The Goose, The Gulf War, and The Jedi: Super Bowl Memories from Tampa Bay

If Sunday's Super Bowl is like most of the previous 42, it will be forgettable unless you consider the Terrible Towel a fashion accessory or are one of the few and, at long last, proud Cardinals fans. While there was a dude who walked around in a dress, even yesterday's Media Day was rather tame. At least there's still hope that the commercials will be good. Here's a look back at some of the colorful characters and memorable ads from the previous three Super Bowls held in Tampa Bay. Perhaps they'll jog your memory of the actual games.

2001: Super Bowl XXXV

The game was a dud "“ the Baltimore Ravens routed the New York Giants 34-7 to win their first Super Bowl "“ but the week leading up to the game was rife with uncharacteristically serious storylines. Ray Lewis, the leader of the Ravens' dominating defense, was grilled by reporters about his alleged involvement in a murder the previous year, while Giants quarterback Kerry Collins opened up about his battle with alcoholism. Tony Siragusa, who was a bazillion times funnier as a player than he is as a sideline reporter, ensured the week wasn't completely devoid of comic relief.

Media Day Notes: Siragusa, who misses a beat in answering questions about as often as he misses a meal, was asked what he'd be doing if he weren't a football player. "A stripper," replied the 340-pound defensive tackle, who was also asked if he needed a shoehorn to put on his helmet. (No, just a little grease.) The Giants' Michael Strahan wasn't spared the inanity. A reporter asked him if he had ever met actress and fellow gap-toothed icon Lauren Hutton. Strahan said he met her once and thanked her for making the gap in vogue.

The Ads:

Cedric the Entertainer made his debut as a Bud Light pitchman in this memorable spot, which begins with the comedian romancing a woman on a couch and ends with beer spraying all over her face. In a parody of its popular "Whasssssup?" series of ads, Budweiser's "What are you doing?" was one of the most quotable ads of the year.

1991: Super Bowl XXV

super-bowl-25.jpgThe launch of Operation Desert Storm less than two weeks before the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills met in Super Bowl XXV cast a cloud of nervousness over the event. For a change, the game lived up to its billing, even if the excitement it generated was tempered by the war in Iraq. Whitney Houston sang a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and Peter Jennings provided a news update before the halftime show. With the Giants leading 20-19, Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood lined up for a 47-yard field goal with 8 seconds left, but pushed it wide right. Giants coach Bill Parcells received a Gatorade shower, while the Bills and their fans endured the first of four consecutive Super Bowl losses.

Media Day Notes: Unprecedented security measures that are considered the norm today greeted reporters at Media Day. Among the 2,200 accredited media members was MTV VJ Downtown Julie Brown, who asked the Giants, "How's the morales of the team?" When someone asked Brown to predict the winner of the game, she responded, "The team with the best bums." There were serious questions, too. When asked whether he thought the Super Bowl should be played, New York's Leonard Marshall said it should be, and then inappropriately suggested that the game was like war. "It's a struggle for land," Marshall said.

The Ads: Pepsi's "You've Got the Right One Baby" spot featuring Ray Charles and various backup singers earned top billing from USA Today's Ad Meter. While the Bud Bowl sneak-preview media reception was canceled "out of respect for the mood of journalists who have been assigned to cover Super Bowl week," the third year of the Bud Bowl series was aired as planned. The same couldn't be said for a Pepsi promotion that would've prompted viewers to call a toll-free number for a chance to win $1 million. The Federal Communications Commission forced Pepsi to drop the number from the ad out of fear that it would jam the country's telephone switchboards.

1984: Super Bowl XVIII

super-bowl-tampa.jpgAs the defending Super Bowl champions, the Washington Redskins strolled into Tampa Bay with a swagger. They left humbled after the Los Angeles Raiders crushed them 38-9 in what was at the time the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history. This game is the perfect example of a Super Bowl that is remembered more for what happened before the game and during commercial breaks than for what transpired on the field.

Media Day Notes: Each team had its own walking sound byte "“ John Riggins for Washington and Lester Hayes for Los Angeles. Riggins was asked what he thought of Lyle Alzado's comments that the Raiders defensive end was going to knock his head off. "I'm going to wear a parachute, so when he knocks my block off, it'll fall onto a nice soft spot, and I hope he's gentleman enough to hand it back to me," Riggins said. Hayes stole the Media Day show, however, channeling the Star Wars trilogy in most of his responses. Witness: "A tremor in "˜The Force' tells me that the score shall be in the high 40s, and the Silver and Black shall be victorious"¦We are a benevolent Darth Vader. We shall zap them. So be it."

The Ad: Arguably the most influential ad in the history of the Super Bowl, Apple Macintosh's minute-long "1984" spot introduced the world to its personal computer in dramatic fashion. Directed by Ridley Scott, Advertising Age named it the Commercial of the Decade. An interesting read on the ad, which turned 25 this month, can be found here.

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Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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iStock
A New App Interprets Sign Language for the Amazon Echo
iStock
iStock

The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.

Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.

Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.

While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Watch his demo in the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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