Super Bowl Moments, Then and Now

The halftimes and the showstoppers

02.02.14 12:00 AM ET

Indisputably the most-watched music event on the calendar is Super Bowl Halftime. Sponsored these last two years by Pepsi, it has a remarkable legacy. Garnered in large part by blockbuster performances, rock and pop’s royalty is recruited to give what in some cases has been the show of their career. On occasion they may have even upstaged the game they were invited to celebrate. But past and present, standout moments in the sport’s championship game continue to rivet worldwide audiences each year.

A Banner Year

In their earlier seasons, Super Bowl halftimes tended to be fairly easygoing affairs featuring varsity bands and mainstream entertainment. The well-timed break in the game allowed party hosts a chance to refill chips and salsa bowls, grab a chilled mug or two, and be back in time for next quarter action. However, it may have been the late Whitney Houston, responsible for the now-legendary 1991 Super Bowl pre-game show that was the game-changer.

Granted it wasn’t technically halftime and musical accompaniment was pre-recorded. But ten days after the U.S. became involved in the Persian Gulf War, Houston’s unforgettable rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” is still one of TV and Super Bowl history’s greatest moments. With 115 million viewers and millions more eyeballs worldwide, the Grammy Award winner’s moving interpretation of the national anthem established a brand new standard that singers still try to top for its unbridled power and intensity. Even now, 23 years later, it’s hard to listen to Houston’s heartfelt delivery and not tear up a little. No special effects, no multimillion-dollar frosting. Just a gospel-trained singer who belted out the song before admiring fans. Considered one of the best moments of her career, it remains a lasting memory for the serving military and everyone else fortunate to have heard her that night.

Postmodern Sparks & Sizzle
Artists who have performed at the Big Game in recent years have had some big shoes to fill, begging the question, “How will halftime top this next year?” 2013’s mid-game show, for example, featured R&B superstar Beyoncé Knowles at the New Orleans Superdome. Together with her 32-woman dancing troupe, the Saintsations, Queen B performed a medley of nine songs from her hit list. Precision-perfect choreography, dazzling pyrotechnics, and all-angle camera shots of geometric formations that Busby Berkeley would have applauded. An ensemble of women musicians included former Destiny’s Child band mates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. And it became the second most-watched show in Super Bowl history rivaled only by pop icon Maddona's halftime appearance a year earlier.

Some speculated that it was Beyoncé’s halftime performance that blew out the Superdome’s power for 34 minutes. The outage had in fact a slightly less romantic explanation. Ironically the incident that scored 300,000 tweets a minute was traced to a faulty electrical relay device. Specifically installed to prevent outages, the move was meant to protect Superdome equipment in the event of any cable failure between the switchgear and the stadium. Still, diehard Beyoncé fans stand by their conviction that it was the supercharged vocal and dancing chops of the star and her team that ultimately sent the game into darkness.

Twice in a Lifetime—The Rory Story
Before high-voltage pop music became the norm for halftime in the nineties, Super Bowl IV in 1970 set out to try something new. That year’s game in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium had a Mardi Gras theme, and halftime was led by none other than the vivacious Tony-Award winning Broadway star Carol Channing. She was to be the first-ever solo artist to perform live during a Super Bowl program. (The Southern University marching band was Carol’s backup rhythm section.) 

Fast-forward to 2014 for the touching story of U.S. Navy veteran Rory O’Connor. Part of Pepsi’s “get hyped for halftime” marketing effort, “Twice in a Lifetime” is a short video recalling the 1970 halftime show. In it, Rory, who is never told everything that is in store for him during the video’s shooting, shares his personal recollections of that important day in his life 44 years ago.

Crash the Super Bowl
PepsiCo has a couple of other treats tucked up its sleeve this year. One of the biggest draws of any Super Bowl is the game’s rollout of witty and imaginative new commercials. Each year they seem to reset the bar higher and fans passionately engage all over social media.

An ad program that’s been in place for a few years now is Doritos Crash the Super Bowl. To the uninitiated, the contest offers aspiring filmmakers a chance to have their Doritos commercial seen by hundreds of thousands of fans on Game Day and to win some serious pocket cash, to boot. This year, the contest’s finalists will receive prizes of twenty-five thousand dollars, have their spots appear online for fans to see, and get to attend the Big Game and a party hosted by Doritos. The first place grand-prize winner, the commercial that receives the most fan votes online, gets one million dollars. The second place grand-prize winner is chosen by the folks at Doritos and awarded fifty thousand dollars. Both grand-prize winners will see their ads shown during the televised game and both receive an opportunity to work on the set of a major motion picture. (Amazing visibility for those looking to break into this ultra competitive field.)


PepsiCo's ads “Fashionista Daddy” and “Goat 4 Sale” coveted the top prizes last year. Recently announced were this year’s five finalists, which can be viewed at Regardless of who triumphs, to have gotten this far in the contest given the extent of talented entrants participating, makes all finalists winners. So, get in the game. Voting is open at through January 29th. Stay tuned.

Tipping Points
There’s always been a debate as to when a particular football tradition actually started, so without taking sides, here are a few facts as they relate to the beginnings of the post-game Gatorade Dump. Some say it was inspired by the prank of former New York Giants defensive tackle Jim Burt in 1985, after head coach Bill Parcells had ridden Burt hard before a mid-season Washington Redskins game. So it goes, once the Giants clinched a 17-3 win, Burt dumped a cooler of Gatorade on Parcells exacting the revenge prank, and it’s become a playful rite that endures and that now has its own Facebook page.


By the time the Giants made it to Super Bowl XXI, Parcells, who was famously superstitious, had already been doused by 80+ gallons worth of Gatorade and believed the sweet deed brought the team good luck. But, technically, it was New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson who first administered the Gatorade Dump in 1987 at the Super Bowl, and thus gets credit for its championship début. Their victory over the Denver Broncos not only won the Giants the big trophy, but it earned Coach Parcells yet another dousing—one he very gladly welcomed. Super Bowl XXI was not only the first time Big Blue would advance to the Super Bowl, but it was also the first time the team would win the championship game. Very sweet, indeed. The Gatorade Dump remains a sign of affection between players and their coach. And it’s safe to say that for more than a quarter of a century, it’s a sticky tradition that has stuck.

Ties That Bind
One of the greatest coaches of all time was also known for being a perfectionist. Vince Lombardi, started his NFL career in 1954 with the New York Giants before he became the Green Bay Packers skipper from 1959 to 1967. He would take the Packers to five league championships in those seven years, and to victories in Super Bowls I and II. (Lombardi also had a brief stint coaching the Washington Redskins in 1969 and broke their fever of 14 losing seasons.) In fact, as a head coach in the NFL, Lombardi never had a losing season. His masterful record of 105 wins (35 losses and 6 ties) is one of the most successful in NFL history.

January 14, 1968 marked Green Bay’s second consecutive Super Bowl win. And, for Lombardi's last game in Miami as the Packer’s coach, the legendary leader was carried off the field by his team in recognition of a job extremely well done.

After his passing, the World Championship Trophy awarded to the winning Super Bowl team was renamed the Vince Lombardi Trophy in his honor. Nearly four decades later, Lombardi remains one of the most innovative sports figures in the game—and it seems, also one of the most quotable: “Perfection is not attainable,” he said. “But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”