Top 10 Super Bowl Halftime Shows

Ranking the best Super Bowl halftime shows is a subjective and predictable (and pointless) exercise. But let’s do it anyway. Just as the Super Bowl game on the field has changed over the years and gotten bigger (and sometimes better), so too has the halftime show.

In the early days, when the league and game itself were not as big as they are today, the halftime shows were simple marching-band extensions of regular football games. As the years passed, they added occasional singers like Ella Fitzgerald and such pop celebrities as Carol Channing (twice). The Super Bowl Halftime Show as we know it today was not quite a “thing” yet.

As late as the 1980s, it was still just marching bands and Up With People performing salutes to random themes. (According to one of the great first lines on all of Wikipedia, “Up with People is an education organization whose stated mission is to bridge cultural barriers and create global understanding through service and a musical show.”) One year it was a “Salute to the Stars of the Silver Screen.” Just three years later, the theme was “Salute to the 100th Anniversary of Hollywood” (with George Burns, Mickey Rooney, and Disney characters). Other years they would salute the big-band era and “the 1960s and Motown.” In fact, they would even haphazardly combine tributes, as if some board-room decision had ended in a tie:  the 1990 theme was “Salute to New Orleans and the 40th Anniversary of Peanuts.”

Then Michael Jackson and, 11 years later, Janet Jackson changed how we view the Super Bowl halftime show.

10.) JANET JACKSON (w/ JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE)
SB XXXVIII – Feb 1, 2004 – Reliant Stadium (Houston, TX)
Unfortunately, nothing written about Super Bowl halftime shows is complete without mentioning perhaps the most famous, or infamous, halftime show. Sadly its pop-culture significance will keep it on lists like this forever. Oh, you don’t remember this one? At the end of the performance, Justin Timberlake ripped off a piece of Janet’s, uh, wardrobe and revealed most of her bare breast. This was called “nipplegate” even though Miss Jackson made sure her nipple was covered. She showed about the same amount of her body as an average beer commercial by an Official NFL Beer Sponsor. But it was such an outrage to see that for 2 seconds on live TV that all the news and media outlets spent at least a week editorializing on just how awful and classless it was… all while showing a still photo of said exposed breast. This led to several years of only aging male classic rockers performing at the Super Bowl.

9.) DIANA ROSS
SB XXX – Jan 28, 1996 – Sun Devil Stadium (Tempe, AZ)
Underrated and possibly forgotten performance, but Diana Ross was up to the task and capably worked through a medley of 10 (ten!) hits. Don’t sleep on the classics.

8.) BRUNO MARS (w/ RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS)
SB XLVIII – Feb 2, 2014 – Reliant Stadium (Houston, TX)
Okay, younger artist with some hits but not quite the household name with some older viewers. By any measure, Bruno Mars nailed his performance. He can sing, he can dance, he can open the show with a drum solo, he brings a horn section, and then he has the Chili Peppers pop out of the stage floor to “givitaway givitaway give it away now.” Exhilarating and professional performance.

7.) ROLLING STONES
SB XL – Feb 5, 2006 – Ford Field (Detroit, MI)
At this point, the Rolling Stones are just game managers. Rock royalty just needs to show up, play a few hits, and fill the stadium with classic riffs. Oh, and do it on a stage shaped like the Stones’ lips/tongue logo.

6.) TOM PETTY & the HEARTBREAKERS
SB XLII – Feb 3, 2008 – University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, AZ)
Sandwiched around Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers solid (if unspectacular) performance of hits was the Patriots-Giants “Helmet Catch” game: a truly great Super Bowl, as well as a huge upset of an undefeated team. We don’t need always need guest rappers or genre-bending collaborations. (Aerosmith-Britney-N’Sync? No thanks.) Petty and his underrated band have been a radio staple for decades. Capable rock bands with good songs are like balanced football teams with good offensive lines.

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Guest Column: What’s a Cleveland Sports Fan to Do?

By DARRYL WALTER

Another Super Bowl is upon us. Another year that the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and Houston Texans won’t reach the Mt. Everest of professional sports. While Detroit and Houston fans can cry in their beer that they have yet to be in a Roman numeral football game, at least those cities have celebrated other sports championships over the last 47 years.

In Cleveland, where you can take the boy out of Cleveland but you can’t take the Cleveland out of the boy, generations of fans have yet to see a championship parade. Sure we got close in the 97 World Series and let’s not talk about The Drive or The Fumble (I was at both games*), but enough is enough. I want to know what it’s like to win a championship. No city with three major league sports teams has gone this long without a championship.

Which brings us back to Super Bowl XLVII. This year we have the Baltimore Ravens vs. the San Francisco 49ers. No Cleveland sports fan with any sense of dignity can root for the Ravens. People in Charm City can complain that the Colts were taken from under them, but two wrongs really piss me off.

It just pains me that the Ravens have been so successful since their arrival. One of my favorite players, Ozzie Newsome has done a wonderful job as General Manager. (I was at Newsome’s first game when he scored a touchdown on an end-around.) To make matters worse, my adopted state of Maryland, where I have lived in for the past 20 years, bent over backwards to build a stadium for them. Hell, I’ll never buy an instant lottery ticket in Maryland since that money goes to pay for the stadium. (Disclosure: I did finally step into that purple stadium two years ago to see U2.)

Blame it on the San Francisco Giants. What does the San Francisco Giants have to do with this discussion about the Super Bowl? Easy, it goes against one of my rules: you can’t root for a team where the city already won a championship in another sport in the same year (call it hostility since I don’t know what it’s like to win just one championship in a year). The Giants just won the 2012 World Series, so, sorry Colin Kaepernick, I can’t root for you.

So what am I going to do Sunday? Well, I can tell you I will have a few beers and not pay too much attention to commercials that cost more than the GNP of some small countries. I will likely play some squares so I have something to root for each quarter, and if push comes to shove, and I really need to root for a team, I will be cheering for the team coached by Harbaugh. Okay, it is the team coached by Jim Harbaugh. Because there is no way in hell I will root for those Ravens stolen from my beloved Cleveland.

*Worth Hoarding: “Below is a picture of the vendors license that my friend and I got the week of the Browns-Broncos game in Cleveland. We got vendor licenses and they gave us hats and aprons to sell food. When we got into the stadium, we tossed the stuff in the garbage in a bathroom and found 2 seats in the 80,000 seat stadium. They only had something like 86 no shows that day so we were pretty lucky to find seats. The ticket stub is from the Browns – Broncos game (The Fumble) the following year in Denver. Another friend had met these girls in Europe the summer before and we went out to visit them at Steamboat Springs. We came back into Denver that Saturday night and bought tickets for the game from a scalpers Sunday morning.” –DW

NFL Tweetview: Previewing Each Team in 140 Characters

All the NFL previews have already been written and attention spans are short. But I’m so excited that football is BACK I just had to write something. So since everything has to be “tweeted” and newscasters have to glance down at the iPads they’re holding while talking to us, I figured I might as well just make my 2012 NFL preview an “NFL tweetview” and limit myself to 140 characters or less per team. OK gang, heeeere we go:


NFC EAST

IF Mike Vick stays healthy, the #Eagles will be dangerous. They should be motivated to live up the hype. IF Vick stays health.

Washington’s D was good last year and may improve. Robert Griffin III will have ups/downs, but #Redskins could be dangerous sleeper team.

#Cowboys always have dangerous talent & mental lapses to be dangers to themselves. If O-line surprises, Dallas will be tough.

Every year I nay-say the NY #Giants and somehow they have 2 rings. But no one repeats, certainly not this lucky bullshit team.

NFC WEST

#Seahawks will be interesting with a rookie QB, great home field, and solid D with surprise 1st-rd draft pick Bruce Irvin.

#49ers should win this crappy #NFCwest, but I’m not on their Super Bowl bandwagon. I’d love to see Randy Moss return to form.

The #Rams still play in St. Louis and are now coached by Jeff Fisher. We’ll update you on them again come draft day 2013.

The Arizona #Cardinals will be so fucking terrible I don’t feel like wasting 140 characters on them. Poor Larry Fitzgerald.

NFC SOUTH

#Falcons have crazy 1-2 punch at WR, which is great for QB Matt Ryan’s fantasy stats. But can they win in the playoffs?

#Saints likely to take a small step back, but bounty suspensions wont cripple them. Drew Brees can still get them to 10 wins.

#Buccaneers could be a surprise team if QB Josh Freeman bounces back and gets help from rookie RB Doug Martin.

#Panthers will continue to be The Cam Show w/ a losing record. If Carolina builds a defense they will be a tough out someday.

 NFC NORTH

#Packers among NFL’s best, but still questions w/ RB’s & defense. Offense still could be good enough to carry them to title.

#Lions explosive offense and recent improvements are great, but I’m not ready to call them Super Bowl contenders just yet.

Da #Bears are another team I never believe in and they’re usually better than expected. Should be solid this year.

Some nice young pieces on #Vikings offense, but Minnesota defense might be too old by the time QB Christian Ponder develops.

AFC WEST

#Chargers are a bit under the radar. I see bounce-back year for QB Rivers as San Diego wins #AFCWest & a playoff game or 2.

The #Raiders just seem irrelevant. Classic silver and black uni’s and a few nice players, but they stink. Smells like 6-10.

#Chiefs have interesting RBs, good O-line. 1st/last time “interesting” & “Chiefs” were in same sentence. Romeo + Cassel = 7-9.

Peyton Manning is better than Tim Tebow, but #Broncos will miss Tebow’s magic. Chill that Super Bowl talk, Denver’s going 8-8.

AFC EAST

#Patriots have easy schedule, added WR B.Lloyd & nice draftpicks for defense. Brady ringless since ’04-05. Smells like 14-2.

#Bills QB Fitzpatrick is healthy, Defense was upgraded, and schedule is favorable. Might be a Wild Card berth for Buffalo.

#Dolphins reached for Tannehill & gave away their only good WR. Even if Tannehill is long-term answer, they’ll suck this year.

Tired of hype on the #Jets and watching their crappy games. Just make Tim Tebow a TE/H-back, a fullback “Slash” type already.

AFC NORTH

Despite nice D & young talented QB Dalton and WR Green, #Bengals will take a step back as they always do after a decent year.

#Browns rookie RB Trent Richardson might be special someday, but he & QB Weeden wont do enough to save Walrus Holmgren’s job.

#Ravens QB will prove he can be The Man. Offense will be better than aging Defense, but missing Suggs will be their downfall.

#Steelers are sleeper contenders. Injuries slowed the O-line rebuild, but Ben, Troy & gang are one of few AFC threats to Pats.

AFC SOUTH

Bounce-back year from Chris Johnson and young playmaker Jake Locker at QB will keep #Titans hanging around wildcard outskirts.

#Texans will level off. Schaub back, but Mario Williams and 2 OL-men gone. Should win division but lose first playoff game.

#Jaguars could improve, as QB Gabbert looks a bit better. But even with MJD back, this team is going nowhere (but LA).

The #Colts will still stink, but rookie QB Andrew Luck will look great racking up garbage-time stats on the way to 4-12.

 
Search #NFLtweetview on Twitter and follow @ThatGrudenGuy

New Twist on an Old Game: Divisional Fantasy Football

So after winning my league Super Bowl following the 2006 season, I quit playing Fantasy Football these last few seasons. Honestly, I must say I have NOT missed it. It’s nice to enjoy football for what it is, and not end up screaming at the TV and ruining a Sunday over something stupid like “Damn, why did Brady throw it to Welker? I started Gronk!!!” That said, I’m still an idea man… and I’ve got a great idea to breathe new life into Fantasy Football for anyone getting bored or looking for a new twist:  Divisional Fantasy Football.

A new way to play might spice things up.

Each of the 8 players gets one NFL Division and can field his team from any players in that division. So the person with the NFC East could choose from Eli Manning, RGIII, Michael Vick, and Romo at QB. Meanwhile the guy with the NFC West could pencil in the San Francisco defense and Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald every week. Whoever drafts the AFC West would have to choose between new Denver QB Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers of the Chargers. You get the idea.

It would sort of take the fun out of the draft, since there’d only be one round, but the guy with the first pick still has to strategize… does he take the NFC North so he’ll have Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Lions WR Calvin Johnson? Or take the AFC North just to get Ravens RB Ray Rice and pair him with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, Bengals WR A.J. Green, Browns RB Trent Richardson and the Pittsburgh Defense? And of course you’d still have week to week strategy of who to start/play.

Besides semi-killing the draft element, another stumbling block is the bye week. Usually the NFL schedule has most or all teams from one division on a bye at the same time. If one division does NOT have several teams on bye the same week, then that team would have an advantage. BUT, what if you had an active/inactive roster, so you could keep most of your top players active, but still leave plenty of “free agents” for other divisions to use one-time only when their division is on bye? Maybe you’d have to leave X number of QB’s available…. Maybe each week you could move players to/from inactive list.

So I have the NFC South, and they’re all on bye except New Orleans. Maybe I start the best of the Saints players and then fill in with the unprotected players from the other divisions. Maybe force everyone to leave 1-2 QB’s from their division on an unprotected inactive list so the talent pool was decent….

Not sure if this format would work in head-to-head style of play, or more suitable to a “rotisserie” format where you don’t play against anyone, just accumulate points each week. Maybe it could be done either way.

Not sure how this idea could make money. Unless you could have a website where people would play for $10 and just spread the word around until it’s really popular. Perhaps I could copyright the concept so I could cash in if ESPN and Yahoo wanted to start offering this. Probably not, who knows. But consider this date/time-stamped blog entry as my official claim on the idea; feel free to contact me with big-money offers.

This article is an updated reprint of my original idea previously published in 2008.

Inside the Super Bowl Point Spread Numbers

This article about Super Bowl spreads seems like a perfectly good excuse to post this picture.

Super Bowl Weekend is finally upon us. Hopefully we can move past trivial story lines and the speculation about Peyton Manning and any other quarterbacks who will have no impact on this game. Actually, wait, scratch that. I’m just getting word that ESPN Insider Extraordinaire and General Everywhere Man Adam Schefter is reporting the NFL has just announced that during the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, Tim Tebow will play Permanent QB for both teams.

Anyway, back to the actual game. The Super Bowl point spread had opened at around Patriots -3.5 and quickly moved down to -3, as it seems a lot of people really like the Giants in the matchup. The over/under opened at about 55.5 and is now down to around 54.

While everyone makes party plans and formulates their picks and best bets for the Super Bowl, I’ve found some more interesting stats and trends to consider:

Something to keep in mind about this stuff: just as with any trends…. at some point they don’t have much bearing on the actual game being played on the field. If the AFC favorites had won and covered 12 times in a row, that really doesn’t mean anything if Tom Brady throws two pick-6’s and Victor Cruz takes a 5-yard slant to the house. Just cuz the under has hit 4 out of the last 5 years, doesn’t mean that offenses led by Brady and Eli wont still go back and forth for a 31-27 game that goes over. I think people tend to get lost in trends: “oh, the last 4 times the Super Bowl featured a rematch with an AFC favorite of under 7 points with a democratic administration in the White House in an even-numbered year, the underdog won outright!!”

Huh?

I understand the idea of knowing your history, but it’s also wise to consider the fact that it’s just that: history. That said, let’s go inside the numbers of Super Bowl point spread history and results:

  • The spread has been a factor only 7 times, twice pushing and 5 times the favorite didn’t cover. The other 38 games, whether the underdog or favorite won, the spread did not factor into the game.
  • Five out of the last 7 Super Bowls have stayed UNDER the total.
  • Six out of the last 7 Super Bowls has totaled 50 or fewer points including two games that produced just 31 total points.
  • The favored team has won 15 of the last 21 Super Bowls, and 9 of the last 12.
  • The NFC holds a 24-21 straight up edge over the AFC.

The Ultimate Super Bowl Book

If Bob McGinn hadn’t titled his book The Ultimate Super Bowl Book, everyone would have called it that anyway.

This fantastic book is not only a great resource full of facts and stats, it’s also very well written. It isn’t just a bunch of dates and results: it goes beyond those basics we all know and delves deep into each game and how and why it was actually won on the field.

There aren’t any glossy photos or filler in The Ultimate Super Bowl Book. McGinn doesn’t just rehash the most famous moments of only the best games. He retells the story of each and every Super Bowl through his own reviews of the game films and fascinating interviews with the players, coaches, and assistant coaches involved in the game.

Throughout the book, McGinn also mixes in several interesting Top 10 lists as sidebars. Another great aspect of the book is the fact that he lists the entire coaching staff for each team. We all know and remember the head coaches, but seeing and recognizing countless names among the coordinators and assistants is a useful football history lesson beyond the considerable information found in the text.

It’s incredible to hear the key players and coaches recount not only the big memorable moments but also the underlying strategies and perhaps unseen plays that swung the game one way or the other. Oftentimes they sound as if the game had just been won (or lost) last week and not years or decades ago.

McGinn, a longtime sportswriter for the Green Bay Press-Gazett and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has been a finalist for the McCann Award for excellence in pro football writing and was selected as one of America’s Top 20 Sportswriters by Men’s Journal. His expert storytelling and game recaps make this even better than just an exhaustive Super Bowl reference book, though it serves as that too.

I can’t recommend The Ultimate Super Bowl Book highly enough, especially at just under $15 at Amazon. Also available direct from the publisher, MVP Books.

Coach Spector

So Kobe sets up on the perimeter and Shaq works the post. Fisher, I want you to backdoor your pass from the foul line over to Gasol. And please make sure you write a bridge!

As readers of some of my previous posts might already know, there is nothing I enjoy more than correlating music with sports. Today I would like to ask this profound-yet-absolutely-meaningless-question:  Just how important is the coach to a team or a record “producer” to an artist when it comes to success?

Is George Martin the greatest record producer ever because he happened to be in the room during all of those Beatles recordings or because of his influence in that room? Is Phil Jackson the greatest coach who ever lived because of the triangle offense and his ability to motivate or was he lucky to have Jordan, Shaq, and Kobe? Would George Martin be able to get the same results with, say, a band like Strawberry Alarm Clock?  Would Phil Jackson be able to win a slew of championships with Kevin Ebanks and Manute Bol?

Most people aren’t one hundred percent sure of what a record producer even does. I am not sure if any producer really knows either because the job is more akin to being a creative consultant.

Hey Producer, look at this product we have and tell us what you think about it. Maybe you can comment on its looks, colors, and shapes and present us with some additional options we might like. You can even carouse us to think of some new ideas ourselves. Since we really respect your thoughts and past works we will assume you know what you are talking about.

Or someone might be called a producer for the simple fact that they helped finance a project. Rick Rubin gets paid to produce Metallica records, he doesn’t finance them himself. But if you see a listing for an “Executive Producer” on a band’s record then more than likely that person was simply laundering money from the profits of their cocaine business.

There is no real question as to what a coach’s role on a sports team is. The coach is the boss. The coach makes the team rules, sets the teams goals, teaches the players how to run plays and schemes, and when really good at their jobs will shield the players from any external distractions, whether they be personal or professional. You often hear younger players refer to their beloved coaches in a paternal fashion.  Some athletes will go as far as comparing their coaches to generals in the field with whom they “go to war with” and “battle” alongside. You think John Lennon spent his time praising the greatness of George Martin?

I am not here to downplay the role of the producer when it comes to great music. A great producer (like a great coach) can take mediocre talent and extract greatness from it. Just listen to any Dr. Dre produced album: you might not like the songs or even the style of music but you will without a doubt respect how good it sounds (i.e. well produced). Would Dark Side of The Moon be the same legendary album had Alan Parson’s not help produce it? Probably, the same way those Jordan/Pippen teams of the 90’s probably would have still won championships without Phil Jackson. The 98 Yanks would’ve won the World Series with me as their manager.

What about when a good producer does a bad thing? I, of course, am referring to Clive lets-make-up-for-30-years-of-ignoring-the-classiest-most-interesting-guitar-player-on-the-planet-by-producing-a-made-for-the-masses-crossover-singles-album-with-today’s-young-pop-stars Davis. Supernatural sold 700 billion copies and made Santana a house hold name (…again…if it wasn’t already–which is a shame unto itself). Look, I love and respect Carlos Santana perhaps more than any other guitar player alive today but the fact that “The Academy” only got around to giving him Grammies for that Clive Davis-produced-shitfest vs. anything he did in the 70’s is ludicrous. Clive Davis has an amazing history of evaluating and discovering talent.  But Mr. Davis took an artist known for one thing (incredible musicianship and fusion of styles) and turned him into another (pop rock artist). And Carlos went along for the ride, so he should be called out on that to some degree as well.

I do feel that within the athletic world the role of a coach has a much more influential role than a good record producer might have. The band (usually) still writes their own songs, but players rarely draw up their own plays (unless they are the Brady, Mannings, and Kobes of the world). In this day-and-age you hear about the miraculous one-year-turnaround in sports rather frequently. A team is 4-12 one season, hires a new coach and go 12-4 the next with relatively the same talent. When was the last time Rick Rubin took a band that was horrible and made them great? He took a band that was on the cusp in the early 90’s and transformed them into megastars, but the band was good before he got there. He just made them better. Nigel Godrich has masterfully produced numerous Radiohead albums, but couldn’t do shit when presented with The Strokes.

The debate is never-ending and completely circumstantial. Sometimes a great coach can win with a good team and sometimes a producer can fail with a great band. And vice versa. The interesting aspect of all this is how the coach and the record producer share a very similar role in their respective fields: to collaborate and extract great performances. And in both fields each will sometimes get too much praise for success or too much ridicule for failure (athletes must execute plays and musicians must write good songs). In the end though, I would much rather sit in a control room with Macca discussing the merits of adding a french horn to the bridge than writing X’s and O’s on a chalkboard trying to figure out how to stop Aaron Rodgers from dissecting my secondary.