By Brian Brownfield-
The National Football League celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl in the most perfect way: in the Golden State. California’s San Francisco Bay Area was gifted with hosting the NFL’s largest Super Bowl and there was plenty of hype. From the events that spanned from San Francisco to San Jose in the week leading up to the game, it may have been easy to forget there was a game being played on February 7. Not only were we in the center of it all, but several Menlo students participated in the events leading up to the big game, and a few were even a part of the game itself. To top it all off was the actual game. The Denver Broncos completed a gritty season that saw them battle adversity from week one until the Super Bowl and ended with them defeating the Carolina Panthers 24-10.
The Super Bowl has become much more than just a football game. The events leading up to the biggest game of the season continue to get larger and more interactive, culminating in an entire week dedicated to bringing fans closer to football and the Super Bowl. This year’s Super Bowl City festivities were no different, with a large majority of events being held in downtown San Francisco. There were attractions for fans of all ages and interests, even those who had little interest in the game of football itself. For instance, car brands such as Hyundai set up a lounge where fans could test-drive hybrid vehicles and charge their smartphones. The goal of having such a wide-array of events was to bring in as many fans as possible to create revenue for the companies and the local economy.
Sponsors had to pay a pretty penny to get involved in the festivities of Super Bowl City, but most were able to incorporate a nice blend of their company along with football activities. One of the most popular Super Bowl City zones was the Fan Energy Zone powered by SAP. Since the Super Bowl is being held in the Silicon Valley, technology was bound to be a large part of bringing fans an enhanced football experience. SAP captured this perfectly with their Fan Energy Zone where fans were introduced to several interactive features that put them in the shoes of NFL players through virtual reality. Fans were able to play, track performance, and share their results of virtual football games. Chevron also gave fans an up-close look at the science of football with its STEM Zone. Passing skills could be put to the test at this zone and fans were given a peek at the new equipment advances, broadcasting enhancements, and improvements to fan development for the NFL.
“I went to San Francisco on Saturday to experience Super Bowl City,” says sophomore Braxton Liddell. “I felt like San Francisco was a little unorganized, but besides that I had a lot of fun. There was so much to do. They really took the Super Bowl seriously with the 50th anniversary. A lot of different exhibits were out there.” When asked about his favorite aspect of Super Bowl City, Braxton did not hesitate to answer, “Just being up in San Francisco to experience it all, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I don’t know if the Bay Area will ever host another Super Bowl and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to experience another Super Bowl City.”
I had the opportunity to attend a live question and answer session with Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. The event was held in the Westfield Mall in downtown San Francisco, and was sponsored by Bose. Having attended a brief portion of the myriad of events, I can say that the city did a fantastic job corralling all of the chaos caused from so many people being in one area. Transportation was not backed up beyond normal San Francisco city traffic, and bringing in so many superstars created an appeal to fans of all teams. While I may not be a Houston Texans fan, I could not pass up the chance to see one of the greatest players in the game of football answering questions from fans. I had never been to a Super Bowl City event prior, but it makes me wish I had the opportunity to attend every year.
Music Brings Fans Together
Football was not the only attraction in the heart of San Francisco during the big week. Celebrities came out in full force to catch a glimpse of the festivities, and part of this had to do with the musical talent that came to the city by the Bay. Levi’s was host to the City Stage, which featured a musical lineup of 35 free artists, including Alicia Keys, OneRepublic, and The Band Perry. Local heavy metal band Metallica also made an appearance, hosting a show at AT&T Park. As if the weeklong artists weren’t enough to create a spectacle, the performers during the Super Bowl did the trick. Lady Gaga nailed the National Anthem, and Coldplay led the Pepsi Halftime Show with help from Beyonce and Bruno Mars.
Speaking of the Pepsi Halftime Show, Menlo had a very special connection with the largest concert of the year. Several members of the Menlo Dance Team were able to participate in the event on-field, getting an up-close view of some of the greatest performers in the world. The experience was surreal in particular for junior Regina Hernandez, who was all smiles when describing the evening on the field.
“Sam McLeod was the one contacted by the people who run the concert, and they invited the entire Menlo Stunt and Dance Teams,” Regina explained. “We were super discreet about it for two weeks while we were rehearsing. When we began rehearsing at the stadium, we actually got to see all of the artists on Thursday and then again when they performed. They broke us up into groups so the most ‘pumped’ groups would be up in the front. Our group of 15 was in the G Section, and when the show began we ran out onto the field and made our way to stage.”
Even though Coldplay was the headlining act for the Pepsi Halftime Show, Regina couldn’t deny the excitement that came from getting to be right near Beyonce. “We were put into the same area where Beyonce was performing,” Regina said with a huge smile. “She was about two steps away from us. Bruno Mars…oh my gosh, he was amazing. Everyone was amazing. Even Jay-Z and Blue Ivy were walking around near us. But Coldplay was special because I have a lot of memories from listening to Coldplay, so getting to see them live for the first time while being in the front row with my friends was probably the best part.”
Commercials Keep the Fans Entertained
For those who were not fortunate enough to be at the stadium on game day, watching the game on television was the next best option. With that comes the ever-popular Super Bowl commercials, a time when companies roll out the marketing geniuses to create the best spot advertisements. Super Bowl commercials typically require companies to pay millions of dollars for a mere 30-second commercial, but the results pay off big time. This year’s commercials featured everything from cars being compared to socks, pandas building websites, and puppy-monkey-babies. The funniest commercial of the night in the eyes of many? The Doritos “Ultrasound” spot.
“The commercials this year were hilarious,” said junior Anthony Pitini with a chuckle. “The best one was the Doritos commercial when the mother was about to give birth and the baby was following around the Dorito.” The wife in the commercial is going in for an ultrasound while her husband is eating Doritos. Appalled by her husband’s actions, the mother-to-be wants her husband to stop once he realizes the baby is moving according to where the Doritos are. The wife then takes a chip and tosses it across the room. Moments later, the mother lets out a scream as the baby decides now is the time to enter this world as it wants to follow the Doritos. While the commercial certainly is edgy, it produced the loudest laughs of the evening.
Tale of Two Teams
Now that all of the events and attractions have been covered, some of you may have forgotten there was a football game being played. In the NFL’s golden anniversary, the young and upstart Carolina Panthers were pitted against the experienced and aging Denver Broncos. It was a game full of headlines, including the possibility that it could be the last game ever played for Denver’s 39-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning. His legacy in the NFL is nothing to be scoffed at, having thrown for more yards and touchdowns than any other quarterback in the history of the league. His 5 MVP awards are also the most in league history. Manning was sidelined midseason with plantar fasciitis, but came back in the final game of the season and helped lead his team to the Super Bowl. During his NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos, he has only won one Super Bowl. This was a chance for him to potentially retire on top of the mountain.
The Carolina Panthers were a team making headlines simply because they played so well. The Panthers lost just one game in the regular season, and did not trail in any of their first two playoff games. They scored the most points in the league, and had a defense that ranked in the top-5 in most statistical categories. Their quarterback, Cam Newton, won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award for a historic season that saw him score a total of 45 touchdowns and amassing nearly 4,500 yards. Ten of his touchdowns were rushing touchdowns, making him the biggest dual-threat quarterback (ability to throw and run) in the league. With Newton and Manning as the opposing quarterbacks, it was a battle of old-school versus new-school.
Defense Wins Championships
Defenses were believed to be the deciding factor in the game. While Carolina’s defense was top-5 in most statistical categories, so was the Denver defense. Nobody allowed fewer yards per game than the Denver defense, which tormented opposing teams all season long. Defense was the reason Denver got as far as they did, because Manning and his offensive numbers suffered a steep decline. He threw only 9 touchdowns and a whopping 17 interceptions in just 10 games. But unlike his teams in the past, his defense could bail him out when he was playing poorly. This set the stage for a very intriguing game, and it lived up to the defensive-hype.
Few Super Bowls have seen the amount of defense that was seen in Super Bowl 50. Denver scored the first touchdown of the game when Cam Newton was stripped of the football by Denver’s Von Miller, and it was recovered in the end zone by Denver’s Malik Jackson. Denver had a 10-0 lead at this point, and never looked back. Carolina got on the board with a Jonathan Stewart rushing touchdown in the first half, but still trailed 13-7 at halftime. Things got ugly for Carolina in the second half, as turnovers marred the offense. Cam Newton threw an interception and fumbled, and running back Mike Tolbert fumbled as well. These second half turnovers led Denver to their only offensive touchdown of the game, a rushing score from C.J. Anderson in the fourth quarter. That was more than enough for the Broncos, as they held on to win the game 24-10.
As expected, defensive statistics were the story of the game. Denver only had 197 yards of offense, the lowest output in the Super Bowl by the winning team. Denver sacked Cam Newton 7 times, which was a Super Bowl record, and the teams combined for 12 sacks, which was also a Super Bowl record. Sticking with the theme of sacks, Carolina’s Kony Ealy had 3 sacks, which tied a Super Bowl record for an individual player. There were a total of 6 turnovers forced and 15 total punts, meaning first downs and long drives were hard to come by. Even the Super Bowl MVP went to a defensive player, Denver’s Von Miller. One of the most feared defensive players in the game, Miller recorded 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and forced 2 Cam Newton fumbles. Many fans expecting to see a lot of action could have been bored by the pace of the game, but for a football purist, this game featured defense at its finest.
The Sheriff’s Last Ride?
More importantly in the eyes of the media, Peyton Manning (also known as “The Sheriff”) won his second Super Bowl. Not only that, but it was his 200th career victory, which broke the tie between him and Brett Favre for the most in the history of the league and was another impressive milestone. Manning did not have to carry the load for the team, and that was clear from his outing: 13 of 23 passes completed, 141 yards, 1 interception. Nonetheless, he helped lead his team into what seemed to many like an improbable Super Bowl run. For what it’s worth, loyal Menlo Oak Press readers may recall that halfway through the NFL season, I wrote an article that stated Denver would be in the Super Bowl. Just saying…
“I thought the Broncos were going to win, and I thought it was a really good game,” said Aaliyah Sowards. “Offensively, it was a pretty bad game to watch, but the defenses won. But I’m definitely glad that Peyton Manning got his last game in and ended with a victory. He should retire now while he is up, and go out on top.” Aaliyah shares the view of many fans around the world, but Manning is remaining mum on the subject for now.
“You know, I’ll take some time to reflect,” Manning commented on the field after the game. “I got a couple of priorities first. I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family. I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, I promise you that. So, I’m going to take care of those things first, and definitely going to say a little prayer and thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity. I’m just very grateful.”
Now, the Bay Area can exhale from exhaustion after the weeklong festivities are over. Super Bowl 50 will go down as one of the most memorable on the field, as well as off the field. For us, it was a blessing to be surrounded by all of the hype and the events that we would not have a chance to experience otherwise. It was a fitting end to the 50th season of the Super Bowl, in the Golden State. With tourists packing up and heading home, the chaos will subside. Regardless, the Golden State will return to being ours, and the memories will last for another 50 years.