nothing-burger.

What might have been the best ad was from Ram and its electric vehicle. Brilliant concept, well-acted, funny. But the product being advertised won’t even be available for 2024, and the disclaimers indicated that everything being promoted about the vehicle might not actually be real. Premature electrification indeed.