Posted: Thursday January 19, 2006 10:34AM; Updated: Thursday January 19, 2006 12:37PM
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Super Bowl XL isn't until Feb. 5, but if you're a die-hard NFL fan, the best Sunday of the season arrives this week, when the Steelers visit the Broncos in the AFC title game and the Seahawks host the Panthers for the NFC championship.
I know Super Bowl Sunday has become a national holiday. It's still the contest that determines the NFL champion, and players can become heroes or goats based on those 60 minutes. But the Super Bowl has become more of a pop-culture event than a game that caters to the true sports fan. I'm talking about the fan who has the NFL Sunday Ticket, the one who follows a routine from Week 1 through the end of the season, the one who watches 12 hours of football every Sunday.
Those are the people who want football and not much more. The Super Bowl is the complete opposite. The game has become a small part of the day (anything would be a small part of the day when the pregame show takes up about 20 hours -- and this year, ABC and ESPN will both be airing pregame shows at the same time!) It's more about who's performing before the game, who's singing the national anthem, who's performing at halftime, which commercials hit a home run and which strike out, and, of course, if you hit the right numbers in the boxes you purchased at the party you attended. It's a game that people who didn't see more than 10 minutes of NFL action from September though January will swoop in to watch.
It also doesn't have the feel of a real football game for two other reasons: halftime goes on forever and there is no home-field advantage.
So for the NFL fanatics, this is our last week of true football: two games, no bells and whistles, no out-of-control hype. Enjoy it.