Are you ready for some football?
Welcome to The Flyover Podcast’s “Big Game” episode. That’s right, “The Big Game,” because we don’t have any sponsors to pay for what Sunday night is actually called. It’s: The Tremendous Basin! The Magnificent Repository! The First-Rate Container!
Ever wondered why they call it the, um, Super…round thing? Why do they call it a bowl? Actually, it has less to do with the game itself, and more to do with where it’s played.
Back in 1902, the very first football championship, the Tournament of Roses, was played in Pasadena, California. By 1923, the tournament had its very own stadium: The Rose Bowl. This made sense: the Rose Bowl was, and is, just like nearly every other football stadium in the country, shaped like a bowl. From then on, just about every important game in football, both professional and collegiate, took on the “bowl” surname. Orange Bowl. Cotton Bowl. Manute Bowl. Bol Bol Bowl.
Now, you’d figure they got the “Super” part simply because it was the championship game, the greatest game of the year. But, in fact, the “Super” part of the Term We Can Not Say came from Lamar Hunt, then-owner of the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. His son had been playing with a Super Ball toy, and for whatever reason, when he was talking about the upcoming game, the word “super” was bouncing around his head much like the rubber toy danced around his living room. The final meeting of the year would have many names, but none took on the majesty and legacy of the one we’ve now known for 55 years.
That’s right, this year marks the 55th Marvelous Vessel, and it seems like Tom Brady has played in all of them. It seems like that because it’s damn near true: since becoming a starter in 2001, Brady has reached the final game of the season 50% of the time. Twenty seasons as the Admiral Adonis of the Gridiron, and he has played for the trophy a staggering ten times. In second place? John Elway, with a paltry five. Say what you will about the man, but there is simply no one left in the sport to compare him to. This is Michael Jordan, LeBron James territory. Even Wayne Gretzky, as great as he was during his 20 seasons in the NHL, only reached the Stanley Cup Finals six times.
We talk a lot about records that can never be broken. Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak. Cal Ripken’s Iron Man accomplishment. AC Green’s most games played in the NBA as a virgin.
It would be fair to put this accomplishment up there with any of them. Except, the gentleman whom Mr. Brady is lining up against on Sunday, is already right on pace. If anyone can come close to Brady’s insurmountable numbers, it just might be #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s an easy storyline, but it’s a great one: this Sunday features the greatest quarterback of his generation, maybe of all time, against the greatest quarterback of this generation. Vastly different styles, but both with that undeniable hunger not only to win, but also to rip your heart out while doing so. If Brady has sixty minutes of greatness left in him, this could be a Super B…a, um, Outstanding Crucible for the ages.
Our first two songs go out to these two incredible athletes, the old man, and the kid from Kansas City.
(Neil Young – Old Man)
(Wilbert Harrison – Kansas City)
I almost forgot! Before we get to the game, we’ve got to honor America! And what better way to do that than with our National Anthem?
Oooh, I know, a touchy subject. Will they kneel? Will they stay in the locker room? Will they have their hand over their heart, or will they be picking their jock strap out of their asses?
I’m not sure, but I do know that while Colin Kaepernick has been sitting at home without a job in the league for the past four years, Ray Lewis has continued to provide commentary on Fox Sports. And before you tell me that’s because Kaepernick simply isn’t good enough to play, did you see Cam Newton play this season? Have you seen some of these quarterbacks? I mean, c’mon. Who are these people?!
I wonder, if the Buffalo Bills had made the game, would the NFL have to invite OJ? Could they just blame the pandemic? “Sorry Juice, covid.” The man may have murdered two people and gotten away with it, but he never knelt during a song. And hey, the last time the Bills were in the championship game, the worst thing OJ had done was his performance in “The Towering Inferno,” babe.
Rape. Murder. It’s just a shot away. DUIs? Broken COVID protocol? We’ll look the other way. Exercising freedom of speech? Thank you, next.
So, what will you be doing when you’re at home, watching the game, stuffing your face with shrimp and guacamole dip? When the anthem starts, will you get out of the Lay-Z-Boy and risk spilling your overfilled plate all down your signed Boomer Esiason jersey? Or will you kneel in solitary protest, making sure to tweet about it so everyone knows where you stand politically?
You know what I’ll be nothing? Nothing. In fact, I doubt I’ll pay attention to the anthem at all. And you know why? Because it doesn’t mean anything. And I know that because if it did mean something, everyone would stand for the anthem all the time, no matter where they heard it, whether it’s being sung live or played through a speaker, and not just when they’re in a football stadium.
It’s kind of like that other Sunday passtime, isn’t it? Religion. People really save their best behavior for Sunday morning, without really walking the walk the rest of the week. I guess it only matters if someone else sees you do it.
Because the problem can’t really be with kneeling, can it? Kneeling is good! When someone gets hurt on the field, what’s the first thing the other players do? Right, they take a knee, offering a moment of silent prayer for their concussed brother-in-arms to get back up in one piece.
Kneeling is okay for a marriage proposal, maybe the most significant event in someone’s life. In fact, it would probably be a big deal if you didn’t kneel for the proposal? She wouldn’t even answer the question: “Will you marry me?” Um, aren’t you gunna kneel or sumpthin?
And, speaking of religion, kneeling is perfectly okay for Jesus. You go to church, you walk down the aisle and before you can sit down, you damn well better kneel and make the imaginary symbol with your right hand. And then you sit, and stand, and sit, and stand, and sit again for the next hour, before you’ve gotta kneel and do the acknowledgment of the cult once again to be able to go home and watch grown men grab each other all afternoon.
“In this house, we kneel for the CROSS, but stand for the FLAG.” That’s a real sign I see everyday in a neighbor’s yard right around the corner from my house. And these people put it up right as the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum. Impressive timing. Pairs nicely with a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. Imaginary man in the sky? Yes. Real lives in the street? Not so much.
The anthem. The flag. Standing. Kneeling. It doesn’t matter, it’s completely made up. In fact, the standing with the hand over the heart thing is actually somewhat new in our country’s history. Because, you remember how we used to salute the flag in the first part of the 20th century, don’t you? Yeah, let’s just say we stopped doing it that way when some Austrian guy with a Michael Jordan mustache started making his way through Europe.
No matter what you do during the National Anthem, or how you feel about it, one thing’s for sure, no one has ever sung it better than Whitney Houston.
(Whitney Houston – The Star Spangled Banner)
“It’s halftime, America.”
Do you remember that commercial from Super Sunday in 2012? Clint Eastwood, walking down a dark alley, extolling the virtues of the car industry:
“It’s halftime. Both teams are in the locker room discussing what they can do to win the second half. It’s halftime in America, too. Buy a Chrysler, and get off my lawn.”
For many casual observers, the commercials are the best part of the entire evening, from Clydesdales and Cindy Crawford, to Mean Joe Greene and “Where’s the Beef?” But, for me, even the worst “big game” is worth watching for halftime.
Many of the most iconic names in the history of music have had their moment at mid-field, singing their hearts out for 12 minutes on top of a stage constructed in even less time by a handful of volunteers. It really is one of the most impressive accomplishments in entertainment, an entire concert staged, performed, and produced in under 30 minutes.
There have been some incredible halftime shows, memorable, um, wardrobe malfunctions, and some spectacular duds. But, no halftime show was more incredible, more perfect, more indelible, than the one on February 4th, 2007 in Miami.
The Colts and Da Bears were separated by just two points after a neck-and-neck first half that was almost more notable for the playing conditions than the game itself. To say it was pouring that night in Miami would be an understatement; this was damn near a tsunami.
The rain was so bad, in fact, that the producers of the halftime show called their performer and pleaded with him to let them use pre-recorded music, fearful that the thunderstorm might knock out their electronics and result in silent chaos. The performer on the other end of the phone responded with the sort of confident cool only he could be capable of providing:
“Can you make it rain harder?”
Prince got his wish, and put on a show for the ages, still the bar which every other performer strives to reach. It’s the most talked about, most celebrated, and most revered. When you visit Paisley Park, it’s the very last exhibit in the museum: after walking around Prince’s home for an hour, you are left with what many believe to be his crowning achievement, played on a loop, flanked by his wardrobe and guitar from that evening. I’ve been there twice, and both times, it just hits you in every, single way.
Prince played all sorts of songs that night before closing with an absolutely stunning, and perfectly fitting, “Purple Rain.” He and his ace band tore through “We Will Rock You,” “Proud Mary,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Baby I’m a Star,” and “All Along the Watchtower” before they segued into the biggest surprise of the night.
To this day, no one really knows why Prince chose to cover the Foo Fighters on this biggest of nights. Was it because the band had routinely covered his own “Darling Nikki?” Was he a big fan of Dave Grohl? Was he just screwing with us?
It’s Prince, who the hell knows. Whatever the reason, it was incredible, a performance that turned me from a casual fan who had been blown away by him in concert a few years earlier, to a superfan that had plans to see him in Philadelphia just a few days before his untimely death.
So, The Flyover Podcast Halftime Show honors Prince with the Foo Fighters song he covered that night, “Best of You,” as well as the incredible “Blinding Lights” from this year’s performer, The Weeknd.
As you listen, tell me it doesn’t sound like “Maniac,” the song from the “Flashdance” soundtrack.
(Foo Fighters – Best of You)
(The Weeknd – Blinding Lights)
“Gus.” “Necessary Roughness.” ““The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon.” These are just some of the football movies that you have likely never even heard of, let alone seen. They are, as Rolling Stone described them, movies so bad” they almost make you hate the game of football.”
“Gus” is a movie about a field goal kicking mule that Don Knotts signs from Yugoslavia to help turn his team around. So yeah. imagine greenlighting that one. Oscars abound!
“Necessary Roughness,” one of the more watchable, awful sports movies, is about…I don’t really remember. I know it’s about football. But, suiting up for the game was an impressive cast of Jason Bateman, Scott Bakula, Sinbad, Rob Schneider, and Kathy Ireland, who I believe was supposed to be the first female field goal kicker in the NFL. If you’re not pausing the podcast to stream this one right now, might I add that Robert Loggia and Hector Elizondo played the coaches of the team? I mean, c’mon, how did this one fail?! “Yeaaa, Robert Loggia!”
“The Great Garbage Picking, Field Goal Kicking, Cold-Dead Beating, Two-Time Double Dealing, Mean-Mistreating Philadelphia Tony Danza” is exactly as horribly stupid as it sounds, an attempt by Disney to keep the Great Danza Money Train rolling after the success of “Angels in the Outfield.” I refuse to watch this movie based on nothing other than the fact that it takes place in Philadelphia, a terrible place. But, Tony Danza? For my money, he’s never been better than he was in “Don Jon.”
Very few football movies are any good, or have actually stood the test of time, but perhaps the two most rewatchable are “Any Given Sunday” and “The Replacements.”
Now, “The Replacements,” they had me at Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, and one of my favorite, late-90s, B-list celebrities, Brooke Langton. In the year 2000, you could’ve made whatever movie you wanted with those three, and I would have watched it.
The other one, professional football players routinely say it best represents the day in, day out grind of life in the NFL. It’s also the movie where James Woods previews the piece of shit he would later become in real life, so you’ll want to watch it just for that.
I actually saw this movie in the theatre in 1999, a slight problem as my friend and I were absolutely not 17. Not even close. We actually had to kindly ask the couple in front of us in line to pretend that we were their kids in order to get in. They did! We loved the movie, and immediately walked across the mall to, yes, Sam Goody, to split the rest of our money on the soundtrack.
Years later, for Halloween, as my Al Pacino fandom reached disturbing heights, I decided to dress up as Tony D’Amato, Pacino’s head coach character from “Any Given Sunday.” Luckily, my friends are just as big of idiots as I am, and immediately got the joke. I had the red polo shirt, black blazer, the headphones, and the clipboard, complete with lines from the movie that I could toss in throughout the night.
“You are tearing this team…APART!”
“YOU’RE A QUARTAHBACK!”
“We claw, with our FINGAHNAILS…for that inch.”
Would you believe I didn’t have a date that night.
Let’s throw it back to the turn of the century with the de facto theme songs from both “The Replacements” and “Any Given Sunday.”
“You gotta have heart.”
(Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive)
(Jamie Foxx – Any Given Sunday)
“Well, it’s the fourth quarter, America. The end of our little game is in sight. The trophy? Within reach. That trip to Disneyland? Well, do you feel lucky?”
When it comes to the biggest night in football, I have some pretty vivid memories. The Buffalo Bills in the early 90s. The Cowboys a few years later. The Rams and Titans in 2000, perhaps the closest finish in the history of the big game, until the Malcolm Butler game in 2015.
Yeah, most of those memories from the past two decades are pretty much a blizzard of New England Patriots victories, aren’t they, including the historic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. For that one, I was at a small party, and decided to live up to the way one of my friends once described me: the person who roots for the bad guys in the movies. And this is true. In my mind, “Star Wars” ends after Darth Vader cuts off Luke Skywalker’s hand. Evacuate? In our moment our triumph? Anyway, when Tom Brady, with a little help from a collapsing Falcons team, willed the Patriots to victory, I have to admit I was as excited as the two years that my own team beat him in the last game of the season.
Yes, sports fans, that’s right – I am a fan of the New York Giants. As woeful as they may currently be, and have been, in 2008 and 2012 they became the victorious Davids to the New England Patriots’ gargantuan Goliaths. The first time, the helmet catch, it was absolutely shocking. Even though the Giants had played nearly perfect football for two months, c’mon, there was no way they were actually going to slay the 18-0 beasts.
But, they did. And four years later, they did it again.
That first one, though, that was really something special. I remember celebrating with a friend of mine, a Steelers fan no less, just sort of basking in the first important, local, professional sports moment in nearly a decade. Unless you count Carlos Beltran watching that final strike three float by against the Cardinals. There’s something about sports that allows you to gleefully transform, however briefly, back into a little kid. Jumping up and down, giving each other hugs and high fives. The beauty of a shared, jubilant experience. “Can you believe it?!”
Mid-celebration, however, my friend got a call from his mother. This was a bit of a surprise, his mother not being a particularly big sports fan. Oh well, we figured, we’d be back to the celebration in just a second.
Oh, I’m afraid there would be no more celebrating in that house that night. That had the cadence of the Emperor didn’t it? “Oh, I’m afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive.” And why, you may ask, would we have to cut the ticker tape parade in my living room short?
Well, his mother had simply called to let him know, rather calmly, that his car was on fire. Yup, right in front of their house, the sad recipient of either a misdirected celebratory firework, or a mob hit gone wrong (this was New Jersey). His car was, right there on West Summit Street in Somerville, NJ, engulfed in flames. Now, if this had been Philadelphia, the whole street would have been on fire, so, you know, perspective.
My friend, he gets off the phone, looks at us with an amusing combination of comedy and terror, and deadpanly states, “Um, I have to go home.”
“Why, what happened? Everything ok?”
“Apparently my car is on fire.”
I don’t anticipate any motor vehicle bar-be-ques on Sunday night, but I do expect a great game. It is really, really hard to bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs, even at 43 years old; but Kansas City is playing like Kansas City, the defending champs, and have too many weapons, including the current, best quarterback in the league.
If it’s a low scoring game, with that defense, Tom Brady may very well be hoisting his improbable seventh trophy in the air. If it’s a shootout, he’s going to have to keep an eye on this Mahomes kid as the rightful heir to his GOAT status.
However Sunday night’s game ends, I hope you’ll all enjoy the last game of the season.
We’ll be seeing ya…
(The Glorious – Last Game of the Season)
The Flyover Podcast is recorded and produced by Kyle Pucciarello in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit www.theflyover.site, @official_flyover on Instagram, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.