ST. LOUIS — As Monday starts to take its toll and the finality of Stan Kroenke stealing and cheating his way to a Super Bowl victory marinates in our brains, here are five things I liked about Super Bowl LVI, or Super Bowl 56 for the people who don't need to use fancy Roman initials for numbers.
A thrilling down-to-the-last-second game
No matter which side you were rooting for, all a fan of football can ask for is a good game. Sunday's matchup followed the same tone as the rest of the playoff matchups: an intense, to-the-end game that saw its final score happen in the final two minutes.
When the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals hit the two-minute warning last night, it was 20-16, Bengals. When Joe Burrow and the Cincy offense ran out of downs about 80 seconds later, Los Angeles was ahead 23-20. That's football. That's sports, basically.
A few things about the game. The Bengals had a walking-wounded offensive line, but Rams QB Matthew Stafford lost his big receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. halfway into the second quarter. The Bengals receivers dropped key passes in the fourth quarter, and Aaron Donald closed the book on Burrow and the Bengals on those final two drives. Did the refs start throwing flags very late in the game? Yes, but that's something they do a lot in every single meaningful football game.
I won't vote against the idea that Kroenke and the NFL cheated their way to a validating Super Bowl win-Roger Goodell and the league did help Stan illegally move the team-but I think the Rams defense did find more ways to slow Burrow and company down as the game moved on. After scoring to open the second half, the Bengals didn't score again.
Stafford and Donald get their due
After spending close to a decade in Detroit setting up to be Dan Marino 2.0, Stafford was traded to the Rams (Stan K. actually improving the team!) and found his Super Bowl ring. He proved he could get the job done with a great receiver, but what he proved Sunday night was being able to finish the job without that one, big target. Donald's case is more bittersweet.
He started his career as a Ram in St. Louis before he became the best player in the league. When the Rams went back out west, they took Donald and that stung harder than anything else at the time.
When Super Bowl 56 mattered most, Donald showed his menace. On the biggest stage, he helped the Rams stop Burrow and Cincinnati repeatedly in the second half. That entire defensive line is a beast, but Donald anchors it. I am happy to see him collect a ring. Much deserved.
The Halftime show delivered big time
While I am not a big fan of the rap and R&B genre, that show delivered. Love or hate the music, but it's near impossible to deny the effect of that music and songs on so many people's lives. When life gets really dark, millions turn to rap and find their voices in the illustrious sounds of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Mary J. Blige. For another generation, it's Kendrick Lamar. For another, it's Eminem. He took the MVP trophy for the halftime show with his still-potent live performance of "Lose Yourself," the Academy Award-winning song from the movie about his life, "Eight Mile." If Danie Day Lewis listens to it to prepare for a role, everyone should give it a listen.
The Super Bowl halftime show isn't supposed to be a showcase of one musician or an individual band. There are tours and albums for people to seek out that narrow pleasure. This annual event is supposed to be a big show, one with performances and songs, engineered to ignite or relaunch a feeling in the viewer. For many generations, that emotion was met Sunday. That was a show. It was like a Black Eyed Peas performance, but actually good.
Take the "Sopranos" commercial, leave most of the commercials
The Budweiser ad, featuring a hurt horse and a resourceful and loyal dog, was great. But most of the spots were repetitive, familiar, or just not that funny. The Paralympics brothers commercial was also heartfelt and put together well. But the movie and TV show fanatic in me adored the "Sopranos" spot. With the real life Tony Soprano passed and gone (James Gandolfini died in 2013), it was Soprano's kids on the show; Jamie-Lynn Sigler's Meadow and Robert Iler's A.J.; who were the stars of this commercial.
Following the iconic opening theme with Soprano driving back into New Jersey after a New York visit, the spot showed Meadow driving the SUV instead of Tony, and she met A.J. at her destination. The two hugged, and that just about did it for me. That was my favorite commercial, but I'm eternally biased.
Watching the game with my family
Sports are, above all else, personal. There's nothing quite like watching a big game with your family. I remember watching the Cardinals and Red Sox nine years ago in the World Series through a window in my backyard. We had company over and needed the game on in multiple rooms.
Sunday, it was just five pets, my wife and dad, and myself packed into the living room. Three cats flanking the beagle and chihuahua; all of them couldn't care less about the actual game. The wife, having been turned into a football thinker by her husband many years before, screaming at the television about a bad play. My dad repeatedly asks me what's going to happen.
It was a family hanging out together watching a game. A game we don't usually watch outside of January and February. A game that brought us some joy and entertainment. As Robin Williams once said, that's the good stuff.
Thanks for reading.