Since they could not tweet about the central event, social-media fans tweeted the periphery. Namath's fur coat. Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. John Elway. Canine and equine.
The game? Meh.
That didn't stop folks from watching - or posting or tweeting. According to Nielsen SoundScan, TV viewership set a record at 111.3 million, compared with last year's 108.4 million.
More than 50 million put 185 million-plus Super-themed posts, comments, and likes on Facebook. According to Twitter, they sent out a record 24.9 million tweets during the game, slightly more than for last year's rip-snorter (24.1 million). ( #SuperBowl was the No. 1 worldwide trend as of Monday afternoon.) Tweets-per-minute topped 200,000 repeatedly. Mars and the Chilis got 215,540 tpm, and the finale got 229,533, remarkable for an event notorious for yawny halftime shows. The show generated 2.2 million tweets total.
Top sports-related tpm: 381,605 for Percy Harvin's 87-yard kickoff return. There was some football, after all.
Weird politics, too. A Coca-Cola ad, in which people sing "America the Beautiful" in Spanish, Japanese, Hindi, Arabic, Tagalog, and other tongues, provoked a Twitter backlash. A hashtag - #boycottcoke - trended globally. But that trend was taken over by those who attacked the hashtag, and after a while the surge died in its own riptide. Another hashtag, simple #americathebeautiful, was climbing charts Monday.
The social-media universe found quondam hero John Elway repellent in a pregame interview on Fox. Ditto for President Obama and Bill O'Reilly locking horns on Fox.
But a lot of people noticed when Hillary Clinton tweeted this, at 8:44 p.m., by which time hapless Broncos superstar Peyton Manning's helmet, with his head in it, had been slammed to the turf repeatedly: "It's so much more fun to watch FOX when it's someone else being blitzed & sacked! #SuperBowl." Oh, snap!
Philip Bump of Wired wrote, "It's not really a joke to call Clinton's tweet - which got tens of thousands of retweets and favorites - an ad. It was timed perfectly amidst the rest of the highly considered tweets from other established brands, and had its intended effect immediately: wide distribution and accolades. JC Penney and Cheerios should be so lucky. "
Ah, the ads. Bob Dylan shilling for Chrysler (Eli Braden: " 'Sell out'? As if Bob Dylan is even with it enough to realize he was in a car commercial.") Hulk Hogan grimacing for Radio Shack.
Here's the thing about the ads. They're not for TV any more. Or only for TV.
For years now, they've been a media universe unto themselves, concentrated more and more heavily on social media and viral video. Visible Measures, which counts such things, says 13 companies put ads out early in 2010, growing to 42 in 2013 (no count yet for this year). Everybody knew about "Puppy Love," that Anheuser-Busch ad in which an adorable little tiny baby puppy snuggle-buddies with a Clydesdale. Everybody knew about Radio Shack's 1980s orgy. And that cute little girl on the Cheerios ad.
Why? Because you need more than TV viewers to make a buck. A minute of Super Bowl ad cost only $8 million this year. How to justify that outlay? Get the ads out there early and snag eyeballs. So strange and so now: The ads need pregame buzz .
The old joke has legs, especially when the game stinks: Where most people record their TV shows and fast-forward through the ads, they fast-forward through the Super Bowl to get to the ads.
So who won? You kidding? Puppy and horse. It was posted online on Wednesday, and by 6 p.m. Sunday, just before kickoff, it had 36.2 million views, says Visible Measures. The Wall Street Journal, those creampuffs, dubbed puppy and horse the "winner of the Ad Bowl."
The game is just a horse for the ads. Part of a bigger ad campaign. Who needs the game if people look at the ads? Ka-ching.
Just as all sport is business, all sport is pop culture and always has been. The suits don't want you to think so. No, baseball is tradition, basketball is street, and football is Gladiator . Pro sport has a slight advantage over other kinds of pop, since almost all major stars, juiced or natural, are incredibly talented - something not always true in TV, movies, and music.
But it's still pop.
Thus there was even a Fashion Bowl. Renée Fleming killed in both voice and Vera Wang. Bruno Mars was wearing Yves Saint Laurent. Singing Chili Anthony Kiedis rocked Jeremy Scott screen-saver leggings, amazing for a guy who used to wear just a tube sock. (Designer Scott tweeted his joy.)
But the winner was easily Namath, 70, mal-flipping the coin, festooned (Namath was) in that bloomy fur coat. If anyone knows sports is pop, Namath does: He was hilarious and knew it. Many tweeters, may we add, were too young to know that late-'60s/early-'70s, Namath wore such duds when he was tearing up Broadway (often with multiple ladies), and that the coin toss was to some extent self-parody.
M.M. Gatsby was exactly right when he tweeted: "Joe Namath was on one last night. Fur coat, two women, didn't care when he flipped the coin ... just on one."
His coat got the ultimate kudos from Twitter: its own Twitter account, @JoeNamathCoat, which also trended for a while.