Monday, February 2, 2004
Houston For the humdrum New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, putting on a show to match the glitz, glitter and star power of the rest of Super Bowl Sunday was no easy task.
Typical of America's biggest unofficial holiday, the game was only the icing on an over-the-top extravaganza. There was a gleaming new $450 million stadium to show off, a slew of pricey new ads, and Beyonce, Janet Jackson and P. Diddy to share the field.
The biggest cliffhanger of the week wasn't who would win, but whether Janet's brother, Michael, would show up. He didn't, but Justin Timberlake did, as the surprise guest at the halftime show.
Then came another halftime surprise: A streaker trotted out to the middle of the field before the third-quarter kickoff. While the CBS cameras focused elsewhere, police gave chase. New England linebacker Matt Chatham leveled the man, who was hogtied and carried off the field.
It was all part of the big show, capping a week every bit as suited for "Entertainment Tonight" as "Inside the NFL."
Hosting its first Super Bowl in 30 years, Houston transformed its downtown into a meandering, nonstop party. Tim McGraw was in concert on one side. Paris Hilton went to parties on the other.
"You have to know what sells the game," Panthers defensive lineman Brentson Buckner said. "You just have to keep it in perspective."
Finding a bottle of Cristal, the stars' champagne of choice, was a Texas-sized adventure. The $150-a-bottle beverage was sold out almost everywhere in town. The local newspaper wrote a story with the headline: "Parties may be BYOC" -- Bring Your Own Cristal.
Outside the Super Bowl city, Americans made big plans to soak in all the action.
One survey showed Americans nearly double their consumption of cocktail franks during Super Bowl week, and spend $5 million more than normal on tortilla chips.
Most of that is consumed in front of the TV, where an estimated 100 million viewers would get the best view of the commercials that have become the most-anticipated moments of the Super Bowl. CBS sold 30-second spots for an average of $2.3 million, with early favorites including computer-generated ads for Cadillac, FedEx and Pepsi's Sierra Mist.
"We've managed to turn this into a truly viable American holiday" said Bob Thompson, a professor of culture and TV at Syracuse University. "But the centerpiece isn't the Christmas tree or the turkey, it's the TV set, and cuisine you can pick up at the convenience store."
In a pregame interview on CBS, President Bush wished his best to U.S. troops who were watching the big game, and also paid tribute to the seven astronauts who died in the Columbia space shuttle explosion a year ago Sunday.