As a former sports reporter, I usually watch football for the football. However, as I’ve grown older, I find that my Super Bowl experiences are more broadly based around my desire to overeat and my desire to be entertained.
It is the latter where I believe Super Bowl LIII fell a bit short of expectations. I was grossly underwhelmed by a halftime performance starring Maroon 5 and featuring Travis Scott and Big Boi. Judging by some reactions I read about on Twitter, I wasn’t the only football fan who was happy to see the Rams and Patriots take the field for the start of the third quarter of the lowest-scoring Super Bowl of all time.
I was inspired to take a look back at Super Bowl halftime performances in effort to understand how we reached such a low point in entertainment.
Super Bowl I featured a halftime show starring the Three Stooges. After that, we were treated to a mix of recording artists, but from 1968 to 1975, there was always a marching band. Up with People made frequent appearances from 1975 to 1986.
In 1993, Michael Jackson revolutionized Super Bowl halftime performances as we’ve come to know them, delivering a performance at the Pasadena Rose Bowl that proved to drive the Super Bowl’s television ratings upward. It inspired the NFL to attempt to sign the best performers available for all future halftime shows.
Here’s the problem: Michael Jackson isn’t going to walk down that 50-yard line again. We’ve fallen into a repetitive cycle. We find ourselves pigeonholed into watching a concept of what music executives tell us is entertaining: a collection of modern acts playing a medley of their hits to overproduced theatrics in the background that the television audience barely sees. It’s all sizzle, no steak.
Super Bowl halftime performances reached the peak of controversy in 2004, when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake helped make the phrase “wardrobe malfunction” a household term.
As an aside, does anyone else remember the great palette cleanser we received in 2005 in the form of Paul McCartney’s halftime performance? No, you probably don’t, and that’s the whole idea. I can still picture the scene behind closed doors in an NFL executive’s office.
“After last year, we need to find the safest, most wholesome, most fully-clothed, least controversial, least suggestive, squeaky-cleanest musical act on the planet. I’ve got it… Paul McCartney.”
Enough time has passed between Janet Jackson, Paul McCartney and the last time we genuinely enjoyed a Maroon 5 song. We’re hungry for steak, and we’re hungry for something different. Bring back university marching bands. Bring back stooge-inspired comedy. I promise I’ll enjoy just about anything as long as it's different.
If you go to a football game in Nixa or Ozark, you see a marching band perform at halftime. The same thing happens at Missouri State University, Mizzou, Arkansas, or anything else bearing semblance to a college football program. It shouldn’t be hard to find a marching band, or an all-star conglomeration of the very best marching bands in the nation, to put on a great show for 15 minutes.
If marching bands won’t do it, at least give us some variety.
Yank some folks off of “America’s Got Talent” and let them throw swords at each other. Pluck Reza from his “Edge of Illusion” billboard off of U.S. Highway 65 and drop him into a stadium. Ask WWE superstar John Cena if he will wrestle a grizzly bear. Put President Trump and Hilary Clinton in a 20-minute debate. Trot the saloon show girls from Silver Dollar City onto the stage and let them have a crack at making us smile with some folksy Ozark tunes.
We’ve got a year to anticipate the next Super Bowl halftime show. On the upside, it will only be about seven months until we can pack into stadiums on Friday nights to see halftime shows with marching bands.