Super Bowl weekend is not the optimal time for an arts editor to write a column, as the event seems to stand for everything that the arts are not. And yet as I read a column on ESPN.com (we read sports, too, guys), I was struck by a hopeful thought: the elimination of the Super Bowl halftime show.
Gene Wojciechowski, the senior national columnist for ESPN, wrote a debatably good column on how the Super Bowl does not belong in “cold” locations, such as Dallas (for the record, I always imagined Dallas to be 80 degrees, but I watch a lot of “King of the Hill”). Wojciechowski said holding the event in cold climates takes the fun out of it for the fans. I’m not going to argue whether football is better on a frozen tundra (which it is).
A better reason for playing in New York in 2014, besides the epic conditions, is the setback it will prove to a halftime show.
The Who played last year’s show in Miami. Pete Townshend is great, don’t get me wrong. But he can’t play a guitar when it’s 25 degrees outside. This year’s entertainment, the Black Eyed Peas, isn’t especially renowned for its toughness. The most hardcore thing Will.i.Am has ever done was punch Perez Hilton in the face. Perez Hilton. I’d like to see them perform in a snowstorm in New York.
OK, admittedly I don’t like the Peas too much. But I do enjoy The Who and the Rolling Stones. So why am I so eager to get rid of the show altogether? The performance is the year’s most blown out of proportion piece of entertainment.
The Rolling Stones are a big deal. But the amount of preparation that went into setting up its halftime performance is absurd. A recent trend is a stage that’s shaped like a band’s logo. In the Stones’ case, this means a custom, lip-shaped piece that will get used once. Just once. Then you need to hire a bunch of fake fans to rush the field just as the performance begins. The band then made millions of dollars playing a whole three songs. Add on the commercial hype that the broadcasting station uses to build up expectations, and you’re ready for the biggest letdown of all time.
That’s why Prince’s 2007 performance was the best that I can remember. When his performance was announced, the media were skeptical. Some wondered how such a small artist could fill such a colossal slot. Prince? A small artist?
During the performance, he owned it. It featured the same custom stage and trimmings as any other halftime show, but Prince kept his stage presence simple and his melodrama at a minimum, and the result was a great halftime show. As of press time, I haven’t seen the Peas’ performance yet, but I’m willing to bet I’ll be disappointed, yet again.
Another problem is that the musicians don’t tend to mesh with the audience. Prince did a great job, but he is as synonymous with football as my roommate is with spiders, which is not at all. The Who, The Stones, maybe Tom Petty, can all be identified with football, to some degree just because they play rock music. But let’s be serious. What band would be better than Metallica? A band that plays seriously heavy music (football is a rough sport, last I checked) and has more flamethrowers on stage than the Vietnam War.
I know the answer to that last question. It’s because Metallica does not sell well to my mom and everyone at home. And as Wojciechowski subconsciously pointed out in his column, the Super Bowl isn’t about the spirit of the NFL. It’s about the money.