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"I want my work to be both trashy and precious at the same time."

-- Bono

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Teams Opening Acts for Halftime

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 31, 2002
By: Mark Bradley

 

New Orleans --- Bono carried a football onstage in the manner of someone who has never carried an American football: In sum, like a loaf of bread. The Edge took the microphone and said: "There's been a lot of nonsense about who's going to start --- Brady or Bledsoe --- and we're not here to add to the controversy." Ladies and gentlemen, U2 was in the house!

Here we are at the Super Bowl, which is technically a football game, but there we were Wednesday listening to the comedic stylings of the world's biggest rock band. U2 will play 12 minutes' worth of music come halftime Sunday, and if you've seen any of Fox's promos, you'll be forgiven for thinking the Rams and Patriots are simply opening acts.

"The Super Bowl has always been patriotic and over-the-top," said Brian McCarthy of the NFL. "And this year we're trying to make it even more meaningful and relevant."

All together now: Huh?

U2 will do 12 minutes, U2 as brought to you by E*TRADE. ("U2 was named band of the year by Rolling Stone," said a company spokesperson, "and E*TRADE has won awards, too." See the connection?) Four Irish musicians are going to do three songs between the second and third quarters of an American football game, and somehow we're supposed to nod our heads and say, "Yes, this makes perfect sense."

Said Bono, the singer: "We're here to bring peace to the AFL and NFL." (Sorry, but that happened 31 years ago.)

Said the Edge, the guitarist: "Sports and rock 'n' roll are like rival tribes."

If so, it's clear which side is winning. The entertainment side has left sports in the dust. The halftime of Super Bowl I featured the marching bands from Arizona and Michigan. The halftime of Super Bowl XXXVI will require 250 workers to assemble a stage in six minutes, whereupon four Irish rockers will play three songs to an on- field crowd of 2,500 volunteers who have gone through rehearsals so they'll know where and when to mosh. This will have nothing to do with sports, and owing to choreography it will have little to do with rock 'n' roll.

Rock 'n' roll is supposed to be spontaneous and slightly revolutionary, but here we have the world's biggest group fronting for E*TRADE and the NFL. Thus has the movement that commenced with Michael Jackson's bizarre "performance" at Super Bowl XXVII --- so long ago that O.J. Simpson presided over the game's coin toss --- been carried to its incongruous extreme. U2's going to play three songs, and we're supposed to act as if Elvis has returned to this realm.

The gathering at Wednesday's briefing was duly agog. U2 drew a far bigger media contingent than Mike Martz, who coaches the Rams, had earlier, and the crowd tittered when Bono bounded in and said, "You've heard of the Heisman pose? Here's the Hewson pose." (His given name is Paul Hewson.) And then he offered one of those contorted stances seen to bizarre effect in U2's video for "The Fly."

The Edge said he thought Drew Bledsoe "has the superior long pass" to Tom Brady. Bono claimed the Edge used to baby-sit for Kurt Warner. Larry Mullen Jr., the drummer, said nothing. Adam Clayton, the bassist, offered that his favorite sport was "flower arranging."

Right about then, a man who claimed to be from the Rosie O'Donnell show stood up and said, "It's such a thrill...I'm shaking...You guys being here, it's unbelievable."

Bono: "We would all shake before the great Rosie."

A woman in a spangly top rose and asked Bono to throw her his football. "When I played rugby in school, I played the position known as 'hooker' --- in the middle of the scrum. So I'll try a rugby pass."

Bono threw the ball underhanded. The woman in the spangly top dropped it. That clattering you heard was Vince Lombardi spinning in his grave.



© Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2002. All rights reserved.

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