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Original Issue

Big Lessons From the Big Easy

I want to thank you all for joining me at this post--Super Bowl roundtable. You'll see that you have cards with your name and title at your seats: Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner; Chris Culliver, 49ers Defensive Back; Ray Lewis, Ravens Linebacker; and Beyoncé, simply, Beyoncé. The four of you were among the most talked-about figures during one of the more eventful run-ups to the Super Bowl because you were each the target of anger or suspicion. I thought it might be instructive to hold a brief postmortem, so we can all learn from your experiences. For instance, Mr. Lewis, I discovered that deer antler extract is an element of a supposed performance-enhancing drug that you hoped would aid your recovery from a torn triceps. It is not, as I would have guessed, an ingredient in the crawfish étouffée at Emeril's.

Lewis: I don't know anything about that. I'm just so blessed to be here and thankful that even now, after winning the Super Bowl, the Lord has given me the ability to continue drawing attention to myself. God is truly good. Wooooo!

Moderator: Um, O.K. then. What else have we learned? Let's turn to you, Commissioner Goodell. But first, could you remove the fake beard and glasses?

Goodell: Oh, sorry. I came straight from the airport. Needed those to help me get safely out of New Orleans. As you know, I was persona non grata there because a lot of Saints fans think my sanctions against the team for Bountygate were too severe, and I didn't want to take any chances. Anyway, what have I learned? That before I go to the Big Easy again, I should put an ad on Craigslist for a food taster. I was taking my life in my hands every time I ate in that town because more than a few bars and restaurants seemed to hold a grudge. At one of them, 801 Royal in the French Quarter, the staff wore T-shirts in the Saints' black and gold that said, GEAUX TO HELL GOODELL. I didn't know whether to be more worried about the places that had DO NOT SERVE THIS MAN signs under my picture or the ones that actually would cook for me.

Moderator: Don't you think some of that supposed hatred might have been tongue in cheek?

Goodell: Tongue in cheek? My picture was on the wall of some of the bars in town, and do you know what was in my cheek? Darts. Trust me, there's no faster way to alienate a group of people than to wreck their team's season.

Moderator: Alienating a group of people. Seems like a good time for you to join the discussion, Mr. Culliver.

Culliver: O.K., but can we make this quick? I have a sensitivity training seminar to get to. I know my comments on a radio show about not wanting to have a gay teammate made people really angry. I can't say I'm sorry enough times. What did I learn? That it's 2013 and you can't display that kind of intolerance without getting called on it, for one thing. I said those comments weren't what was in my heart, but I don't know whether people believed that I was sincere. (Especially since I seemed so uncomfortable getting close to those Ravens receivers during the game.) It's hard to convince everyone that the words that came out of your mouth weren't what you really felt.

Moderator: Speaking of words coming out of one's mouth, Beyoncé, you—

Beyoncé:[Stands up and belts out a rousing, pitch-perfect rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."]

Moderator: That was quite beautiful, but may I ask why you sang to us?

Beyoncé: I did it at a press conference last week, and it seemed to put the media in a blissful mood. They barely asked me anything about lip-synching the anthem at the inauguration last month. Most of the questions were more along the lines of "Beyoncé, which word do you think more accurately describes you, fabulous or amazing?" That's what I've learned—people treat you really well when you sing sweetly to them first. I'm thinking about beginning all my interviews with the national anthem from now on. I would advise you gentlemen to do the same.

Lewis: I don't sing, but I dance a little bit.

Beyoncé: Ray, take it from someone who does dance a little bit. No, you don't.

Culliver: I don't think singing would help me. I just have to continue to eat humble pie.

Goodell: Did you say something about pie? That would be great. I'm starving.

Moderator: We're getting a little bit off track here. I see that our time is almost up, so if I could make one observation before you leave. It seems that you were all fed, willingly or not, to our collective hunger for some measure of controversy while we waited for game day. What I've learned is that during Super Bowl week the serious and the absurd will always be lumped together, which is both the appeal and the shame of it. Most of it is manufactured, and much of it is nonsense, which makes it the perfect holiday for what our culture has become. Congratulations and condolences for becoming a part of it.

Goodell: I don't want to be a nuisance, but you mentioned hunger and being fed.

Moderator: Somebody please get the commissioner a sandwich?

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Football? Sure, there's that. But the true allure of Super Bowl week is the way it feeds our national hunger for controversy.