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Monday, February 6, 2012
Super Bowl Time Machine

By Jeff MacGregor
ESPN.com

Maybe your team deserved to win. Or lose. Surprising either way how little of the game you remember the next morning. That Manningham catch, Brady's safety, Bradshaw's drunken sit-down, those punts. Eli. What was the final score again?

Mario Manningham
Mario Manningham caught this pass on the sideline in the fourth quarter. And he caught four other throws from Eli Manning. Can you remember those?

The rest of America's Big Night In was a four-hour blur of consumerism; our star-spangled inventory of appetite. This year, the whole thing felt like an intervention on behalf of an addiction to nostalgia. Madonna! Elton John! "Star Wars"! "Ferris Bueller"! Jerry Seinfeld!

A catalog of pop culture from the last century! All of it instantly recognizable, safely predigested and perfectly harmless!

This is my beautiful America! America as absurd as she can be!

At the end of a week that cost us '70s cultural markers such as Angelo Dundee and John Rich and Ben Gazzara and Don Cornelius and Robert Hegyes, it was comforting for active seniors everywhere to re-experience the commercial dictates of 1975: eat more; drink more; men are idiots; women are objects; cars are cool. I kept waiting for someone to sell me a cigarette.

Take your seat in the Super Bowl Time Machine!

Any thought that the 2012 Newt Gingrich Reunion Tour was this year's class of the antique vehicle field was undone by Mother Ciccone's Halftime Stunt Show. A museum-quality exercise in '80s bathhouse camp, it's worth remembering that what Madonna did Sunday night had been done in 1934 by Cecil B. DeMille and by Elizabeth Taylor in 1963 and by Bette Midler in 1972. And by Cleopatra herself in 45 B.C.

The whole thing had the perimenopausal look of midlife Liberace to it, of low-roller downtown Vegas. Swords! Sandals! Oiled pectorals! Muzak® in every room! One free drink for each roll of nickels played!

This is how the world ends, not with a bang but a gay gladiator drum war and the faint scent of mothballs.

Around the time my pizza and my disco past arrived, I recall seeing M.I.A. flip me the bird. This bolstered her anti-corporate street cred with me much more effectively than, say, tearing up her paycheck on camera. Down the tyrants! Up the rebels! And proving yet again that a career in radio promotes terrible personal hygiene, Rush Limbaugh might have been caught on camera picking his nose. Many scores of millions of people around the world will never unsee that.

Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton would have fit right into this year's halftime show.

Unseen somewhere in this great country, however, Mr. Tiquan Underwood called down to room service and sat and shook his head, not sure how to feel. I hope he ordered the lobster roll. Twice.

And although there were no commercials on behalf of buggy whip makers or the New Bedford Whaling Association, we received in good order our annual ransom note from Detroit. This year's reading of patriotic nonsense on behalf of automotive unit sales was undertaken by a Mr. Clint Eastwood of Hollywood, California. It can be found in its lugubrious two-minute entirety everywhere online.

My abridgement: "The world is a frightening place, so do your duty, buy a car. Someone get me a lozenge."

Last year's red, white and blue syrup from the Motor City Chamber of Commerce was poured out by Eminem -- himself now a relic of the long-gone Aughts -- and suggested strongly that the American car business, on account of being American and so forth, deserved a second chance.

But, as Mr. Eastwood himself once pointed out in more astringent times, "deserve's got nothin' to do with it."

Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. You can email him at jeff_macgregor@hotmail.com or follow his Twitter.com feed @MacGregorESPN.

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