The Best and Worst of Super Bowl Break Time

Let’s be honest: The most entertaining part of the Super Bowl usually has nothing to do with the game. It’s all about the clever commercials and halftime spectacles. So we pause and look back at some of the best and worst from Super Sundays past.


Commercial Halftime Show
In 1984, Apple creates a new prototype—and not just the Mac they’re advertising. Apple’s “1984” ad features an orange-clad runner smashing through a crowd of Orwellian drones. The spot opened the door to extended narratives, big budgets, dystopian imagery and such Hollywood directors as Ridley Scott. Game Changer Michael Jackson is at his King of Pop zenith when he plays the 1993 halftime show. The opening where he just stands motionless for 90 seconds while 100,000 people lose it is incredible in itself. Then he launches into “Billie Jean” and “Black or White,” and 135 million television viewers follow suit. Super Bowl halftime would mean “headliner” forevermore.
In a 2014 Coke commercial, “America the Beautiful” is sung in a variety of languages. What makes this memorably patriotic is the barrage of angry tweets from citizens offended that “our national anthem” was sung in “foreign shit.” Of course, our national anthem is actually “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but when have facts ever stood in the way of jingoistic outrage? ’Merica! In 1997, hundreds of women in hot pants lie on their backs, spreading and closing their legs as ZZ Top plays “Tush” and “Legs” while silver Harleys and red pickup trucks drive across the field. It does not make up for the betrayal of our nation’s cultural heritage that is Jim Belushi taking his brother John’s place fronting the Blues Brothers. We recall the dishonor and shed a tear.
In a 1997 Holiday Inn commercial, an attractive blonde in leopard print walks into her high school reunion. The hook: She used to be “Bob Johnson.” It’s a confusing attempt to advertise impending renovations to the hotel chain. But said renovations hadn’t happened yet, so maybe a commercial with a guy who had gotten a boob job but still had 5 o’clock shadow would have been more appropriate … Whaaat? Ninjas with boa constrictors have stolen the Vince Lombardi trophy, and only Indiana Jones and Patti LaBelle can get it back for us! No, really, this is the premise of the 1995 halftime show. Along the way: parachutes, lasers, pyrotechnics, scimitars and an utterly bewildered Tony Bennett presiding over a tango contest.
1984: “Where’s the beef?” Catchphrase 2004: “Wardrobe malfunction.”
One of last year’s ads for Maserati features the Maserati trident logo. The Ukranian flag has a trident. So does the 9/11 Memorial. The logo of the Malaysian Airlines plane that crashed? Gotta turn it sideways, but still, trident. Paul McCartney once played the Super Bowl, and his onetime bandmate George Harrison recorded All Things Must Pass, a triple album, at Trident studios. It’s World War III, we tell you, World War III! Conspiracy Theory Fodder In 2012, Madonna, the high priestess of the Illuminati, presides over their supreme rite, the halftime show. Note the use of the winged sun disk, chariots, robes, triangles, animal prints, the letter M and the slogan, “World Peace.” All are sacred to the Illuminati and point to our coming doom at the hands of a one-world government.
SoBe sports drink hires notoriously hot-tempered supermodel Naomi Campbell for its 2008 Super Bowl spot. In it, she does the “Thriller” dance with a bunch of tiny, CGI reptiles. Viewers are confused whether they’re SoBe lizards or Geico geckos, but at least Naomi couldn’t celly-whip animated creatures. Biggest Waste of Technology In 1989, a former Solid Gold dancer billed as “Elvis Presto” leads “the world’s largest card trick.” The clincher? Said card trick would be in 3-D. Families rushed out to get the glasses—which only came with purchase of a Diet Coke. Of course, the 3-D didn’t really work and, even if it had, how would it improve a card trick?
It’s 1979. Pittsburgh Steelers tough guy “Mean Joe” Greene limps off the field and is trailed by an adoring mop-topped young boy, who offers “Mean Joe” his Coke. Greene initially declines, but after the kid insists, the future Hall of Famer downs the drink in one gulp, unleashes a broad smile and tosses the kid his game jersey. Cue lump in throat—and the “Have a Coke and a Smile” campaign. One for the Ages In the scramble for the right mix of reverent and celebratory for the first post-9/11 Super Bowl, someone thought to book U2 for the 2002 halftime show. Their set is mercifully free of special effects, dancing girls and glitter—just the band and audience bonding over “Beautiful Day” and “MLK.” As the names of the fallen scrolled behind him, it would be the last time Bono could strike a Jesus pose without anyone wanting to strike him.