Wednesday, January 28, 2009 Updated: January 29, 9:27 PM ET
This superfan is fine with Bruce playing the Super Bowl
By E.J. Hradek Special to Page 2
Is Bruce selling out by playing at the Super Bowl?
The good folks at Page 2 discovered that my favorite team finally made it to the Super Bowl and they asked me to share my thoughts. How nice, eh? (I'm a hockey writer, so I'm contractually obligated to toss an "eh?" at the end of a statement that could easily stand on its own. You understand, eh?)
Well, actually, I really appreciate Page 2 giving me an opportunity to chat about my guys ... Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
You didn't think I was talking about the Arizona Cardinals, did you? Who really roots for them outside of the Bidwill family, E Street guitarist Nils Lofgren and ESPN The Magazine editor-in-chief Gary Belsky? I think the financially strapped Phoenix Coyotes have more die-hard fans.
No, Bruce and the band are my team. While they've had some changes over the decades, the band lineup remains strong with drummer "Mighty" Max Weinberg, guitar heroes Little Steven Van Zandt and the great Lofgren, bass ace Garry W. Tallent, piano man Roy Bittan, organ grinder Charles Giordano replacing the dearly departed Danny Federici, fiddle-playing Soozie Tyrell, vocalist Patti Scialfa (aka Mrs. Springsteen) and last, but not least, sax-playing Clarence "Big Man" Clemons.
That's one hard-rocking club.
They've been my team since a fateful fall day in 1976. I was sitting in the backseat of a friend's Ford Mustang when he popped a copy of "Born To Run" into his new 8-track player. If it sounds like a groovy cool scene, it wasn't. It was a two-door and I was stuffed hard into the small back corner of the car.
At the time, I wasn't a big music guy. I mean, I had some pretty happening albums. I remember having records like Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and Peter Frampton's "Frampton Comes Alive!" I really liked music, but I was a chubby sports nerd who was more interested in playing stickball or late-night hockey than rockin' out to "Roundabout" (a high school dance classic, eh?) or "Stairway To Heaven" (it was impossible to look cool dancing to that one).
No, I definitely wasn't the cool kid who could grow a beard and play the guitar.
Still, strangely, on that day -- without taking off a stitch of clothing in the backseat of that Mustang -- my life was forever changed. Nearly 33 years and more than 100 concerts (I long ago lost count) later, Bruce and the Band still rock me. They still can get me to spend too much money (sorry, honey) and wait in long lines to get close to the fire they bring. Without getting too goofy, it's a spiritual experience for me.
So much so, I burned a box set full of air miles and hopped a flight from Newark to Barcelona for back-to-back stadium shows last July. I've always heard that you've never seen The Boss until you've seen him in Europe. Check! And, check again!! There were about 90,000 people of all different nationalities in the crowd for each of the two shows at Camp Nou, FC Barcelona's home stadium. It was unbelievable. And, that Spanish champagne wasn't bad, either.
A week later, back home, I was front and center (right on the stage, baby!) for the final night at Giants Stadium. That show was crazy good. In fact, if you stop your DVR at just the right moment during the Bruce/Super Bowl commercial, you can see the top of my head and my right arm. (Yes, I'm crazy enough to have stopped my DVR to notice this fact.)
After that nutty week, I figured I'd finally seen it all. Then, the buzz started to leak about a possible Super Bowl appearance. I'd never gone to a Super Bowl. Maybe this would be the one.
But, the more I thought about it, the more I figured it was a lose-lose proposition for us Bruce aficionados.
The first loss would come from those people who weren't impressed. I've been dealing with those types since that day in the '70s. They always feel like they have to tell me how much they didn't get it or didn't like it. Hey, that's fine. I'm not always feeling Michael or Alan Jackson, either. But, geez, why is there a need to tell me about it? I don't care. Can't we agree to disagree? It's not as if you're ever going to win me over.
Then, the second loss -- and the one that would have more of a direct impact on me -- would come from the viewers who were impressed. Those people who all of a sudden want to see Bruce and the Band. That means one thing to me -- more competition for tickets! I'm not digging that and I know my fellow Bruce crazies who are very nice and kind to one another until the push begins in the pit (you guys and gals know what I mean) aren't going to be, either.
So, while I did think about it, I won't be there. I'll definitely be tuned in, though. And, I'll be McLovin' every one of those 10 or 15 or 20 minutes of it.
I'll really be loving it when -- after a scoreless, rain-swept first half -- Bruce audibles out of the new and scripted "Working On A Dream" opener into Creedence Clearwater's "Who'll Stop the Rain?" and, magically, the rain does stop, just like it did in Saratoga back in '84. That would be so sweet, eh? After that, the choices are too many. On any given day, I'd give you three or four different choices for such a short set. One bit of advice: Please Boss, we don't need to hear "Girls In Their Summer Clothes." It's my least favorite song on the "Magic" disc.
When the halftime sound finally filters into the night sky, who wins the big game? I can't tell you. Heck, I thought the Jets were headed to Tampa. I do know this much: My team definitely will be ready to rock.
E.J. Hradek covers the NHL for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.