More than just a game

The Baltimore Sun

The matchup might not thrill football lovers, especially here in Baltimore, where rooting against the Pittsburgh Steelers is one of our favorite pastimes. But the Super Bowl is one of our undeniable institutions, as much a holiday as the Fourth of July for many Americans. At least 90 million households are expected to watch the game tonight. Here are a few of the things we'll do and see:

Music

Jennifer Hudson (below, left) will throw her powerful pipes into the national anthem. Her performance could offer one of the evening's most poignant moments; Hudson's mother, brother and nephew were shot to death in October, and this will be her first public appearance since the tragedy. Bruce Springsteen (bottom, right) and his E Street Band will rock Raymond James Stadium at halftime. Springsteen, one of the nation's most beloved live performers, just released a new album, Working on a Dream. But he'll also surely dig into one of the deepest catalogs of anthems in American popular music.

The food

We'll spend more than $50 million to eat more food than we do on any day but Thanksgiving. Pizza deliveries for national chains are expected to rise anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent. If you're looking to festoon your party with Pittsburgh or Arizona favorites, try pierogi and chipped ham for the black and gold and anything Southwestern for the red and white.

The television lineup

NBC will begin its day with a special version of The Today Show from Tampa, Fla., at 9 a.m. Pre-game coverage will begin at noon, with kickoff expected at about 6:30 p.m. Al Michaels and John Madden will call the action. After the game, NBC will deliver a one-hour episode of its comedy The Office.

The matchup

Well, it isn't 2008, with a New York team trying to end a historic undefeated season by the vilified New England Patriots. That said, the Arizona Cardinals and Steelers offer a few intriguing story lines. The Cardinals are one of the least successful franchises in NFL history and will be appearing in their first Super Bowl. They're led by Kurt Warner, 37, the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player in 2000 who rose off the scrap heap to have his best season in years. If Warner wins, he might secure election to the Hall of Fame. The Steelers, meanwhile, will try to become the first franchise to win six Super Bowls. Hey, if nothing else, Ravens fans can root for their rival to fall short of that mark.

The ads

Given our terrible economy, NBC took longer to sell its commercial spots than usual, and heavyweights such as Federal Express and General Motors are sitting out the big game. But the network is charging $2.4 million to $3 million for each 30 seconds, so don't weep for the peacock. You'll see Ray Lewis hawking SoBe Life Water, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head vouching for Bridgestone Tires and a play on the famous "Mean" Joe Greene Coke commercial, this time featuring Troy Polamalu. But one rejected ad has caused the most stir. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals hoped to show us scantily clad models cozying up to vegetables. NBC dubbed the spot too racy. Woe is broccoli.

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