49 memorable off-field Super Bowl moments

USA TODAY Sports’ Tom Pelissero discusses the week leading up to Super Bowl 50.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, USA TODAY Sports looks at memorable off-field moments, issues, controversies and fun facts from each of the big games:

1. Los Angeles: This was not the Super Bowl. It was the AFL-NFL World Championship Game before the merger of the leagues. The Packers collected $15,000 each for winning, and the Chiefs earned $7,500.

2. Miami: First $3 million gate in football history.

3. Miami: Joe Namath shunned conventional wisdom to guarantee victory on the Thursday before the game. He made good on his promise and led the AFL to its first Super Bowl win — and in a game in which the words “Super Bowl” were used for the first time.

4. New Orleans: Carol Channing headlined the halftime show, and NFL Films mic’d up a very vocal Hank Stram, coach of the Chiefs.

5. Miami: Roman numerals to designate the game were used for the first time.

6. New Orleans: Cowboys running back Duane Thomas, foreshadowing Marshawn Lynch, sat silently during media day, which used to be called picture day, and declined to answer questions.

7. Los Angeles: The first Super Bowl to be televised in the city in which it was played after an odd NFL blackout rule was changed.

8. Houston: Played at Rice Stadium, the first time a Super Bowl was held at a stadium not used by an NFL team.

Super Bowl 50 is almost here, and Ad Meter 50 for 50th, sponsored by Adobe, is narrowing down the greatest big-game commercials of the past 50 years.

9. New Orleans: The Mary Tyler Moore Show used this game as a plot line the night before the game. Set in Minneapolis, the show had the Vikings winning. Moore said during the closing credits that the show was fictional and if the Steelers won she would apologize, which she had to do.

10. Miami: Up With People, which says its mission is to inspire young people to make a difference in the world, performed at the first of what would be four Super Bowl halftime appearances.

11. Pasadena, Calif.: Disney produced an It’s a Small World-themed halftime show.

12. New Orleans: The first time someone other than the game official did the coin toss, with NFL legend Red Grange doing the honors.

13. Miami: This Super Bowl is well-known along the Las Vegas strip as “Black Sunday,” the year the line fluctuated between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 points as the money moved. The Steelers’ four-point win meant lots of payouts to players on both sides and was a push for those who got in at exactly four. During the week before the game, Dallas linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson famously challenged Terry Bradshaw’s intellect by saying the Steelers quarterback “couldn’t spell cat if you gave him the C and the A.” Bradshaw responded after the game by saying he knew how to spell W-I-N.

14. Pasadena: This one still holds the Super Bowl attendance record of 103,985.

15: New Orleans: The Raiders’ Tom Flores, of Hispanic descent, became the first minority coach to win the Super Bowl.

16. Pontiac, Mich.: Winter weather and a motorcade for Vice President George H.W. Bush, who attended the game, snarled traffic, causing the 49ers to reach the stadium 1 hour, 40 minutes before kickoff. Winter weather across the country, though, had people stuck inside and led to this being the highest-rated Super Bowl, according to Nielsen, watched in 49.1% of households (73 share).

17. Pasadena: Teams played nine regular-season games because of a players’ strike, and a 16-team playoff format was used. A moment of silence was held before kickoff for Alabama coach Bear Bryant, who died four days before the game.

18: Tampa: The famous 1984 commercial for Apple, directed by Ridley Scott, ran during the third quarter.

Super Bowl 50 is almost here, and Ad Meter 50 for 50th, sponsored by Adobe, is narrowing down the greatest big-game commercials of the past 50 years.

19. Stanford, Calif.: The closest any team has come to having a home game, with the 49ers traveling about 35 miles to defeat the Dolphins. The coin toss was done by former NFL star Hugh McElhenny with assistance from President Reagan on video.

20. New Orleans: Bears quarterback Jim McMahon mooned a circling TV helicopter during practice. He also complained that the team would not let his acupuncturist attend to treat his bruised buttocks; the team finally relented.

21. Pasadena: The first “I’m Going to Disney World” ad was shot with quarterback and MVP Phil Simms after the Giants’ 39-20 win against the Broncos.

22. San Diego: According to legend, the Redskins’ Doug Williams was asked, “How long have you been a black quarterback?” It turned out the reporter was trying to determine the point when others were making too big of a deal about Williams’ skin color and its relation to a quarterback playing well.

23: Miami: The festivities and game went on despite riots in the city’s Overtown section. Also, Bengals running back Stanley Wilson talked about overcoming his cocaine addiction but missed a team meeting Saturday night. He was found under the influence of the drug but eluded team doctors and was not seen for a few days, ending his NFL career.

24: New Orleans: The halftime show celebrated the 40th anniversary of Peanuts. The float for the finale of the show, a massive steamboat named the Delta Queen, was so big that one of the goal posts had to be moved so it could come onto the field.

25: Tampa: Helicopter gunships circled Tampa Stadium as security was tightened during the first Gulf War. Whitney Houston sang a stirring rendition of the national anthem. It later was revealed that she lip-synced.

26. Minneapolis: Star running Thurman Thomas was not on the field when the Bills started on offense because he had misplaced his helmet. It was that kind of day. The Bills lost to the Redskins 37-24.

Michael Jackson performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo: Rusty Kennedy, AP)

27. Pasadena: The halftime show featured its biggest star, Michael Jackson.

28. Atlanta: O.J. Simpson was part of NBC’s coverage team as a reporter on the Bills sideline. Later that year, Simpson took a famous ride in a Ford Bronco after he was accused (and later acquitted) of killing former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

29. Miami: Lesley Visser, working for ABC, became the first woman assigned as a sideline reporter for a Super Bowl.

30: Tempe, Ariz.: A 1990 episode of the TV show Quantum Leap predicted Super Bowl XXX. At least in part. The time-traveling lead character went missing from the episode for a time and, when asked where he had been, said he had been watching Super Bowl XXX, where Pittsburgh was trailing by three points. The Steelers did indeed trail by three in the fourth quarter, eventually losing 27-17 to Dallas.

31: New Orleans: The first Super Bowl broadcast by Fox.

32: San Diego: Held at Qualcomm Stadium, which would become the first stadium to hold a Super Bowl and World Series in the same calendar year.

33. Miami: Falcons defensive back Eugene Robinson, honored the day before the Super Bowl by Athletes in Action for his high moral character, was arrested that night for soliciting an undercover police officer. He still played, albeit poorly in a loss to the Broncos.

34. Atlanta: Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and some friends were involved in a fight after a party that led to the stabbing deaths of two people. A murder charge was dismissed against Lewis, whose team was not in the Super Bowl, in exchange for his testimony. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

35. Tampa: Ravens coach Brian Billick, always creative, invited Jim Brown and Hank Aaron to address his team. Baltimore promptly defeated the Giants.

36. New Orleans: The game was pushed into February for the first time because the league postponed a week of games after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

37. San Diego: Oakland center Barret Robbins headed for Tijuana the night before the game and did not make it back.

38. Houston: Skin reigned. Mark Roberts sneaked onto the field dressed as an official, stripped to a G-string and ran among the players before he was knocked down by Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham. Then came the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show, where Janet Jackson exposed her breast with the help of Justin Timberlake.

39. Jacksonville: To make up for a lack of hotel rooms, cruise ships were brought in to house fans. The city took a lot of criticism, including this shot from The Washington Post’s Tony Kornheiser, who wondered why Jacksonville got the bid: “What, Tuscaloosa was booked?”

40. Detroit: TV imposed a five-second delay on the Rolling Stones’ halftime performance, censoring choice lyrics from Start Me Up and Rough Justice. The band also performed Satisfaction, which Mick Jagger quipped could have been performed at Super Bowl I.

41. Miami Gardens, Fla.: Bears defensive lineman Tank Johnson needed a judge’s permission to travel to the game after his arrest in 2006 on gun charges.

42. Glendale, Ariz.: TV Azteca reporter Ines Gomez Mont wore a wedding dress to media day and proposed to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

43. Tampa: Bruce Springsteen performed the halftime show.

44. Miami Gardens: NFL receiver Chad Johnson showed up to media day with his own Ochocinco News Network interviewing Colts and Saints players.

45. Arlington, Texas: A winter storm during the week threatened to disrupt preparations; six people were injured when snow fell off the roof of Jerry Jones’ new Cowboys Stadium two days before the game; a taxi strike caused travel issues, and, on game day, Christina Aguilera flubbed the national anthem and 1,250 temporary seats were not ready, leading to a lawsuit.

46: Indianapolis: Madonna performed the halftime show.

47. New Orleans:The night the lights went out at the Superdome, with Beyonce’s super-charged halftime show catching some blame. Pregame included Jennifer Hudson singing America the Beautiful with 26 children from Newton, Conn., site of a mass school shooting a month earlier. Super Bowl week featured the deer antler spray controversy; the Ravens’ Lewis denied he had tried the extract, which would have violated NFL policy.

48. East Rutherford, N.J.: First outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather city, but temperatures in the 40s meant no real issues.

49. Glendale: Katy Perry’s halftime show left viewers baffled after Left Shark, one of the backup dancing sharks, appeared to do his own thing with wild gyrations.

Sources: USA TODAY Sports research, NFL Network, Complex.com, NFL.com. TV.com, Wikipedia, The Associated Press, “Super Sunday: The Inside Slant on the Ultimate Game”

Compiled by Thomas O’Toole, Eddie Timanus and Joe Fleming



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