49ers Chiefs Super Bowl Football

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira perform last Sunday during halftime of Super Bowl 54 in Miami.

In 1963, the Old Coach’s senior year of high school, one of the popular songs by Bob Dylan was “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” Over the years, it was covered by numerous other artists of varying genres, such as the Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, Joan Collins, Bruce Springsteen, and Burl Ives. Rolling Stone listed it as No. 59 on its 500 Greatest Hits of All Time. After watching this past week’s Super Bowl halftime extravaganza, the Old Coach thinks that never was Dylan’s title more true.

But then, the times have always been a-changin’. Each generation both holds onto past principles, mores, musical tastes, and cultural trends and adopts new concepts, some willingly, some reluctantly. Things that were taboo or in bad taste a century ago may be perfectly acceptable to the majority of the younger generation today. Where one age group sees it as progress, another may view it as degeneration.

So far this week, I have been in conversations with numerous sports enthusiasts from across a wide range of ages, races, genders, and occupations, and overwhelmingly, the reaction to the Super Bowl halftime show has been very critical. I know. Maybe that’s just the people that I hang with. The main complaint was that, for a program that was sure to have quite a number of children watching, the game during prime time TV was too sexual in its presentation.

The times they are a-changin’.

As was mentioned in last week’s “Coach’s Corner,” I remember watching that first AFL-NFL World Championship Game (Super Bowl I) in January 1967. Like all televised football games of that time, all college and pro football game halftimes were 15 minutes and featured a brief recap by the play-by-play sportscasters (the only two in the booth, not a panel of ex-players and coaches telling us exactly what we just saw for ourselves) and the school’s or pro team’s marching bands. That sometimes included a Rockefeller Rockettes-like marching dance group, such as the Kilgore Rangerettes, before going right into the second-half kickoff.

To attend that inaugural Super Bowl played in the Los Angeles Coliseum would have cost you $12 for a seat at the 50-yard line. You likely could have bought a beer or a hot dog and a coke for $1.50. A 30-second TV ad cost the sponsor about $37,000 ($250,000 in today’s money). To give some perspective, however, you could have purchased a pretty nice house for $25,000 or a car for under $3,000 back then. For halftime, we were entertained by the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, the Grambling State Marching Band, jazz trumpeter Al Hirt, and a local high school dance and drill team.

The times they are a-changin’.

That formula was continued throughout the 70s and 80s with the Grambling Band, the Southern University Marching Band, Hirt, and the group Up with People performing multiple times. Jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain, Chubby Checker (of Twist fame, for those too young to know), an Elvis impersonator, and Broadway musical singer Carol Channing also graced the halftime stage. The most risqué element of the halftime shows were the dance groups that did their leggy-high-stepping routines while the bands played. Several Super Bowls had high school bands and dancers and drill teams perform. It was family-oriented, G-rated, to say the least.

The times they are a-changin’.

In the 1990s, viewership expanded greatly. Companies began paying a couple million for ad spots and we began to see much more elaborate halftimes. Halftime shows still maintained a modicum of decorum with performers like the Motown’s Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and the Temptations. The productions took on a life of their own, becoming an important part of the Super Bowl experience. Michael Jackson’s appearance in 1993 set a TV viewing record for a single event. According to Wikipedia, Jackson was the only pop artist to ever get paid to perform; money was promised to his fund-raising group. Even now, performers are not paid directly, according to Sporting News.

In a 10-year period from 1986 to 1996, the average Super Bowl ticket price went from $75 to $275-$350. In 1986, middle class people could still go to a Super Bowl. By 1996, it was getting a little too pricey.

The times they were a-changin’.

It was around the millennium that things began to change, and change rapidly. The themes of the halftime shows went from G-rated (the Old Coach’s rating) to R-rated with mostly pop stars falling over one another to perform so they could boost the sales of their latest albums and promote their next tour. It was Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 that produced the famous “wardrobe malfunction” with Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson that opened Pandora’s Box. That “accident” caused so much negative feedback that the SB games over the next six years featured only male artists.

Now, here we are, a generation later, and we have the latest example of halftimes gone wild. The game to determine the best NFL team has, in practicality, taken a backseat to the entertainment extravaganza that has become the Super Bowl. The halftime show now lasts 30 minutes, which is 15 minutes longer than the players are used to during the regular season, making the halftime more convenient for the halftime entertainers than for the players. Sponsors paid an average of $5.7 million for 30-second ads. Tickets to sit in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami cost and average of $6,785. To attend a Super Bowl, with added food, lodging and transportation, you could expect to shell out about $10,000-15,000 per person.

The times they are a-changin’.

Personally, I like a wide range of musical genres. I grew up listening to the big band sound of the late 40s. Harry James, the Glen Miller Orchestra, and Benny Goodman were some of my favorites. As a teenager playing in the junior high and high school concert bands, I developed an appreciation for classical music. And, like singer Joan Jett’s hit, “I Love Rock and Roll.” In college in the 60s, the Old Coach actually played bass in an R&R band called “Mogan David and the Grapes of Wrath.” We were big in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Motown, Chicago, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Doobie Brothers are groups I still listen to on my Sirius radio.

I have always admired talented musicians, singers, and dancers. The fluidity of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire as they danced in old black and white movies is something I still enjoy watching. What so many of my friends and I had a problem with in watching this year’s Super Bowl show was the sexual nature of the costumes and the suggestive dancing moves of the halftime performers. Many viewers were watching with children or grandchildren. Why has the NFL gone down this path?

The answer, of course, is the money.

Some things don’t change.

Here’s a suggestion for the NFL: Take the Super Bowl halftime and use 20 minutes to show videos on the stadium’s screens and on network TV of the top five finalists in the Walter Payton Humanitarian Award. Each NFL team has a nominee. Show a four-minute documentary on the projects that those five NFL players support. It would serve a dual purpose of highlighting to fans and other NFL players how they can have a positive impact on their communities or on the world and showing viewers that they can join in and help support the players’ causes. It would be cheaper than the elaborate stage events that are put on now and it would shine a light on people doing something to make the world a better place to live.

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