The great halftime threat

Posted: Feb 05, 2006 9:05 AM

Something must be done — and now, on Super Bowl Sunday, before it's too late. The threat is not Al Qaeda. Not illegal aliens, bug-eyed aliens, or even global warming. It's far more subtle and insidious, infecting the very fabric of the heartland. The threat is halftime.

Halftime? Yes. It is growing like a cancer, taking over the game we love.

A normal person might not notice this, but I'm not normal. My football fanaticism could be viewed as an obsession. I get chills when I hear the Notre Dame fight song. I bleed Arkansas Razorback red. I can whistle the Alabama fight song (and don't even like the team). I still can't believe the Colts lost . . . in 1969. Soldier Field shines for me as a sacred shrine. I view Owen Field in Norman, Oklahoma, as a Texan views the Alamo — with honored reverence. I suppress the urge to pull over and watch any pick-up football game I drive past. My perfect Friday night is staying at home and watching the high school game on cable access. And yes, I cry at the movie Rudy. (Well, that might not be true. But if I were more "in touch with myself" I no doubt would.)

Still, whether you're a fanatic or a casual fan, our beloved football is being hijacked by alien forces upstaging the game itself.

It started innocently enough. A few well-meaning musicians wanting to support the teams in the style of a military band. But even that doesn't make sense. There's just no need to march. Playing a musical instrument is a precise and delicate talent. Marching just adds nonsensical difficulty to an already difficult activity. Do we ask doctors to swim while performing surgery? Artists to windsurf while painting? Cheerleaders to perform regression analysis while forming the pyramid?

Unfortunately, it didn't stop with the marching band. The rigamarole has become so complex that most of us wouldn't be shocked to see an on-field séance resurrect Ed Sullivan only to introduce David Copperfield to make football forever disappear from view.

And are we really so starved for entertainment that we can't go a few moments without some no-talent has-been fresh out of rehab banging out an alleged song that you've already heard too many times through your car window at the nearest intersection?

It's the championship game! How about reviewing the first half stats, and putting up enough athlete bios to give us time to visit the rest room and grab a bite to eat? Isn't there enough excitement in the great game of football without stuffing some self-absorbed Hollywood type into the 20-minute break?

Which brings up another problem. Lately, that 20 minutes has crept to 30 minutes . . . or 35 minutes . . . and in the case of a recent Orange Bowl, a 41-minute interruption! Even then, the two teams had to battle wheel ruts from that Sooner Schooner as well as fighting a lingering smoke cloud from a fizzled display of pyromania, er, pyrotechnics. If it had been cigarette smoke on the field, there would have been casualties. From the lawsuits, I mean.

We need change. Reform. I call for the complete banishment of non-players from the field. From the clueless Stanford trombonist to the Marching Boilermakers' rendition of Marvin Hamlisch . . . from the Marching Horned Frogs tribute to Tupperware to even the doggone dot on top of the Ohio State "I" — stay off the field!

The football field is sacred ground; it should be revered, treated more like Arlington Cemetery than La Cage aux Folles. Band members have great seats and should sit in them. Cheerleaders can have a station in front of the seats where the band sits. (Mind you, I offer no resistance to the cameras panning their area while players are in the huddle, or during a time out.)

But, of all the mid-game distractions, the team bands are relatively harmless. At least the band wears team colors and seems interested in the outcome of the game. The biggest threat to football is popular culture. If annoying bands defile the field, the corporate hip hop pop MTV crowd turns the sacrilege to full-fledged desecration.

This is not to vent some pent-up hatred of the Stones (whose music I've liked for a long time, time being, apparently, on their side) or to express a moral objection to Janet Jackson (I'm sure she has as perfect a breast as is surgically possible). What I'm getting at is this: the spotlight is being taken away from those who have worked and fought and bled to get to the pinnacle of the game. Just the thought of Justin Timberlake stepping on the same 50-yard line as Teddy Bruski sickens me. It is time to fight back.

Maybe the Steelers' defense should show up at the next P Daffy concert and demonstrate the meaning of unnecessary roughness between songs.

Whatever is done, we need a repurification of football.

And let the reforms begin at home: If the game isn't enough for you, watch something else! That's what Springer and Oprah and those stupid VH1 hottest celebrity break-up shows are for.

Halftime has morphed into a monster that overshadows the game. Like the Blob, it must be stopped. And like the remake of The Blob, it must not be watched.