You know that football rules -- at least for a day -- when even horse racing bows to the Super Bowl. Yes, horse racing, with all its global wealth and clout -- a sport big enough to tell other sports to go stuff it...most of the time. This morning, lifelong racing fan and former horse owner that I am, I checked in with TVG and HRTV, as usual, to see what stakes races were coming up today. The punter guys and gals at their desk were busy mixing NFL countdown with Sunday Pick 6 carryover countdown, and assuring everyone that the final East Coast post time would come before kick-off time in Tampa.
"So you won't miss a minute of football," one of the HRTV guys said. "We all know you won't be watching us anyway."
It's the day that America stands still. It's the day that used to be Inauguration Day too, but the Inauguration couldn't compete and changed its date. This year has a special urgency, with everybody trying to forget what a mess the country is in. If you are "somebody," you've been invited to the President's bi-partisan Super Bowl Party at the White House. (Except John McCain, who grumpily turned down Obama's invitation because he wants to sit at home and really focus on the game.)
Elsewhere on TV, most networks and channels brace themselves for an afternoon of viewer wipeout. Animal Planet deals with sparse viewership by airing the Puppy Bowl, with its Kitten Half-Time Act.
Every gay man and lesbian I know will be forgetting about Prop 8 for a day...attending somebody else's watch party or hosting one of their own. If they have two TVs, they might have one of them tuned to something else. A few L.A. friends and I will be watching on my one and only TV. My girlfriend Heather will be watching in Toronto, taking a one-day vacation from her fave sport (golf), and she and I will talk on the phone now and then. Since we are all news junkies, now and then we will sneak over to MSNBC or CNN for some news. But we won't bother with tailgating or a Super Bowl betting pool, just send out for pizza. I can only imagine the spike in pizza sales today.
Speaking of betting pools, the one little cloud on the day might be a drop in the betting handle. This year people just don't have the spare dollars to throw around, even on the Super Bowl. Last year a near-record $92 million was bet, and the sports books took a bath on the game, losing $2.6 million as the Giants upset the Patriots.
My pick? I don't position myself as an expert on football, but I've been listening carefully to all the countdown stuff, and conclude that it's not a good idea to underestimate the Cardinals. The gods and goddesses are always glad to arrange an upset. Heather, who used to be a horse-racing handicapper, agrees with me. Today would be a good day to make a little money if the underdog wins. Go Cardinals!