Opinion

2011 — the year the NFL jumped the shark

Rick Robinson Author, Writ of Mandamus

In 1977 my world changed.

In three short weeks, one of the greatest shows of my youth, Happy Days, suddenly seemed silly. The spin-off from the movie American Graffiti had been the best series on television for four seasons. Everyone at my school tuned in to see the exploits of Richie, Potsie, Ralph Mouth and the Fonz.

Happy Days opened its fifth season with a three-part episode in which Fonzie, clad in a bathing suit and leather jacket, jumped over a shark on water skis. Happy days went on for another six seasons, but for us true fans, Happy Days was done.

Over time, “jumping the shark” became the new term for describing the episode when a television show had reached its peak and started down hill.

Super Bowl XLV will be remembered as the Super Bowl that the NFL jumped the shark.

No one will remember it was a great game

The Super Bowl shark-jumping began with Christina Aguilera’s self-indulgent singing of the national anthem. At least I think it was the national anthem. There was so much warbling and blown words that, for all I know, Aguilera could have been singing “Pants on the Floor.”

Note to singers — the national anthem was written as a march. Few performers can sing it as if it were R&B, jazz or some other genre and make it sound good. The performance of the national anthem is not about you. Your audience doesn’t give a damn about your stunning vocal range.

Singing the national anthem should be someone’s chance to pay humble tribute to a nation which values freedom so much that it has allowed the likes of Christina Aguilera to become famous. Next time, the NFL needs to find someone who will sing the damn song and get off the stage.

The shark-jumping didn’t end with Christina Aguilera. This year’s Super Bowl seemed to be a lot of commercials and a concert — both of which happened to be interrupted by a very good football game. Last night, the NFL seemed far more concerned with generating advertising revenue from Clydesdales horses and talking babies than letting an offense find a rhythm.

The halftime show, with people dancing around a stage wearing illuminated boxes on their heads, actually had me longing for Up with People. If you are young enough to have enjoyed the halftime show, please ask your parents about Up with People.

And, finally, the ultimate shark-jumping moment came when Commissioner Roger Goodell presented the Lombardi Trophy to the Green Bay Packers and thanked the fans of the NFL for a great season. Fans better have enjoyed the game, because if there is a labor lockout in the fall, it’s the last game they’re going to see for a while.

Probably the best thing about Super Bowl XLV was that it marked a definite end to the 2010 (and possibly the 2011) football season. It’s almost time for America’s pastime — baseball.

15 days until pitchers and catchers report

Okay, to be fair, baseball has had its share of flubs, including bad versions of the national anthem. Back in 1990, the Padres infamously allowed Roseanne Barr to sing. But San Diego was the home of Ted Williams, so baseball fans let them off and just made them promise to never let her near the ballpark again.

The Padres got to the World Series in 1998. Tony Bennett and opera singer Robert Merrell sang the national anthem at the first two games at Yankee Stadium that year. The Padres got the hint.

Soon the storms of winter will be behind us. In two weeks we’re born again and there’s new grass on the field.

During the 2011 World Series, no rallies will be stopped for television time-outs. And, no games will be interrupted for 45 minutes after four and a half innings to set up a stage for people to dance around with illuminated boxes on their heads.

If my hometown boys of summer — the Cincinnati Reds — make the World Series this year, I will have a party. But, I’ll only invite people who actually want to watch the game.

Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny, has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.