Was there a football game on TV last night?
At times, it felt more like a star-studded musical tribute to the U.S., with the biggest lineup of entertainers ever in Super Bowl history.
The game, and all the hoopla that surrounded it, was "dedicated to the American spirit" following Sept. 11.
And with overly patriotic sentiments throughout the event, televised live from New Orleans, the goal appeared to be sending a message of "we're still a superpower" to the rest of the world, given the Super Bowl's estimated global audience is 800 million in 166 countries.
Thankfully, the jubilant half-time performance by Irish rock veterans U2 made viewers forget all the pro-American propaganda that preceded them.
Sure, frontman Bono showed off the American flag lining the inside of his jacket, but the gesture was secondary to the spirit-lifting nature of the band's two songs -- Beautiful Day and Where The Streets Have No Name, the latter the highlight of their recent concert tour.
As usual, Bono made a dramatic entrance, walking amongst screaming fans on the football field towards his bandmates playing on their now-famous heart-shaped stage.
And when the names of the victims of Sept. 11 scrolled behind the band on a large screen, it didn't come off as exploitative, particularly since U2 have been doing this in concert since at least last October.
"Good Irish boys," declared Paul McCartney during a half-time interview, where he announced he will tour the U.S. beginning in April on the West Coast.
The low point of the interview came when commentator/doofus Terry Bradshaw got McCartney to join him for a few verses of A Hard Day's Night.
"I used to watch this man, when he had hair," said McCartney of the bald Bradshaw's football past.
Earlier during the pre-game show, McCartney sang his Sept. 11-inspired song Freedom, but the rah-rah tune -- in addition to the abundance of cheerleaders waving silver pom-poms on the field -- didn't exactly tone down the proceedings.
"America we love you!" said McCartney, with his acoustic guitar in tow. "Everybody clap your hands for freedom!"
How could we not? The word "freedom" flashed on big screens while a large graffiti-ridden backdrop of the Statue of Liberty rose up behind him during the end of the song. Subtle it was not.
A better performance came via Mary J. Blige and Marc Anthony, who sang an inspired duet of America The Beautiful, backed by the Boston Pops.
Afterwards, you could make out Anthony saying "That was beautiful, baby" to his duet partner, who recalled Aretha Franklin at times. He was right.
(More on U2)