21 Days: Behind the Music, halftime edition

January, 12, 2014

Each day from now until Feb. 2, ESPNNewYork.com will take you inside the challenge of staging the most unpredictable NFL title game ever. There are 21 days until the Super Bowl.

On Saturday the NFL announced the Red Hot Chili Peppers would join the Super Bowl halftime show, adding the '90s rockers to the already mediocre choice of Bruno Mars. They should go together as well as, say, cotton candy and aged gruyere.

Maybe they’ll be great, who knows? But ever since the Super Bowl tried to balance the appeal of a marching band with the glitz and sequins of a Broadway show, the halftime show has been a little weird.

After Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson in 2004, we had to endure many years of "classic" bands or artists, almost always male. Finally The Black Eyed Peas, with one chick pea, broke the all-dude cycle in 2011, and the next year Madonna’s co-star, M.I.A., flipped everyone the bird.

So why does the Super Bowl have such a history of messing up what should be a simple thing? In other words, why isn’t Jay-Z making halftime an Empire State of Mind -- after all, he has time for the DirecTV party in Manhattan on Super Bowl eve?

The simple answer is that the NFL doesn’t want to pay performers, and a lot of stars apparently don’t want to play for free, even if the NFL is technically a non-profit enterprise. Instead, artists use the opportunity for exposure, or to up their profile, maybe revive their careers.

That doesn’t mean every star has played for free. When Pepsi sponsors the show, it can tap artists under contract like Beyonce, who played last year. This Billboard article explains how Mars became the earliest recent choice, and how the reimbursements work for Super Bowl halftime acts.

It's worth noting that Mars’ music is the background for the Pepsi commercial in heavy rotation that purports to explain the first halftime in history.

In any case, the NFL isn’t making the decisions based on what you, the viewer, want to watch, it’s based on who will work for free, or who comes along with a sponsorship. Not to say that any other method would yield an artist we would all agree on. Like Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.

Here’s a look at Super Bowl halftime acts in recent years:

2004: The artists who shall not be named
2005: Paul McCartney
2006: The Rolling Stones
2007: Prince
2008: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
2009: Bruce Springsteen
2010: The Who
2011: Black-Eyed Peas
2012: Madonna and friends
2013: Beyonce
2014: Jay-Z Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Victory tour no more: The scandal enveloping New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his administration shouldn’t have any effect on upcoming Super Bowl plans. Everything happening now has been in place for months.

What may change however is what the week is like for Christie. It’s easy to imagine his national profile being bolstered by a week of parties and photo opportunities with celebrities and athletes as New Jersey hosts a successful Super Bowl.

After having covered a few appearances of Christie with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, it seems to me there was a good working relationship between both men and the Super Bowl Host Committee. As is stands, such appearances might be more somber and less frequent.

Come back daily for more on the issues, logistics and personalities surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII.
Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.



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