NFL turns to acts of yesterday for safe halftime show
Posted: Tuesday January 31, 2006 2:44PM; Updated: Tuesday January 31, 2006 2:44PM
The NFL won't have to worry about a wardrobe malfunction when the Rolling Stones perform at halftime this Sunday.
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While watching an NFL Films special about Super Bowl III, I caught a glimpse of life in a strange and distant world. At halftime, a huge cake topped by a Baltimore Colt and a New York Jet slowly rolled across the Orange Bowl field. Footballs with human legs were tethered to the cake. A couple of unfortunate pigskins stumbled and were dragged along the turf in a comically undignified manner.
As Sheriff Luger Axehandle insisted in Everything You Know is Wrong, "I'm not a drinkin' man, Mr. Cox. I swear to hell I saw it!"
And it's clear that they don't make Super Bowl halftime shows like they used to. Where humble performances by college marching bands from Arizona and Michigan (Super Bowl I), Grambling (II), and Florida A&M (III) once afforded an opportunity for viewers to take a leisurely leak, decompress and reload the bean dip trough, the NFL started going the extra yard to keep them glued to their seats while big name entertainers shook their money makers.
Such electrifying extravaganzas as the Tyler Apache Belles, Al Hirt and Pete Fountain (Super Bowl XII), Up With People doing Beat of the Future (XX), and Snoopy's 40th Birthday (XXIV) seem like dinner theatre now. The madness exploded in the early '90s with New Kids on the Block (XXV) and the shiver-inducing concept of Michael Jackson cavorting with 3,500 local children from Pasadena (XXVII). The halftime show has become a Godzilla of pop culture spectacles that rivals its very reason for being: the game.
After trying to take a hipper, edgier route two years ago with P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson -- and paying dearly (thanks for the mammary, Janet) -- the NFL has gone back to playing it safe by rolling out artifacts from the rebellious youth of moss-gathering Baby Boomers, who make up a nice fat chunk of the TV audience (literally and figuratively).
On Sunday, we'll be treated to another glimpse of the past, courtesy of, ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones, who are shuffling along in the halftime footsteps of such fossil fuel as Paul McCartney (XXXIX), Sting (XXXVII), U2 (XXXVI), Aerosmith (XXXV), Phil Collins (XXXIV), and ZZ Top (XXI). In their heyday, these acts would have raised hackles in conservative quarters, and maybe even provoked a little outrage. Now they're safe as milk.
Seeing the wrinkly icons of my misspent youth paraded before my dimming eyes is Weirdsville, daddy-o. Many moons ago, I truly believed that once you hit 40 you donned a cardigan like Mister Rogers and cranked Bing Crosby. No more Rolling Stones for you, old geezer. Ancient rock musicians hadn't been invented yet, and the notion of Keith Richards' mortal remains prowling America's largest stage at the ripe old age of 62 was unthinkable.
It's only rock 'n roll, but it is a young man's game -- visually, at least. The Stones sound vital on their recent A Bigger Bang CD, but they resemble four shrunken heads with instruments, a sight that is sure to be as strangely compelling as a big cake dragging two-legged footballs through the Orange Bowl.
My kids (ages 10-14) are just as dispirited by the prospect of watching "old fart bands" like the Stones as I was of witnessing Carol Channing's teeth romping through Hello, Dolly at Super Bowl IV, when I was their age. Then again, you can't please everyone, as the NFL surely knows. Thank heaven there's still a little football to get us through all this musical wonderment.