Shanoff's W.U.C.: New Best Super Bowl Ever?

Today's Calls: Steelers vs. History, Larry Fitzgerald vs. Santonio Holmes, James Harrison vs. Darnell Dockett, Bud Clydesdales vs. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Bruce Springsteen vs. Jennifer Hudson, Doritos vs. Denny's, Andrew Bynum vs. Denis Clemente, Michael Phelps vs. Water Bongs and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: This was a Super Bowl for the fan's fan. ↵

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↵Last year's "Best Super Bowl Ever" had three things going for it: (1) "19-0"; (2) New York vs. Boston (with New York as an underdog); and (3) Manning-to-Tyree, the single-greatest play in NFL history. Casually, fans were left with this: How can things possibly get any better? ↵

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↵If you love football, Super Bowl 43 was better. ↵

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↵It didn't have the marquee markets, the stakes of perfection or that One Signature Play. But it was more of a satisfying game-long thrill ride: ↵

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↵— The Greatest Momentum-Shifter in Sports History: James Harrison's rumbling 100-yard pick-six to end the first half, which instantly became one of the Top 5 most memorable plays in Super Bowl history (no easy feat for a play in the first half). ↵

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↵— The Cardinals with the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history (10+ points), and doing it with defense, first. (Arizona's hurry-up offense was impressive, but far more jaw-dropping was the ferocious way the Cards’ D kept the team in the game.) ↵

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↵— Larry Fitzgerald going from contained to "Ohh!!! Did he just do that?!?!" ↵

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↵— And, finally, just when you thought the Cards had pulled it off, their gutsy defense failed them and the Steelers pulled off a 2-minute drill for the history books — complete with that Santonio Holmes TD catch that was every bit as impressive as David Tyree's a year ago: But not fluky, just incredible. ↵

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↵"Not fluky, just incredible": Just like how Super Bowl 43 separates itself from last year's "Best Super Bowl Ever." ↵

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↵What is the lingering memory from Super Bowl 43? On its face, it would be Harrison's 100-yard INT for a TD, which completely changed the game. But for me, the lasting image is of would-be hero Larry Fitzgerald caught on camera mouthing "No! No! No!" as Holmes made that utterly sick game-winning TD catch. ↵

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↵Legacy-building for the Steelers: Should Pittsburgh be considered the greatest franchise in NFL history? (As if their fans needed anything more to be arrogant about.) How about this: Mike Tomlin is your new gold standard for NFL coaches — the youngest to win a Super Bowl title. ↵

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↵What about the Cardinals? Wow, they were so close to the Greatest Super Bowl Comeback Ever — so close to that championship. When Fitzgerald scored to put them ahead, I actually thought they had it won — if only because their defense was playing so amazingly. ↵

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↵They deserved to win more than any other Super Bowl runner-up in history. At a minimum, the Cardinals have wiped out the franchise's legacy of being the NFL's biggest losers. They earned something almost as good as a Super Bowl title tonight; they earned the respect of fans everywhere. ↵

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↵Super Bowl Ads: The overall "blah" quality of the ads made the game that much more special — the commercials simply didn't distinguish themselves, letting fans focus more on the amazing game unfolding in front of them on the field. ↵

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↵— Best In Show: Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (though I couldn't recall it was for Bridgestone without looking it up). Runner-up: Hulu, because Alec Baldwin is the best comedic actor on TV right now. ↵

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↵— Biggest Whiff: Coke Zero with Troy Polamalu. The all-time-great "Mean Joe Greene" ad should never have been remade, even if they were making fun of it. It would be like Apple making a parody of the "1984" ad. ↵

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↵— Totally Underrated: Denny's, which shouldn't have bothered spending 25 seconds setting up a vague joke and simply hammered over and over, "Free Breakfast This Tuesday! Free Breakfast This Tuesday!" No other advertiser did more to touch consumers where it counts — in their wallets. ↵

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↵— Animals Watch: Budweiser went heavy on the Clydesdales, didn't they? (Who knew the Clydes were Scottish, let alone still carrying around a Scottish accent — hated that ad, BTW; the enduring myth of the Clydesdales in the Super Bowl ads was driven partly by their stoic silence.) ↵

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↵I enjoyed the Clydesdales ad with the two romantically linked horses, although the ending was sort of too "When Animals Attack!" for me. (Meanwhile, how can you deny the amazingness of monkeys in Super Bowl ads? Thank you, Castrol.) ↵

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↵USA Today AdMeter Winner: Doritos crystal ball. Appreciate why it won — you can rarely go wrong with the classic "groin shot" — but it felt like I had seen this ad before: Sprint's "throw-the-phone" ad in '08 or even, more recently, the Southwest ad with the guy throwing the video-game remote. ↵

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↵Super Bowl Entertainment: Bruuuce! Springsteen had me with "I want you to put the chicken fingers down!" literally as I held a chicken finger to my lips. (Yes, I put the finger down, then went on to love his high-energy show.) Runner-up: Jennifer Hudson, with a belt-it-out National Anthem; the US Airways crew, led by Sully(!!!). ↵

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↵Very quickly, around the rest of the sports world ... ↵

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↵Pro Football H.O.F.: Bruce Smith was a no-brainer, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Derrick Thomas' induction. If you're in your 20s, you may not remember him, but if you're in your mid-30s, Thomas' legend has only become more pronounced since he died. ↵

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↵— NBA: All eyes on Andrew Bynum's knee. Like last year, the difference between the Lakers winning the West and the Lakers winning the NBA title is in the future of their young center's knee and how quickly — and effectively — he can return. ↵

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↵(Fuel for 2010 conspiracy theorists: Dwyane Wade AND LeBron in New York playing for the Knicks? I'm not even sure they could co-exist on the same team.) ↵

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↵— CBB: Um, what happened to Wake? I would rather have them all admit that, yes, it was a total let-down game after beating Duke. How else to explain losing to the worst team in the ACC? ↵

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↵— Stud of the Weekend: K-State's Denis Clemente, who rang up an "Obama" (44 pts, tying a Big 12 record) in leading the Wildcats to a shocking win over Texas in Austin. Clemente's performance was the best single-game performance by any player this season so far. ↵

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↵— What To Watch Tonight: UConn at Louisville. Yet another Big East Game of the Year, in a battle of two teams that should both be ranked in the Top 5.) ↵

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↵— Coaching Carousel: Bob Knight to ... Georgia? ↵

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↵— Tennis: Nadal beats Federer in Aussie Final. Don't discount how huge this is. It was Nadal's first major title on hard courts — and his first major final victory over Federer on hard courts. When Nadal becomes the master of all surfaces, can he be even better than Roger? ↵

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↵— CFB: Signing Day Mania! Don't forget that NSD — which has become as big in college football as any day of the year — is Wednesday. (There are rankings all over the place; here is SN's Top 100.) ↵

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↵The Last Word: Michael Phelps smoking from a water bong. For a worldwide idol, it was a terrible image. ↵

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↵Here's the thing: When you're the greatest athlete in the world — in a sport that is only relevant every fourth year — you earn enough credibility that this will be laughed off across most of the world as a god finally showing some human frailty. ↵

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↵It's not like he was smoking HGH or caught on film sticking himself in the butt with a syringe full of steroids. Who do you think he is: Marion Jones? There is no question: This was a bone-headed mistake by Phelps. But he will publicly repent and be fine. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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