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Super Bowl Viewership Drop in Line With Wider Decrease for N.F.L. and Sports


Sunday’s Super Bowl was watched by just 91.6 million people on CBS, the lowest number of viewers for the game on traditional broadcast television since 2006. A total of 96.4 million people watched when other platforms — like the CBS All Access streaming service and mobile phone apps — were counted, the lowest number of total viewers since 2007.Still, the Super Bowl will surely be the most watched television program of 2021, and the N.F.L. is expected to see a huge increase in television rights fees when it signs several new television distribution agreements over the next year.After peaking at 114 million television viewers in 2015, television ratings for the Super Bowl have declined in five of the past six years. The 9 percent decline in television viewership from last year’s Super Bowl is roughly in line with season-long trends. N.F.L. games were watched this season by 7 percent fewer people than the season before.Many of the necessary ingredients for a bonanza Super Bowl were present. The game featured an intriguing matchup between the two most popular quarterbacks in football, Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. The weather Sunday was freezing across much of the country, which traditionally drives people inside to be entertained by their televisions. But the game itself failed to deliver, all but ending by the third quarter when the Buccaneers led, 31-9, with no fourth-quarter scoring or hint of a competitive game. Viewership is measured as the average of the audience watching at each minute of the game; the longer a game is competitive and viewers stay tuned in, the better.The N.F.L. joins almost every other sport in seeing viewership declines over the past year. The pandemic shut down the sporting world for months in the spring, and when games resumed they frequently lacked energy with few or no fans in the stands. Games were often played on unusual days or at unusual times, disrupting the traditional sports viewership calendar.

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The Crowd, the Quiet, the Cutouts: A Strange Year at the Super Bowl


Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.On Sunday, Benjamin Hoffman was at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., covering his 12th Super Bowl for The New York Times. His first, in 2009, was also in Tampa, But that might be where the similarities stop. Attendance for the game, a lopsided 31-9 win by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Kansas City Chiefs, was limited to a third of the stadium’s capacity, and the normal week of mega events was minimized to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. In a series of emails, Mr. Hoffman, a senior editor on the Sports desk, shared what the game was like from up close. Here is that edited exchange.You’ve covered previous Super Bowls. Those were usually preceded by days of events that gave the game its oversize feeling. What was it like when you arrived in Tampa this year?The entire week felt considerably different. Instead of spending Monday through Friday in hotel conference rooms with players, we were at home talking to them on Zoom. I arrived in Tampa on Friday — typically when a Super Bowl city has reached a fever pitch — and found it to have the feel of much earlier in the week. The various signs of a Super Bowl being in town — the blocked-off streets, the pop-up vendors, the N.F.L. gear being worn everywhere — were there, but the crowds seemed much smaller, and the media gatherings were nonexistent.Did you miss having face-to-face interviews with players and coaches?I think they did the best they could with the Zoom access to players, but nothing can really replicate the middle of a Super Bowl week when some of the media has cleared out and you find yourself in a room of players who would love to talk about the game rather than the off-the-wall questions they’ve spent the first few days of the week answering. The remote access also limited our ability to bounce around between players. A lot of the organic reporting that happens at Super Bowls just by being around people and events was impossible.How was it inside a Super Bowl with limited attendance? Did your senses pick up on anything in a less-than-packed stadium?The second I walked in I could tell just how few people were going to be there because the stands were already full of the corrugated plastic cutouts of fans. The people who were allowed in were spaced out.At first, the regulations about masks and distancing were followed closely, but that waned as the game started. By the second quarter, fans were milling around, many of them maskless, and they were treating the game like a tailgate party, which was pretty heavily influenced by it being the home team playing.The way The Times covers big sporting events has evolved. Online, a live briefing is updated constantly. How has the way a journalist works during the game changed?The live coverage has made everything more immediate, moving up the timeline on everything we do. Dave Anderson, the legendary Times sports columnist, had a famous line when an editor called him mid-game to ask what he was writing about. He said something along the lines of “it hasn’t happened yet.” We can’t work with a strategy like that anymore. We were writing everything as it happened and doing our best to make sense of all of it. In some ways it’s a lot easier — you’re largely writing about what’s in front of you — but the most difficult thing is the nagging feeling that there is a more pulled-back analysis that you’d like to be able to do but you just don’t have the time. Ben Shpigel largely detached to do that analysis, allowing others to do the more immediate stuff.As you mentioned, the Buccaneers won playing in their stadium, the first time that ever happened. Did it feel like a home game?Right up until game time I would have insisted the crowd was around 50-50, as Chiefs fans were being plenty vocal and the teams’ color schemes are fairly similar. But once they started playing it was apparent that it was a Buccaneers crowd. Their touchdowns were greeted with thunderous cheers, and in moments of surprising silence — a stadium that is two-thirds empty can really get quiet — you could hear fans shouting insults at [Chiefs quarterback] Patrick Mahomes. It had to be strangest for the players, because it was the Super Bowl, but in many ways it felt almost like a preseason game.Maybe the N.F.L. had timing and a structural advantage on its side. There are fewer games and less travel, for example. But are you surprised the league was able to play its entire season?The league got in all 256 regular season games and every playoff game, but there were some major compromises along the way that I’m not sure other leagues would have been willing to make. The most extreme was Denver having to play a game with a practice squad wide receiver at quarterback, but there were other issues, like the Browns playing the Jets with no wide receivers and the Saints playing a game with just one running back. The Steelers, thanks to an outbreak on the Tennessee Titans, essentially played the entire season without a bye week. So while I’ll absolutely credit the N.F.L. with working hard to make the season happen, I think they have perhaps overstated how smoothly the whole thing went.

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At the Super Bowl, the N.F.L.’s Social Message Is Muddled


The N.F.L. likes to project power and precision. Sideline catches are scrutinized with zoom lenses, first downs are measured in inches and Air Force jets fly over stadiums just as “The Star-Spangled Banner” reaches its peak.But when it comes to topics like race, health and safety, the league’s certainty dissolves into a series of mixed messages.That was the case on Sunday at the Super Bowl, the N.F.L.’s crowning game, which is typically watched by about 100 million viewers in the United States. The championship game provides the league a massive platform each year to promote itself as America’s corporate do-gooder, with the best interests of its enormous fan base at heart. That was harder to do this year as the country remained roiled by the deadly coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated festering political division and racial unrest, issues the N.FL. had to plow past to complete its season.On Sunday, the N.F.L. trumpeted its support for the fight against social injustice. The national anthem was performed by two musicians, one Black and one white. The poet Amanda Gorman, who wowed the country with her recitation at President Biden’s inauguration, read an ode to the three honorary captains — a teacher, a nurse and a soldier — frontline workers in different fields. The TV announcers spoke often of the work that the league and the players have done to battle racial inequities.Yet, moments later, when the Kansas City Chiefs took the field, the N.F.L. played a recording in the reduced capacity stadium of the made-up war cry that is a team custom. The prompt got fans to swing their arms in a “tomahawk chop,” an act that many find disrespectful and a perpetuation of racist stereotypes of the nation’s first people. Last week, the Kansas City Indian Center, a social service agency, put up two billboards in the city that read, ‘Change the name and stop the chop!”“At the start of the game it was all unify, unify, unify, and then there’s this racist chant,” said Louis Moore, an associate professor of history at Grand Valley State University who studies connections between race and sports. “Eight months after George Floyd, and you’ve done all this stuff, letting players put phrases on the backs of their helmets, giving workers a paid holiday for Juneteenth. They are putting a corporate Band-Aid on a problem instead of dealing with it.”Moore pointed to other inconvenient realities that were either dismissed, ignored or obscured by the relentless messaging.There was scant mention of Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has not played since the 2016 season, when he began kneeling during the national anthem to shine a light on police brutality.That led to a sharp, viral rebuke on Twitter from the singer Mariah Carey.There was little talk of the league’s abysmal record hiring people of color as head coaches and general managers even as television cameras showed the Chiefs’ successful offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, who is Black and has been unable to land a head coaching position in multiple hiring cycles.Before the game, CBS Sports showed a segment that featured Viola Davis, the Academy Award-winning actress, saluting Kenny Washington, a Black player who in 1946 reintegrated the N.F.L., which had an unofficial color barrier for 13 years.Yet there was no discussion of a lawsuit brought by two former N.F.L. players who accuse the league of rigging the concussion settlement to make it harder for Black players to receive payments.The league spent considerable time lauding nurses and other health care workers on the front lines who have been helping fight the coronavirus. It had invited 7,500 vaccinated workers to the game, a signal to Americans that if you, too, get inoculated, you will be able to safely attend big events like the Super Bowl.Not discussed was that just hosting the Super Bowl could lead to a spike in the number of infections. Sure, the N.F.L. provided fans at the game with face masks and hand sanitizer, but little if any contact tracing was done to monitor exposure. Tracking infected fans will be made all the more difficult as people return to their homes in all corners of the country.The Super Bowl, American sports’ biggest party, is not confined to TV and phone screens. The week of events leading up to the game was a magnet for tens of thousands of fans who attended parties or flocked to Tampa’s bars and restaurants, often unmasked. In the aftermath of the home team’s victory, mask-less revelers took to the streets of Tampa, an utterly predictable scene that has followed other major championships. Many of the people who celebrated without regard to social distancing or other guidelines will expose others to the virus as they travel home to all corners of the country.For all the N.F.L.’s feel-good words and gestures to this moment in American history at the Super Bowl, and its attempts to use football to try to bring the nation together, the league’s carefully crafted message risked being muddled by its actions.

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Britt Reid, Son of Chiefs Coach, Drank Alcohol Ahead of Car Crash


Britt Reid, the outside linebackers coach for the Kansas City Chiefs and a son of the head coach, Andy Reid, told police officers he had “two or three drinks” before he was involved in an automobile crash Thursday night that left a child with life-threatening injuries, according to a search warrant filed in Jackson County, Mo., circuit court.The crash occurred just days before the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, when the Chiefs, the reigning N.F.L. champions, played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Chiefs flew to Tampa on Saturday, but Britt Reid, 35, did not make the trip.According to the search warrant, an officer could smell “a moderate odor of alcoholic beverages” on Reid after the crash. The search warrant said the police sought to draw Reid’s blood and test it for alcohol and other controlled substances.On Friday, in a statement, the team confirmed that Reid had been involved in a crash, but provided no details. “We are in the process of gathering information, and we will have no further comment at this time,” the statement said.In response to an inquiry about a possible accident involving Britt Reid, a spokesman for the police department in Kansas City, Mo., said that a crash had occurred on Interstate 435, not far from the Chiefs’ training facility.The spokesman would not provide more details or identify anyone who was involved in the crash, citing a Missouri law that prohibits the police from releasing the names of people who have not been charged with a crime. But the details in the police incident report, such as the make and model of the cars involved and the description of what happened, matched the search warrant, which does name Reid.According to the police, a vehicle ran out of gas on a freeway entrance ramp less than a mile from Arrowhead Stadium. The driver stopped with his flashers on and called his cousins for help. When they arrived, the cousins parked in front of the disabled car and left their lights on, as the battery was dying in the disabled car.Reid entered the on-ramp driving a Ram pickup truck and hit the left front of the stranded car, according to the police incident report. The driver was sitting in the car and was not injured.Reid’s pickup then slammed into the rear of the cousins’ car. The driver and an adult in the front passenger seat were not injured. But a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old sitting in the back were both injured and taken to the hospital, the 5-year-old with life-threatening injuries.The 5-year-old was still in critical condition on Monday morning with a brain injury, according to a police statement.After the Super Bowl, which the Chiefs lost, 31-9, Andy Reid addressed his son’s accident for the first time.“My heart goes out to all those that were involved in the accident, in particular the family with the little girl who’s fighting for her life,” Andy Reid said, adding that his “heart bleeds.”Britt Reid had non-life-threatening injuries, the police said, but complained of stomach pain and was also taken to a hospital after the accident.“Most serious-injury/fatality crashes take weeks to investigate, as do criminal investigations,” the Kansas City Police Department said in a statement released Monday, explaining why no arrests have been made and the names of those involved in the crash have not been released. “This is no different.”Reid has been a Chiefs coach since his father was hired as head coach eight years ago, and has spent the last two seasons as the outside linebackers coach. Before joining the Chiefs’ coaching staff, he spent three seasons at Temple University as a graduate assistant working with the offense.He was also an intern for his father with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.Britt Reid has been in legal trouble previously. In 2007, Reid, then 22, pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges stemming from a road rage dispute. He brandished a handgun at another driver in suburban Philadelphia on the same day his brother Garrett was arrested after a drug-related traffic crash. Andy Reid took a five-week leave of absence from the Eagles after his sons were arrested.Britt Reid also pleaded guilty to simple assault, possession of an instrument of crime and drug possession in the case. While out on bail before the case was decided, he was arrested after driving into a shopping cart in a parking lot and eventually pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.In 2012, Garrett Reid was found dead of an accidental overdose in his dormitory room at the Eagles’ training site in Bethlehem, Pa. He was 29.

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Serena Williams and Tom Brady: Ageless Wonders With a Difference


MELBOURNE, Australia — As fans fished for autographs by tying cords around oversize tennis balls and dangling them over the rail for Serena Williams, her mind drifted to the other side of the world.“How amazing!” Williams muttered, as much to herself as anyone else, while she scribbled her signature after her 6-1, 6-1 first-round victory against Laura Siegemund at the Australian Open on Monday. “Can you imagine winning the Super Bowl at 43?”In the lead-up to this year’s Open, Williams, 39, had repeatedly expressed her admiration for Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback who delivered his seventh Super Bowl title on Sunday night. His determination and excellence have inspired her “since when he beat Kurt Warner,” she said, referring to the New England Patriots’ victory over the St. Louis Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl.Brady’s only misstep, Williams joked last week, was his choice of teams last year as a free agent. “I mean, he just should have come to the Dolphins, really,” said Williams, who owns a minority stake in Miami’s N.F.L. franchise along with her sister Venus.Williams, 39, sees in Brady a kindred spirit, someone whose appetite for competition and desire to succeed have not receded over time. “I look at Tom Brady, it’s so inspiring,” she said.With his latest title, his first outside New England, Brady brought to a boil the long-simmering debate about sports’ greatest athlete. That discussion must include Williams, a 23-time major winner whose next Grand Slam singles title will tie Margaret Court’s career record. And Williams, 39, may be the only member of greatest-ever debate to have won one of her titles while pregnant. She delivered her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, via an emergency C-section on Sept. 1, 2017, nearly seven months after she won the Australian Open. She said they haven’t spent a day apart since.“Is that healthy?” Williams said Monday. She laughed. “Not at all. Not even close. But every single day I just want to be around her.”Williams’s choice to be a doting parent, come hell or hard quarantine, may be where her path most clearly diverges from Brady’s. Two weeks before the Super Bowl, Brady was reportedly alone in his Tampa mansion, having sent away his wife and three children so he could give his undivided attention to football for the 12 days leading to the big game.Two weeks before the Australian Open, Williams was finishing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation, which required her to hole up in a hotel for 19 hours a day with her husband, the tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, and their high-spirited daughter.Williams acknowledged that Brady’s preparation made more sense, but said, “I wasn’t strong enough to do the banishment.”She added: “I would not have been able to function without my 3-year-old around. Not even close. I think I would be in a depression.”Elite athletes typically don’t do much in their down time on the days or weeks in which they are competing, preserving their energy for the bursts of effort their sports demand. For Williams, the accelerating and downshifting processes are compressed. She’s a drag racer, going in a flash from mama to megastar.One of her matches at a tuneup event last week at Melbourne Park ended just after 8 p.m., leaving Williams caught in parenting territory similar to the terra incognita between the service line and baseline. Olympia’s bedtime was 8:30. Should she rush back to tuck in her baby or go through her usual post-match paces and make peace with not seeing her daughter until the morning?Her instinct was to rush home. “But I’m a little torn,” Williams said in her post-match news conference that day. “I’m like, maybe I should just let her go to bed so she doesn’t get too moody.”Williams added: “She’s too hyper. She needs her rest. She’s a busy kid. She has a fully booked schedule.”Like mother, like daughter. “She really is,” Williams said with a reflective sigh.Before another of Williams’s matches last week, Ohanian walked to his seat. In his arms he carried a squirming Olympia, who pointed to Williams on the court and said, “Hey, that’s my mama!”Williams said her daughter knows that the court is her office. But does she assume every working woman plays tennis? Williams isn’t sure. Sometimes when Olympia attends matches or practice sessions, she’ll freak out Williams by mimicking everyone else and calling her Serena.Williams said: “I’m like: ‘You can’t say Serena. You have to call me Mama.’”Williams’s second round opponent will be a 24-year-old Serbian, Nina Stojanovic, who was younger than Olympia when Serena won the first of her 73 W.T.A. Tour titles. Stojanovic would do well to tune out the player introductions Wednesday since it requires a sizable chunk of the six-minute warm-up period to recite Williams’s achievements.“When the announcer said on the court, ‘23 Grand Slam titles, seven Australian Opens,’ he was like, ‘14 doubles titles,’ then he starts talking about mixed doubles, I’m like jeez,” Williams said last week.But none of what Williams has done matters as much to her as what is left to accomplish. When Brady said before the Super Bowl that his favorite championship is his next one, it resonated with Williams. “That would absolutely be my answer, for sure,” she said.Why?“Because otherwise you’re living off of what you already did,” she said.That mind-set is why Williams can conduct a tour of the trophy room in her house in Miami, as she recently did for Architectural Digest, and struggle to identify which trophies are from which tournament.It was why she is unbothered that one of her seven Wimbledon trophies disappeared after a party she threw with Venus several years ago. Or maybe it was one of Venus’s five that vanished. “Was that my Wimbledon trophy or was that her Wimbledon trophy?” Williams said. “The argument is still going on.”She added wryly, “Conversations in the Williams home.”Since her daughter’s birth, Williams has appeared in two Grand Slam finals but has yet to win one. With her next Grand Slam title, she can show everybody, as Brady did Sunday in Tampa, that she still has the power to amaze.“You can’t say it was the system he was at formerly,” Williams said, referring to Brady’s six Super Bowl titles under Coach Bill Belichick in New England. But she knows better. “It’s definitely Tom Brady.”

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The Weeknd Emerges From the Shadows at the Super Bowl Halftime Show


For almost all of his decade-long career, the Weeknd has been finding ever more ornate ways to duck the spotlight, becoming immeasurably famous and popular while maintaining a cool, skeptical and effective remove from the harsh, sometimes goofy spotlight of fame.Out on the stage at the Super Bowl halftime show, though, there isn’t much one can do to hide. It is a locale that flattens nuance, sandpapers intent. It’s live and heavily vetted. For someone whose songs often dive deep into traumatic and provocative subject matter, but gleam so brightly and convincingly that it’s easy to miss the brittle soul within, it is an unlikely, almost vulnerable place to find yourself.Which probably explains why, at Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., the Weeknd rejiggered the terms of the performance. What would ordinarily be a hyperchoreographed spectacle with countless moving parts was instead something more focused and, at times, unnervingly intimate. Even though his music tends toward the maximalist, the Weeknd found several ways to make the performance appear small, a kind of secret whispered in front of an audience that tops 100 million.In a performance clearly designed for at-home consumption, he focused intently on the cameras. Behind him was a band and a choir interspersed among a neon cityscape, and often he was surrounded by dancers — their faces bandaged, in keeping with the fame-skeptic iconography of his recent music videos — but often, the Weeknd stood alone. His eye contact was intense. When he danced, he mostly did so in isolation. In the midst of a pyrotechnic affair, there he was, keeping his own time.That was also partly the result of the unique circumstances of the event this year: a grand-scaled affair reimagined with pandemic restrictions in mind. Rather than the usual stage setup — assembled at midfield, then rapidly disassembled after the show — the Weeknd performed largely from the stands, only descending to the field for the final few minutes of his set.Wearing a glittery red blazer and spectator shoes with an all-black ensemble, he sometimes appeared like a cabaret mayor, a master of ceremony for a space-age function. He stuck to the biggest of his many big hits. “Starboy” was vibrant, and “The Hills” had a majestic sweep.After “The Hills,” he pivoted to something more peculiar, walking into an overlit labyrinth and performing “Can’t Feel My Face” amid a scrum of face-bandaged look-alikes. The camera was hand-held and unsteady, communicating a glamorous mayhem that this event usually doesn’t dabble in.Afterward, he tempered the mood with some of his biggest-tent hits: the sunshiny “I Feel It Coming,” the oversized “Save Your Tears” and then “Earned It,” his theatrical ballad from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” soundtrack.There could perhaps be no more fitting moment for the Weeknd to be headlining the halftime show: After almost a year of avoiding other people, who better to set the terms of public engagement than pop music’s greatest hermit? That said, it was jarring this week to watch him poke his head out from the shadows, engaging in a terse, not wholly comfortable news conference, and yuk-yuking in a comedy sketch with James Corden.There are some responsibilities of this level of fame that aren’t negotiable. Asked at the news conference whether he would temper his songs or performance in any way, given how lurid and graphic his recent videos have been, the Weeknd insisted, “We’ll keep it PG for the families, definitely.”Which is to say, there was no mischief injected onto one of pop music’s grandest, most-viewed and most scrutinized stages — take, for example, the raw carnal provocations of Prince’s 2007 rain-shellacked performance, or the fire-eyed political radicalism of Beyoncé’s takeover of Coldplay’s tepid set in 2016, or M.I.A.’s middle finger in 2012.Mostly, as promised, he kept it PG, though he did toss in a sly grin and a tiny sashay of the hip during “I Feel It Coming,” and the scattered mayhem during “Can’t Feel My Face” suggested far more sinister things than could be represented. His recent music videos have focused on the grotesquerie of celebrity worship, but that narrative was nodded to but largely sidelined.This is the second halftime show produced in part by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, in an arrangement struck while the league was trying to address fallout from its handling of Colin Kaepernick’s racial justice protests. In recent years, the N.F.L. has seemingly perpetually been in crisis-response mode. This season was consistently challenged by the impact of the coronavirus.Before the game, the rock-soul singer H.E.R. performed “America the Beautiful,” injecting some Prince-minded guitar filigree. And the national anthem was a duet between the phenomenally gifted soul singer Jazmine Sullivan and the country stoic Eric Church, wearing a purple moto-esque jacket as if to overemphasize the political and cultural middle ground the performance — sturdy, sometimes impressive — was so clearly striving for.In the Weeknd, the N.F.L. opted for one of the few unimpeachable pop stars of the past decade, a consistent hitmaker with an ear for contemporary production and an affection for the grandeur and sheen of the biggest 1980s pop.Only during the last couple of minutes, when he finally emerged onto the field, did he acknowledge just how far he had come. Playing at that moment was a snippet of “House of Balloons,” the murky title song from his extremely murky debut mixtape, released a decade ago. At that point, the Weeknd was a total cipher, a Toronto miscreant with an ethereal voice and zero interest in sharing himself with the rest of the world.This nod to his past was quick — a wink for longtime fans — and it gave way to “Blinding Lights,” his exuberant smash from 2019, which topped the Hot 100 for four weeks. It’s a sterling song that evokes both an idyllic future and triggers aural sense memories of mega-pop’s glory years. On the field, he was surrounded by hundreds of Weeknd-alike dancers. In the beginning, he moved with them in lock step. But as the song swelled, and the dancers began to swarm in odd patterns, the Weeknd moved in his own rhythm, holding the camera’s gaze, alone amid the chaos.

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10 Things You Might Have Missed at the Super Bowl


There was a time when Tom Brady did not play in and win Super Bowls. Sure, it was when Copernicus was trying to figure out which direction the Earth moved, but the time did exist.Sunday was not one of those times. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers soundly defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in a game that lacked any and all drama, much like an episode of “Frasier.” His victory means that Brady and the writer of this piece have now combined for seven championship rings. Congratulations to all.The game itself wasn’t competitive, but there were plenty of interesting things that happened off the field — and, for some brief moments, on it. How could there not be? Super Bowl Sunday is a longstanding American tradition featuring hours of a corporate advertising bonanza disguised as a football game, with celebrities giddily taking part. We’re going to have some stuff to chat about.This is the dynamic that creates glowing pregame tributes to frontline workers who are fighting the coronavirus, while at the same time showing shots of crowded stands. There were glossy segments highlighting the N.F.L.’s commitment to equality, with nary a mention of Colin Kaepernick. That fell to Mariah Carey, who posted on Twitter, “Happy Colin Kaepernick Appreciation Day!”If you were focused on the game — and managed to stay focused even as the game got out of hand — we salute you. But maybe you stepped away for a drink refill. Maybe you fell asleep. Maybe you were The Weeknd and had to prep for a halftime performance. Here are some things you might have missed.1. The Puppy BowlI’m sorry, let’s try that again. THE PUPPY BOWL!!!!!!!!!! The true Big Game took place with canines, as it does every year thanks to Animal Planet. (It’s pretaped, but still.) This year’s sweetheart was a puppy named Chunky Monkey, who ran onto the field and promptly fell asleep, much like most of the Chiefs defense would appear to do hours later.This game actually had drama too, because Team Ruff scored a last-second touchdown to defeat Team Fluff, 73-69.2. The Oatly CommercialOatly, a food and beverage company based in Sweden, ran one of the strangest commercials in Super Bowl history. It featured the company’s chief executive, Toni Petersson, playing a keyboard in a field and singing: “It’s like milk but made for humans. It’s like milk but made for humans. Wow. Wow. No cow. No, no, no. Wow. Wow. No cow. No, no, no. Wow. Wow.”That was the entire commercial and that’s the exact quote. I have it memorized. Oatly’s Instagram account later posted an image of Petersson wearing a shirt with his image on it that reads, “I Totally Hated That Oatly Commercial.”3. A Vince Lombardi HologramThe most famous coach in N.F.L. history gave an inspirational speech before kickoff — well, a hologram that looked like him did. It was a bit odd — given that Vince Lombardi looked like a video game character — but we’ll give the N.F.L. credit for thinking outside the box, and then coding those thoughts.4. Miley Cyrus’s Throwback JamsMiley Cyrus’s pregame concert — remember concerts? — was outstanding, featuring her collaborating with Billy Idol and Joan Jett. She performed a handful of covers, but the best performances were with Idol (“Night Crawling,” “White Wedding”) and Jett (“Bad Karma, “Bad Reputation”).5. Bruce Springsteen Loves JeepBruce Springsteen — which translates in New Jerseyese to “Deity” — appeared in a spot for Jeep, his first commercial ever. The commercial — titled “The Middle” — had plenty of political overtones and showed shots of Kansas and of Springsteen briefly driving around in a Jeep, somberly staring and urging a return to — ahem — The Middle.“The middle has been a hard place to get to lately,” Springsteen said in a voice-over. “Between red and blue, between servant and citizen, between our freedom and our fear. Now, fear has never been the best of who we are. And as for freedom, it’s not the property of just the fortunate few. It belongs to us all. Whoever you are. Wherever you’re from. It’s what connects us. And we need that connection. We need the middle.”After decades of refusing to do commercials, Springsteen finally took the plunge with a message of platitude-filled centrism while trying to sell a car. It was all a bit jarring.6. The StreakerThe most excitement from the game came late in the contest, when a fan ran onto the field, eluding security guards. He pulled his pants down and made his way into the end zone, which is one more successful end zone trip than the Chiefs had all night.Unfortunately, this did not appear to be a spontaneous act. It was apparently a stunt by a pornography website. Commercials aren’t the only way the Super Bowl is about marketing!At least there was this radio call of the interruption by the broadcaster Kevin Harlan.7. The Weeknd’s Fun House … ThingThe Weeknd performed a delightfully weird — but innovative — halftime show, featuring backup dancers wearing bandage masks, a gospel choir and a dancing stroll through a bright gold hall of mirrors. This spawned several memes and at least some bouts of dizziness.8. Amanda Gorman’s Pregame PoemAmanda Gorman, the 22-year-old poet, has become nearly ubiquitous in American culture after her recitation at President Biden’s inauguration last month. In her latest high-profile appearance, she delivered a new poem, “Chorus of the Captains,” in a taped pregame segment. It honored a nurse, a teacher and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who had been selected as honorary captains to participate in the coin toss. It was the first time the Super Bowl had featured a poet.9. Lots of Maskless Partying in TampaInside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., the signs reminding attendees to wear masks were everywhere, and fans milling around were holding placards with the same information. But mask compliance was spotty at best once the game began.In an awkward moment, the actress Rebel Wilson was shown on the stadium’s video screens in a luxury suite, and neither she nor the bulk of her group were wearing masks. Perhaps prompted by her handlers, she laughed and put a mask on, but the people around her didn’t. The same was true for many fans, who were gently reminded that the stadium’s rules required the masks, but who didn’t appear to be getting punished if they chose not to comply.The raucous crowds just outside the stadium after the game were far more intense, with fans celebrating Tampa Bay’s win in huge gatherings without a mask in sight.10. The Game ItselfLet’s be honest: Unless you are a Buccaneers fan, you probably didn’t watch the whole thing. But you’re in luck, because we condensed the game into 49 seconds. Enjoy!Benjamin Hoffman contributed reporting.

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Tampa’s Super Bowl Celebrations Bring Super Spreader Concerns


The streets of Tampa, Fla., teemed with boozy revelers into the wee hours of Monday, many of them ignoring pleas by medical experts to social distance and wear masks, after the Buccaneers crushed the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s Super Bowl. A few scrums broke out.In one of the more bizarre episodes, a man in a red T-shirt and shorts climbed a small tree in the city’s South Howard district, known as SoHo, and rocked back and forth as hundreds of fans egged him on, a video taken by Juan Carlos Chavez, a reporter for The Tampa Bay Times, showed.The man later appeared to be taken into custody by the police after people in the crowd started shoving each other, a subsequent video showed. At least one police officer appeared to get knocked to the ground.It was not immediately clear how many people were arrested after the game, which ended just after 10 p.m. local time, or whether the police issued any citations for violations of a temporary ordinance requiring people to wear masks at several popular outdoor spots in the city.The Tampa Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday morning.About two hours after the scuffle near South Howard Avenue, a convoy of police cars moved through the street in an apparent attempt to disperse the crowd. Smoke could be seen billowing in another video taken by a local reporter.In Ybor City, another part of Tampa known for its nightlife, a sea of people partied late into the night. In videos, few were wearing masks and it was not immediately clear whether any efforts had been made to disperse the crowd. A television reporter characterized the scene as “one massive dance floor.”The scene of thousands of fans tightly packed into the city’s streets and outside Raymond James Stadium represented an alternate universe from the steady warnings by the nation’s top health officials about the risks of the Super Bowl becoming a super spreader event. It also came amid growing concerns that variants of the coronavirus, including one first found in Britain, have become more transmissible.Inside the stadium, the home field of the Buccaneers that typically holds about 66,000 people, capacity had been limited to 22,000 spectators for the game. The empty seats had been filled with cardboard cutouts of fans who could not attend the Super Bowl, but paid $100 to have their photos present.Outside the stadium, there appeared to be far less of an emphasis on social distancing and wearing masks. Maskless fans in jerseys tailgated, waving Buccaneers flags and listening to music.After the game, which Tampa won 31-9 over the Chiefs, last year’s champions, a group of fans surrounded a Kansas City team bus. Many of those in that crowd also did not appear to wearing masks. Officers on motorcycles cleared the crowd for the bus to be on its way.Benjamin Hoffman and Elena Bergeron contributed reporting.

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A Painful Lesson for the Chiefs: It’s Hard to Repeat as Champions


If the Kansas City Chiefs needed a reminder of how difficult it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions, they needed only glance across the field at Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.Brady won a record seventh Super Bowl on Sunday night as the Buccaneers dominated Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on their way to a 31-9 victory in Tampa, Fla.He has appeared in 10 of the last 20 Super Bowls. But he has won two in a row just once, in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Like the New England Patriots in the 2017 season and the Seattle Seahawks in the 2014 season, the 2020 Chiefs failed in their bid to win a second straight title.“I think what makes it such a challenge is it is hard to win one Super Bowl,” Brady told reporters last week. “You cannot go buy a football team. You have to develop players.”The Buccaneers, coached by Bruce Arians, had a lot of young talent, but their roster was largely constructed in the off-season when they signed Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Leonard Fournette and others.The Chiefs, though, seemed destined to repeat. They finished the regular season with an N.F.L.-best 14-2 record and were favorites heading into the Super Bowl. Their offense looked unstoppable with quarterback Mahomes, last year’s Super Bowl most valuable player, playing well.But before the game, Mahomes acknowledged that parity in the N.F.L. made it difficult for teams to repeat as champions.“I mean, literally, you could be the worst team in the league one year and work all the way up to the Super Bowl the next,” he said.The salary cap, which limits how much money teams can spend on player contracts, is a big reason for that parity. That wasn’t the case decades ago. The Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls in the 1960s, and the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled repeat wins in the 1970s. (The Steelers did it twice.)Quarterback Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to consecutive titles in the 1980s, and the Dallas Cowboys were repeat champions in the early 1990s. But since the N.F.L. introduced a salary cap in 1994, only the Patriots and John Elway’s Denver Broncos have repeated.As is often the case in the N.F.L., injuries can derail teams in an instant. The Chiefs struggled on Sunday, in part, because they were missing their two starting offensive tackles, including Eric Fisher, one of the best tackles in the game, who missed the Super Bowl after tearing an Achilles’ tendon two weeks ago.Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, an offensive guard who has a medical degree, opted out of the 2020 season to work in his native Canada to help combat the coronavirus. Tackle Mitchell Schwartz played only the first six weeks of the season before injuring his back.The Chiefs also faced a last-minute coaching change. Their outside linebackers coach, Britt Reid — the son of the head coach, Andy Reid — missed Sunday’s game after being involved in a car crash in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday night.The Buccaneers took advantage. They sacked Mahomes three times and pressured him on 29 of his 56 drop backs, according to ESPN Stats & Info, the most in Super Bowl history. Mahomes spent most of the game scrambling from defenders behind the line of scrimmage. He threw two interceptions, no touchdowns, and needed 49 passes to accumulate just 270 yards, most of them late in the game.Retaining a roster that has made it to three consecutive A.F.C. championship games will be difficult. The Chiefs are almost $18 million over next year’s salary cap, according to Over the Cap, an independent site that tracks N.F.L. contracts and salaries. A number of key players are free agents, among them receivers Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson, center Austin Reiter and defensive backs Daniel Sorensen and Bashaud Breeland.The Chiefs will face another hurdle: The salary cap, which is based on the league’s total revenue, was about $198 million this season. It could fall to as low as $175 million next season because the league lost billions of dollars in ticket sales during the pandemic.For their part, the Buccaneers will have an estimated $28.9 million in cap space, which will give them room to re-sign players and attract free agents.The Chiefs will, however, retain Mahomes, a transcendent quarterback who signed a 10-year contract last summer worth up to $500 million. At only 25, he has many years ahead — barring injury — to match Brady, Elway, Montana, Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Bob Griese and Bart Starr as quarterbacks who have won back-to-back Super Bowls.After the game, a downtrodden Mahomes acknowledged the difficulty of winning in the N.F.L. “When we joined together we knew it wasn’t going to always be successful and we weren’t going to be able to win a thousand championships in a row,” he said. “We knew we would go through times like this, through adversity.”

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A Key to Brady’s Super Bowl Success? Gronkowski of Course


In an amusing television commercial for T-Mobile that aired in the days before the Super Bowl, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski spoofed how they both ended up playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.The ad pretends to go back in time a year, with Brady calling Gronkowski for advice on whether to retire. Gronkowski recommends retirement, but because of a bad wireless connection, Brady hears the opposite — and also thinks that Gronkowski wants to return to football and play with him in Florida. So that is what happens.It was funny for everybody except the Kansas City Chiefs, who certainly were not laughing Sunday when Brady and Gronkowski seemed to turn back the clock not one year but a decade. Their honed, or cosmic, connection was the headlining collaboration that buried the Chiefs in the Buccaneers’ 31-9 victory in their home stadium.Afterward, even Gronkowski was awed by the turn of events in roughly 12 months.“It’s unreal, surreal, man,” he said. “It has to be one of the greatest accomplishments in sports history.”Brady threw two touchdowns to Gronkowski in the first half as the Buccaneers took a commanding 15-point lead at halftime. They were the 13th and 14th touchdowns for the duo in the postseason, an N.F.L. record.At the start of the third quarter, after Kansas City cut its deficit by three points, there was Gronkowski poking the defending Super Bowl champions in the eye again. He slyly slipped into the middle of the field uncovered so he could snag another Brady pass and rumble through defenders for a 25-yard gain that set up another Buccaneers touchdown, crushing the Chiefs’ hopes.In the end, it was another example of what Brady brought with him when he left the New England Patriots behind in March and surprised the pro football world by alighting in Tampa, where playoff success was an 18-year-old memory — a Super Bowl win after the 2002 season. Brady was brilliant and precise Sunday, completing 21 of 29 throws with three touchdown passes and winning the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player Award for a fifth time, and it is now that much clearer how he can lift an entire franchise with his determination, talent and consequential presence.But Brady can also apparently revive careers other than his own. At the end of the 2018 season when Gronkowski retired at age 29, he said: “Football was bringing me down, and I didn’t like it. I was losing that joy in life.”Roughly a month after Brady signed with the Buccaneers, Gronkowski helped engineer a trade from the Patriots to Tampa Bay. According to Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians, Brady was adamant about wanting Gronkowski, his former tight end from New England, on his new team. Sunday, Gronkowski said he and Brady had several talks in that period.“So I came down to Tampa Bay and it’s just been an unbelievable story,” Gronkowski said.At first, their reunion was treated like an amusing sideshow, especially because the likeliness that Brady would succeed after relocating was treated with skepticism as well. The cynicism began to have a mocking tone when Tampa Bay won only three of its first five games and Gronkowski had just 12 catches for 140 yards. Even Brady looked subpar and confused by his new role.All that was irrelevant late Sunday evening after Brady led the Buccaneers on an unforeseen eight-game winning streak — four victories to end the regular season and four in the postseason. Along the way, there was Gronkowski, finishing the regular season with 45 catches for 623 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches.As the Buccaneers advanced through the playoffs, there had been talk that Brady, 43, had found the long rumored fountain of youth in Florida. Apparently, he let his favorite tight end have a few sips, too, because on Sunday Gronkowski, 31, looked like he was 22 again.A little more than four minutes into Sunday’s game, with Tampa Bay driving, Brady turned to his left and saw Gronkowski open in the flat. The pass hit its target in stride and Gronkowski, who is 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, accelerated away from two defenders to dash into the end zone untouched. The 8-yard score put the Buccaneers ahead 7-3, a lead they never relinquished.About halfway through the second quarter, Gronkowski worked free near the back of the end zone and Brady fired a bullet, a rising pass that can be hard to corral in traffic. But Brady and Gronkowski have executed on that connection countless times in practices and games. With practiced ease, Gronkowski leapt and secured the catch for a 17-yard touchdown.Gronkowski said the play originally called for him to go to the right corner of the end zone but he darted left to find more open space. “Tom saw that and put the ball where I could go get it,” Gronkowski said. “Something like that goes back to the chemistry we’ve built over the years.”The Buccaneers have a wealth of top young wide receivers, but perhaps it was not surprising that in the final, most important game of the season, Brady looked for his old reliable friend most often, throwing in Gronkowski’s direction seven times. Six of those passes were caught as Gronkowski racked up a team-high 67 yards.On the sideline late in Sunday’s game, Brady and Gronkowski, teammates both old and anew, embraced repeatedly as the final seconds wound down.“We did it,” Gronkowski yelled.Brady smiled and slapped Gronkowski’s back as the two hugged yet again.It would have made a good scene for a television commercial.

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