Well, we're just four weeks into the NFL season, and we already know who is going to be playing in the Super Bowl. Okay, to be more specific, we know who will be playing at the Super Bowl: Mister Bruce Springsteen. And as is my custom, I couldn't be more ambivalent.
Of course I will watch. I'm a football fan. I'm a Springsteen fan. Why wouldn't I? Maybe because I have made such a loud and cynical point of deriding all those other "dinosaurs" who have showed up on Super Sunday over the past few years. Paul McCartney. Aerosmith. The Rolling Stones. Prince. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. U2. It's only a matter of time before AC/DC shows up to complete the "classic rock" setlist. Once again, I feel compelled to mention that I like all of these artists, but the notion that they have all been deemed "safe" by the National Football League. Sure, I know that we live in more enlightened times, and the TV networks probably wouldn't even flinch even if Mick Jagger did sing "Let's spend the night together." After all, many, if not all NFL franchises like to blast the Stones' song "Start Me Up" just before kickoff, they just don't get to that last verse.
That's beside the point. It's not Bruce's lyrics that will get him into trouble. It's his politics. I'm guessing that he won't be cranking on "Devils and Dust" or "Long Walk Home," and if he does play "Born In The U.S.A." you can bet it will be with more than a touch of irony. I'm guessing that it will be a pretty straightforward Greatest Hits set, and that will be fine, though something about watching Springsteen play for twenty minutes as opposed to three hours just seems wrong.
When I was in high school, one of my peak experiences was playing in front of seventy thousand Denver Bronco fans, along with the rest of the Boulder High Band and Color Guard. Up until 1988, marching bands were the featured halftime entertainment at the Super Bowl. Yes they often had to share the field with Up With People, but it you practiced and kept your uniform clean, you might get a chance to be on TV. Nowadays they don't even show the bands playing on college halftime shows. Instead we're getting scores from around the nation. On Super Sunday, there are no other scores, just very expensive commercials, so sit tight and watch the extravaganza unfold.
Or not. By the time February first rolls around, I will probably have forgotten all these misgivings, but I reserve the right to wince as they announce, "Ladies and gentlemen, Bridgestone Tires is proud to bring you a man who has a Hungry Heart and is Born To Run..." Yeesh.