Prediction 1 Phil Simms, Jim Nantz or both will exaggerate how many people are watching.
You hear it every year: "Welcome to the Super Bowl, currently being watched by all 6 billion human beings on planet Earth." Even putting aside various Third World regions of our planet where people don't "gather 'round the TV" so much as swat flies and eat each other's hair, that still leaves Europe. These are people brought up on a sport where the only thing standing between a player and a broken thighbone are a pair of snug shorts. Helmets, pads and mandatory 35-second breaks between plays are a hard sell.
Odds Super Bowl XLI Commentators Phil Simms and Jim Nantz Will Exaggerate The Ratings: 3:1
The fact that most countries don't have running water, let alone reliable Nielson ratings, enables network executives to pretend that everyone in Darfur is watching the game on a high-def plasma screen on wheels instead of completing their 14-day trek to a UN refugee camp. Much like the idea of the Texans ever winning a Super Bowl, it theoretically could be true, but that doesn't make it any less stupid to say out loud.
Prediction 2 Jim Nantz or Phil Simms will make a huge deal about the fighter jet flyover during the national anthem.
Sure, it's probably spectacular if you're actually there. For the 6 billion of us watching on TV, though, nothing's quite as underwhelming as two stationary, screeching specks hovering in the sky above the stadium. Those jets look like they're traveling at about three miles per hour, tops—so it's a mystery why, every year, whoever's doing the game gets misty-eyed describing the scene. Maybe they're considering how colossally fucked we'd all be if we ever had to get in an air battle with those alien planes from Independence Day
Odds Jim Nantz Will Do It in XLI: 5:1
Football commentators love to use military terminology and compare football to all-out warfare. And what better place to start than by describing actual fighter jets?
Prediction 3 Phil Simms will compare whatever team is winning to the Giants team he took to the Super Bowl.
It's a scientific fact: once a fan's actually gone to a live Super Bowl, they will be physically incapable of watching subsequent Super Bowls on TV without mentioning the one they went to three or four times an hour. Take this phenomenon, and now throw into the mix a player who won MVP honors in Super Bowl XXI, who's been asked to watch the upcoming Super Bowl with a microphone in his face the entire time. Basically, it'll be a lot like asking John Goodman to describe his thoughts on eating steak—chances are he has a wealth of knowledge on the topic.
Odds He'll Name Drop Ex-Teammate Mark Bavaro: 7:1
Odds Anyone Remembers Who the Hell Mark Bavaro Is: 100:1
Prediction 4 A player or Coach's mind-numbingly boring back-story will be reported to death.
This is typically accomplished via slickly made pre-game propaganda, usually involving the player/coach, teeth clenched against the wind and eyes moist with stoic slow-mo determination, repeatedly saying that his team never gave up despite a ridiculously sentimental montage of personal tragedy and overwhelming odds. For best results cram in a flag, an eagle soaring over mountain tops, a shot of the coach greeting a sunrise with bravery, and if possible a wheelchair-ridden family member who never stopped believing in his brother (son/grandfather/first cousin on his mother's side).
A broad spectrum of players has received this treatment in recent years: Terrell Owens (played with an injury), Kurt Warner (bagged groceries, married an ugly woman) and Tom Brady (was born so achingly handsome that he makes Bill Belicheck question his sexuality). However, no story will ever rival Super Bowl XL's "Jerome Bettis Goes Home to Detroit," which was mentioned on ESPN every 30 seconds for the entire week leading up to the game.
Odds There Will Be Another "Bettis Homecoming" in Super Bowl XLI: 23:1
For the media, this story represented what alcoholics refer to as "rock bottom." However, there's an outside chance that the whole "Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith are friends!!!!!" angle might just get there.
Prediction 5 One player will be turned into a villain.
On the other side of that coin, because the media can't resist turning the Super Bowl into a morality play, and because every morality play needs a bad guy, it's a safe bet some poor sap will get handed the role of villain around Super Bowl time. And since the media is a deceitful, morally corrupt enterprise that drowns kittens with leukemia, they won't come right out and call him an asshole. Instead, they'll call him "divisive" and "controversial" over out-of-context slow motion clips of him acting like an asshole while something melodramatically operatic plays in the background. (Optional: rolling thunder, lightning striking, cackling "Moo hoo ha ha ha" maniacally while steepling fingers.)
Past examples to look at when picking this year's villain: Owens (because it's actually hard to find footage of him not acting like an asshole); Ray Lewis (because, um?c well, he stabbed someone); and Mike Martz (because he wears glasses and has suspiciously thick hair). Our pick for this year has to be Tank Johnson, because of his arrest this season and because his name is Tank.
Prediction 6 A scandal will be downplayed by a puzzlingly attractive sideline reporter. (We're looking at you, Pam Oliver.)
The "Super Bowl Villain" character shouldn't be confused with the "Super Bowl Scandal Maker"—namely, some poor asshole who'll do something hilariously stupid or embarrassing but usually both about a week before the game. Sideline reporters will treat this moron like he's just been diagnosed with lung cancer while gravely reporting that the whole team is standing behind him in the face of allegations that he propositioned an undercover cop for a blowjob. In a daycare center. At gunpoint.
Two Facts to Keep in Mind When Handicapping Whether There Will Be an XLI Scandal: First, this year's Super Bowl is in Miami. Second, 97 percent of NFL players believe that Scarface is an instructional video. This should be fun.
Prediction 7 You will be bombarded with promos for God-awful CBS replacement shows.
Whichever network is broadcasting the game always uses the opportunity to advertise shows that weren't good enough to get a spot at the beginning of the season. But by February, the network has to start airing the TV equivalent of a scraper taking a layer of wood off the bottom of a barrel, usually because by this point the latest Friends spin-off was cancelled and the network is hesitant to put up 30 minutes of static in its place. The record for the most successful replacement show ever promoted during the Super Bowl is held by Sons & Daughters
, which was canceled after six episodes despite being advertised 74,209 times during a Super Bowl broadcast—which makes the time spent advertising the show longer than the total time the show actually spent on the air
Over/Under on the Number of New CSI: Arbitrary American City Shows that Will Be Introduced During CBS' Broadcast: 3
Prediction 8 A bunch of teenagers will storm the field at half time, showing fake rabid enthusiasm for the musical performance.
The half-time show presents a problem for organizers. Most people are at the Super Bowl because they're, you know, football fans—not because they simply can't get enough of the great combination of Britney Spears lip-synching and fireworks. Instead of taking this into account when planning the show, Super Bowl organizers continue to book pop musicians years past their prime like Aerosmith, Mick Jagger and this year, Prince, round up a bunch of teenagers from a nearby food court and pay them to dance badly (which is actually a pretty apt description of how Britney Spears met her ex-husband).
Odds You Will Enjoy Super Bowl XLI's Half Time Show: XLI to 1 Odds Super Bowl XLI's Half Time Show Will Crystallize Everything that Is Wrong with America: 1 to 1
Prediction 9 Phil Simms will point out something painfully obvious in the "Simms Spotlight" segment.
How many times will CBS let Boomer Esiason impersonator Phil Simms recite a minute-long speech on how a field goal is worth three points before they take him out behind the A/V truck and squeeze a round off into his fake blond hairdo? Apparently, upwards of 18—since week one of the regular season, Simms has bestowed viewers with nuggets of meaningless bullshit like, "Give the ball to what's his name," and "Don't let them dink and dunk." If that's the kind of expert analysis he'll be offering during the Super Bowl, America will learn more about the ins and outs of football from watching another ad about how awesome Diet Pepsi is.
Odds that Phil Simms will enlighten America on why it is good to tackle the guy with the ball, and bad to do the opposite: 5:1
Thank you, Phil. We get it. And catching the ball is good, fumbling the ball is bad and air is what the football players breathe. Please just shut the fuck up.