Knowing When To Get Off The Stage
January 2, 1966.
The Packers hosted the Cleveland Browns that day in the NFL Championship Game. Green Bay would win that mucky afternoon at Lambeau 23-12. It would be the first of three straight titles for Lombardi's Packers, but the fans that day had no idea that they were seeing Jim Brown's last game. He'd run for 15 hundred yards that season, and scored 21 touchdowns but decided that he wanted to go out on top. Brown never missed a game in his nine seasons in the NFL, but he'd had enough. There are no images of a bloody Jim Brown limping off the field, or failing to accelerate when he got into the open field, no evidence that he'd ever lost a step. He left just the way he wanted to.
Then there was Bill Watterson. A gifted cartoonist, it was Watterson who gave us one of the seminal comic strips of the 80's and 90's in "Calvin and Hobbes". It was the story of a young boy and his stuffed tiger--a toy that came alive only to the kid when there were no adults around. It was magical, thought-provoking stuff that made this father of two fight his kids for the funny pages on weekend mornings.
Watterson abruptly quit the strip in 1995, foregoing untold millions that he could've reaped by selling rights and allowing his characters to end up on t-shirts, greeting cards and other venues (those decals you see of Calvin peeing on flowers/Bears helmets/rival truck makers aren't licensed). Watterson explained his decision to the Cleveland Plain Dealer the other day in a rare interview. "It's always better to leave the party early," he said. "If I had rolled along with the strip's popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now "grieving" for "Calvin and Hobbes" would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I'd be agreeing with them. I think some of the reason "Calvin and Hobbes" still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it. I've never regretted stopping when I did."
Which brings us to The Who at the Super Bowl Sunday night.
Let's be blunt, folks: they are a shadow of their former selves. The 12 minute mash-up of hits was hard to listen to, especially when the guys couldn't hit the high notes. They looked glued to the stage. It reminded me of what happens when a bunch of middle-aged dads find the kids latest edition of "Rock Band" lying on the basement floor and decide to take their hacks with a toy axe.
Let's end this madness, since classic rockers apparently can't be trusted to protect themselves from embarrassment. The NFL doesn't owe us a halftime show. We make it through the entire regular season and playoffs without a band. The league, though, thinks that the only way to keep the mega-audience around for the intermission is to serve up a safe, big name legacy band, paid for by a deep-pocketed sponsor. Blame Fox for this, people: they started to counter-program lame Super Bowl halftimes with saucy stuff like "In Living Color." It drew people away from the game, folks who too often would stay away when the third quarter started.
Let's give the people what they truly want on Super Bowl Sunday: a great game, and commercials we can talk about the next day at the plant/office/classroom. Blow up the elder-rockers. Turn those 12 minutes to the folks who know best what to do with it--the NFL, which can sell the time and Madison Avenue which can fill it up with new spots. It's win/win: the league makes money, we get more of what we tune in for, and maybe, just maybe, we get another 60 seconds of Betty White and Abe Vigoda.
They put on a better show than Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend.