Super Bowl Sunday: A time for Brady, booty and frozen fun

OK, many people are already hyped up for the Super Bowl game itself. For the rest of us. the event brings a mixture of quirky fun; here's the story I sent to papers.

By Mike Hughes

Each year, the Super
Bowl has a sort of double identity.

“You have every
big football fan in America,” said Al Michaels, who will do NBC's
play-by-play Sunday. “But you have people who only watch one game a

The big fans have
plenty to buzz about, including an extreme contrast: One quarterback
(Tom Brady of the New England Patriots) has already started in seven
Super Bowls; the other (Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles) only
started four regular-season games in the past two years.

But what about all
the casual viewers? They get Justin Timberlake, clever commercials,
“This Is Us” and what passes for fun in Minnesota. Here's an
entertainment guide:

Halftime show

Justin Timberlake
was a young lad the first two times he did the Super Bowl's halftime

He was 19 when he
did it in 2001 as part of NSYNC; the group was alongside Britney
Spears (his former “Mickey Mouse Club” colleague), Nelly, Mary J.
Blige and Aerosmith. He'd just turned 23 when he was in support of
Janet Jackson and ripped part of her costume off, revealing a breast;
afterward, he coined the phrase “wardrobe malfunction.”

Now, at 37, he'll be
the first person with three Super halftimes. This time, it's his
show; he has about 13 minutes, which may or may not include surprise
guests and a Prince tribute.

It also could be
high-energy; in one interview, Timberlake spoke to the camera: “Al
Michaels, if we can get you to shake your booty at the Super Bowl

Michaels reaction to
that now? At 73, he could plead generation-gap. “Can you shake your
booty with the fox trot?” he joked.

In truth, Michaels
is a pop-music fan. (He was singing Katy Perry tunes off-camera,
years before she did the halftime show.) But he said he'll stay out
of the booty business.

“I have an
8-year-old granddaughter who now wants to give Pop Pop lessons. I
said, 'Honey, it's hard to do that with spinal stenosis.'”

The pre-game

That starts at noon
ET Sunday with “Road to the Super Bowl,” an annual creation of
NFL Films.

“It's the season
set to the sounds of the players who wear microphones during the
games,” said Fred Gaudelli, who produces NBC's football coverage.
A “great musical score kind of recaps everything.”

And then ... well,
the pre-game show goes on and on (and on). It runs from 1-6 p.m. ET.

Some people skip
that part ... and could skip it this year out of general principle:
Bob Costas – the best and most-honored sportscaster in TV history –
isn't included.

Costas, 65, had said
earlier that he's cutting back – no more Olympics and just this one
more Super Bowl. But NBC decided not to invite him ... apparently
linked to comments he made at a sports conference. Due to
concussions, he said, he wouldn't let a son play football; “the
reality is that the game destroys people's brains.”

Instead, NBC will
stick with its regular pre-game crew – Dan Patrick and Liam McHugh
hosting, with Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Mike Florio ad Chris

Some frigid fun

Alongside the
football talk, there will be lots of promotion for the Winter
Olympics, plus coverage of the host city ... which sort of looks like
the Winter Olympics.

Minneapolis is going to really turn into a winter wonderland,”
Gaudelli said, “with mini ski slopes and rock concerts.” He'll
even have drones taping some of it. “We want to really cover what
it's been like that week in Minneapolis.”

There have been
predictions of temperatures hitting 7-below-zero on the eve of the
Super Bowl. That doesn't affect the game (wisely, played indoors) and
Gaudelli didn't expect it to affect the pre-game fun. “Things that
would paralyze other states ... pretty much go unfazed in that part
of the country.”

Almost gametime

At 6 p.m., the
coverage moves to the stadium, with Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.

Pink will sing the
National Anthem and Leslie Odom Jr. -- who won a Tony as Aaron Burr
in “Hamilton” -- sings “America the Beautiful.” Kick-off is

After the game

First we have the
trophy and interviews and such. Then – NBC estimates 10:15 p.m. PT,
which tends to be wildly optimistic – comes the post-game show.

This used to be a
time to debut a new series. After a few early successes (“The
A-Team,” “The Wonder Years”) that fizzled; now networks simply
show off their best.

For NBC, “This Is
Us” was the obvious choice. “These kind of game-changers just
don't come along very often,” said Bob Greenblatt, chairman of NBC

That's no
exaggeration. The show has best-drama-series nominations from the
Emmys and the Golden Globes, breaking a cable monopoly; Sterling K.
Brown, as Randall, has won best-actor awards in both.

In this episode,
Randall hosts a Super Bowl party and we get flashbacks, possibly
telling us how the dad died. (The previous episode ended with a house
fire caused by a faulty crock pot.) These people are big Pittsburgh
Steeler fans ... and the Steelers, alas, lost the 1996 Super Bowl to
the Dallas Cowboys.

Even later

After the show,
there's a 35-minute break to allow for local news ... and for “This
Is Us” fans to possibly dry up their tears. Then – NBC says 11:30
p.m., again optimistically – is “Tonight.”

This one will be
live from the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Jimmy Fallon will have
Timberlake, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and the “This Is Us”