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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Selling Out: Who’s Buying?

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We are, in fact, only in it for the money.

This morning I was listening to The Howard Stern Show and he had 60’s icon/songwriter/musician Donovan on for an interview and some impromptu acoustic performances. Since it was Stern it was, of course, a great interview (say what you will about the man, but he is, hands down, the single best interviewer I have ever seen or listened to. Especially when it comes to musicians.). Donovan spouted off stories about his days hanging with The Fab Four, recording his hits with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as session men (pre-Zep), and then  showed Howard how this one descending chord progression is used in tons of songs you know and love (he went on to play “Dear Prudence”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “House Of the Rising Sun”, and more to prove his point–they all use the same type of progression). Then Howard asked him questions along the lines of, “Does it amaze you that so many people know the lyrics to your songs and sing along? Were you aware that would be the case when you wrote them? How do you know when a song is good?” Donovan’s response was insightful. He told Howard, “the first thing  you need to do is please yourself. The second is impress your peers. The last thing you think about is the fans.”

It reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago with some fellow musicians. We were ranting and raving about bands that “make it” vs. ones that don’t (including ours, which is why we were so bitter at the time). Then a sentence was uttered that has stuck with me ever since: you have to start making music for yourself.

Most bands and musicians start out with the goal of “making it.” And by “making it” I mean, in simple terms, being able to make music as your professional career, i.e. get paid to make music. Very few fulfill this dream.  When starting out, most artists are all about pleasing the fans, mainly, because they are trying to get some. But for those that  really hit it big (U2, Metallica, The Stones, etc.) they basically get to dictate their own careers once they do.  After Metallica’s Black Album sold a gazillion copies they essentially earned the right to do whatever the fuck they wanted. You think U2 cares if you think Zooropa sucked?

Growing up, the term “selling out” was one of the biggest insults you could hurl at an artist. This was mostly applied in the hardcore/punk/metal scenes. When Metallica came on in the early 80’s they were underground, dirt-bag metalheads wearing jeans jackets, ripped jeans, and sneakers while playing the fastest, most maniacal music on the planet. Now they play the Grammy’s and get mentioned on Good Morning America. Ozzy Osbourne was the devil incarnate back in 1982–now his music appears in car commercials. Does that mean Metallica and Ozzy have “sold out” or that a.) the powers that be are now people of the age that grew up loving these musicians so they are celebrating that love, b.) in this day and age you do whatever you can to get your music out there, or c.) there is no such thing anymore as “selling out.” (I think Ian MacKaye would disagree with c.).

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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

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.

NFL to Exhume Hendrix for Next Super Bowl Halftime

The NFL is looking to partner with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and other groups to fund a billion-dollar project to exhume Jimi Hendrix and bring him back to life to perform at next year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

After the horrifying debacle that was the Black Eyed Peas attempt at a musical performance, the league has set aside large sums of money freed up following their off-season revenue dispute with the players in hopes that they could make next year’s show better.

Coming back from the dead to play halftime?

“We looked into the idea of trying to get John Lennon,” one league source told us, “and we actually spoke to Yoko Ono, but she said something about getting a million people to stand in a straight line from some sacred Scandinavian territory to Iceland or something. I had no clue what she was talking about. We checked some maps, it can’t be done.”

The catalyst for this expensive and first-of-its-kind project was the abominable showing by the pop group Black Eyed Peas at Super Bowl XLV. ACME Entertainment Solutions, a group that measures this kinda stuff with ratings and surveys and something called Aggregate Blog Reaction, came out with its findings recently and rated the Black Eyed Peas performance “Fucking Horrible.”

With a Lennon deal unlikely, the committee contacted Janie Hendrix, the sister of the late guitarist and executor of his estate. “She was great,” according to the league source. “I mean she just started giving us a routing number and asking where to sign. Although there’s not much in the way of new unreleased songs in Jimi’s vault, Janie’s promised that they’d be able to come up with a release to coincide with the Super Bowl. And of course if everything works out with the science part of bringing him back to life, we all look forward to meeting Jimi. We’re big fans.”

They Should Make the Day After the Super Bowl a Holiday

It’s so obvious, I’m glad I thought of it. I need to figure out a way to make money off this idea, but I’d settle for just getting the day off.

Here’s the deal: they have Washington’s Birthday or I guess now they sorta combined him with Lincoln or something and made it “Presidents Day.” Third Monday in February I think it is. And the Super Bowl that used to be played in late January, now increasingly falls out on the first few days of February. Not a huge deal, but that puts it too far away to combine with Martin Luther King Day, and the game has become a “February” event in our minds. “January football” now means Playoffs and “if you wanna be playing in February” is now a direct reference to making it to the Super Bowl.

So, you see where I’m going with this, right? Presidents Day is kinda pointless anyway. It’s just some random Monday off. It’s not like we plan family visits or anything. And it usually isn’t really on Washington’s actual birthday, so why not move it back couple weeks and make it the first Monday in February? Like it matters. Jesus wasn’t born on December 25.

But wait…. that’s not all. I’m not proposing the day after Super Bowl be Presidents Day just for the partying factor and being able to stay up late for the game (hey, a new generation of kids/fans/consumers need to be raised, how can they watch the big game if they have school in the morning?). And it’s not to avoid calling in sick, AKA hungover.

This is actually an economic stimulus package that I implore President Obama, enthusiastic sports fan that he is, to embrace and pursue. Presidents Day is usually filled with ridiculous sales on cars and mattresses (two items that are ALWAYS on sale). They drum up these silly commercials with cartoons of Lincoln and Washington to tell us to shop for stuff. Why? Most of us just do laundry that day and wonder what might be open or closed, since it’s not really a holiday but it is. So no one shops. Wasted holiday.

So, once you move it to the day after the Super Bowl, Presidents Day will be right after the day/night famous for not just football, but for the fact that 10’s of millions of Americans of all demographics gather around their TV’s to WATCH THE COMMERCIALS. Personally I’m all about the game. But a LOT of people come right out and say they are “excited” for the “commercials.”

What an opportunity! Wouldn’t it be awesome if, the day after the Super Bowl, hordes of Americans were off work and school, and heading out to buy the cars and colas and countless other crappy items they saw advertised the night before!

This makes too much sense. And while it might not happen, I think it’s more likely than the NFL moving the game to Saturday. But, until then, just keep callin’ in sick.