It was the most disappointing television event since the final episode of "Seinfeld." Denver's 34-19 victory over Atlanta in Super Bowl XXXIII was such a crashing bore that not even Fox analyst John Madden could drum up much enthusiasm for it.
It was the typical Super Bowl that made viewers long for the commercials. And perhaps because of the pregame hype surrounding them, the ads were generally an undistinguished lot, too.
Late in the game there was a decent one-two kick from a Jerry Seinfeld ad for American Express and an ad for the World Wrestling Federation that satirized their images.
But overall, the ad quality was about as exciting as logging on to a computer. The year before, millennium computer and Internet ads dominated the night. Computers may crash in 48 hours after the sexy but all too brief promotion for Victoria Secret's, which advised viewers about an upcoming Internet fashion show.
It helped to be a movie fan to understand an Apple ad featuring HAL 9000 of "2001: A Space Odyssey," who was talking to the character played by Keir Dullea (Dave) about the Y2K bug.
One clever spot for an Internet job placement company featured several kids saying ironic things about the future of jobs like "I want to be forced into early retirement."
At the start of the game, Fox play-by-play man Pat Summerall sounded as if he had waited too long to retire. He misidentified two players before the kickoff but quickly righted himself and had a stronger game than the Falcons.
Later Summerall did have trouble identifying Calista Flockhart, the actress who stars on the Fox hit "Ally McBeal." Summerall kept calling Flockhart "Ally," suggesting that the actress and the character were one and the same. And he never identified her co-star, Greg Germann (Richard Fish), who sat next to her.
In one of the few times Madden got to have a little fun, the analyst suggested the game strategy that Flockhart was discussing with Germann. Later, Madden made a metaphor around a bologna sandwich that was about as understandable as some of the ads. He also had fun discussing the blue moon over Miami, which meant things happening Sunday were occurring "once in a blue moon." Which is about as often as there is a decent Super Bowl.
Madden was strong analyzing the big things, noting that Denver's blitzes disrupted Falcon quarterback Chris Chandler. But the announcers didn't discuss Atlanta Coach Dan Reeves' bizarre decisions on whether to go for two points late in the game. Why did Reeves go for two points when trailing 34-19? The announcers didn't really deal with it.
Madden did question Reeves' first-half decision to go for a first down rather than kick a field goal to make the score 7-6. The Reeves gamble failed, though a short miss by kicker Morten Andersen later made you wonder if the coach knew something we didn't.
The announcers praised the officials, who have taken a beating this year. But Fox's replays never seemed to focus on a few potential officiating mistakes on catches near the sidelines. It was hard to tell if the officials were that good or if Fox was that bad exposing their mistakes. Here are more highs and lows on a less than Super night.
Officiating Mistake? Fox was in commercial and almost missed the game-breaking play in which Denver's John Elway hit receiver Rod Smith for the touchdown that gave the Broncos a 17-6. Fox's tardiness led to Summerall's best line: "We almost didn't get back in time. Atlanta didn't get back in time." The officials generally are pretty good at making sure the game doesn't resume before a snap, but Fox almost missed another play, too.
Sorry, Wrong Number: It was suggested that Atlanta's Cornelius Bennett planned on calling some former Bills teammates if the Falcons won. Considering his comments about the partying the Bills did in their Super Bowl run, one wondered if any Bill would accept the call.
Smart Numbers: The Fox graphics and the information they imparted were superb.
Class Act: Bills Doug Flutie, Bruce Smith and Eric Moulds were featured in an NFL spot that thanked the fans for their support. It was as clever as many of the higher-priced ads.
Is This Fox or What: Though Fox ran a promo for its new racy animated show, "Family Guy" that featured a detached penis from a statue, no one could seem to say what Falcon defensive back Eugene Robinson was arrested for on Saturday. Summerall suggested that we all heard about it without explaining what it (solicitation of prostitution) was. Who was Fox protecting? Young ears or the image of the NFL?
Play of the Game: The game turned into a rout after an interception of a tipped pass that ended an Atlanta drive that could have cut the score to 17-13. But the magnitude of the play wasn't emphasized by the announcers. Madden and Summerall also should have spent more time discussing Atlanta's offensive line woes.
ET Go Home Already: An uninspiring insurance ad before the halftime show featured "ET," the old movie star. With the halftime show featuring Gloria Estefan and Stevie Wonder and Cher singing the national anthem, the NFL looked as if it is being dragged into the computer age.
Brave Effort: Apparently unable to hit the high note, Cher said "brave" three times at the end to conclude on a long note.
Animated Fun: Master Card had a priceless ad featuring cartoon characters.
Maddening Moment: Why did Fox reduce the screen several times to advise us we could get more information on the Internet?. Didn't it realize we wanted a full picture and wouldn't log on the Net until it is Victoria Secret's fashion show time?