The Evolution of the Super Bowl over 50 Years

Ty Schalter@tyschalterNFL National Lead WriterFebruary 4, 2016

The Evolution of the Super Bowl over 50 Years

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    The Super Bowl is the biggest event in American sports culture. It might even be the biggest event in American culture, period.

    After 49 installments of the Big Game, it's become a global phenomenon—a worldwide television event featuring the best talent in American football and the biggest acts in English-language entertainment in the best stadiums the U.S. has to offer.

    It's also a worldwide see-and-be-seen event, a premium platform for celebrities and titans of industry. It's the priciest ticket going, a festival of sponsorships and brands, a fortnight of A-listers and Fortune 500s and everybody who is anybody and anybody who loves football.

    But it wasn't always.

    Wouldn't you love to see how it all started? Wouldn't you love to see how the Super Bowl became America's glitziest national holiday?

    Bleacher Report can show you. Just hop into our wayback machine, and you'll see how a contrived exhibition between two competing leagues—shoved into the corner of a track and field stadiumbecame a two-week-long, multibillion-dollar carnival of football.

Super Bowl I: January 15, 1967

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    It's January 15, 1967. The champions of the two rival pro football leagues are meeting in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the First AFL-NFL World Championship Game, colloquially called the Super Bowl.

    Held in an Olympic-style multiuse stadium, complete with a running track, it's something more than an oddity but less than a spectacle. The two offenses aren't even playing with the same-size ball, per the New York Times. NBC and CBS have binding rights to NFL and AFL games, so both are broadcasting this Super Bowl (after paying a fee of $1 million each).

    The cavernous 93,000-seat stadium didn't sell out—and so per NFL rules, the Super Bowl is blacked out in Los Angeles.

    It's a perfect microcosm of pro football's on-again, off-again relationship with the City of Angels. Of course, the NFL will open a new 260-acre football Disneyland in Inglewood in 2019, and the Super Bowl will surely return to L.A. very shortly after.

Super Bowl I: January 15, 1967

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    Kansas City Chiefs head coach Hank Stram looks dapper as he ponders his next call. Note the astonishingly empty bleachers in the background; today that many seats in that section of the Super Bowl would be a couple of million dollars' worth of ducats.

    Standing out on the field of play, bereft of assistants in his ear (let alone a headset), Stram looks profoundly alone, lost in the game, trying to solve the puzzle that is the Green Bay Packers.

Super Bowl I: January 15, 1967

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    Commissioner Pete Rozelle prepares to hand the Tiffany-crafted World Professional Football Championship trophy to Packers head coach Vince Lombardi.

    The Packers, having defeated the Chiefs 35-10, are now indisputably the best football team on the planet—and in 1970, the trophy will be renamed in Lombardi's memory.

    Green Bay Packers 35, Kansas City Chiefs 10

Super Bowl II: January 14, 1968

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    Workers get Miami's Orange Bowl field ready for Super Bowl II the old-fashioned way: with a spray gun, wading boots and plywood.

    The "KEEP OFF FIELD WET PAINT" sign has been creatively mounted to a folding chair with twine. Extra points to the groundskeeper who appears to have figured out a way to smoke cigarettes through a safety mask.

Super Bowl II: January 14, 1968

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    The Grambling State University Band salutes Super Bowl II's clash of inflatable titans.

    The jerseys with "NFL" and "AFL" on the front, with "Packers" and "Raiders" on the back, reflect a deeper truth about the nature of the game: The winner will establish supremacy of one rival league over the other for the next calendar year.

    Though the leagues had already agreed to merge in a couple of years—indeed, the Super Bowls were a product of that agreement—winning the Super Bowl for the AFL or NFL would mean much, much more than the AFC/NFC battles of later decades.

Super Bowl II: January 14, 1968

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    The Packers watch Super Bowl II with helmets off, relaxed. We're decades away from rotational, package-based substitutions, and it makes a world of difference for both the starters and the second-stringers.

    There are very few staffers, no technology, and the coaches are wearing—minimally—dress shirt, tie and sweater.

    A close inspection of the crowd reveals an awful lot of men wearing hats, even ties. It's 1968, but the game and the demographics of its fandom are just beginning to evolve from the NFL's prewar roots.

Super Bowl II: January 14, 1968

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    Lombardi, captured in a classic AP photo, gets carried off the field by his Packers after a 33-14 stomping of the Oakland Raiders.

    But most papers would crop out the jam-packed Orange Bowl stands and activated stadium lighting behind Lombardi; it would be years before Super Bowls began kicking off at dusk in the Eastern Time Zone rather than ending when the sun goes down.

    Green Bay Packers 33, Oakland Raiders 14

Super Bowl III: January 12, 1969

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    Is it any surprise to see what appears to be New Jersey frat boys going hard for the Jets' Hall of Fame quarterback, "Broadway" Joe Namath? These guys have traveled to Miami for the Orange Bowl, painted up that sheet and brought it to the game, all in hopes of seeing Namath make good on his guarantee to win one for the upstart AFL.

    Per, the Jets are a massive 18-point underdog in the game, the first time it's officially called the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl III: January 12, 1969

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    Super Bowl halftime shows are...still a work in progress.

    Here, Florida A&M University's band puts on a show whose theme is "America Thanks," per No mention of whom America was thanking, what ghostly apparition is rising from that cake or why the cake is surrounded by walking footballs.

Super Bowl III: January 12, 1969

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    Broadway Joe makes good on his guarantee, first pulling the Jets out to a 16-0 lead and then coasting to a 16-7 win.

    Here, reporters crowd around for a postgame interview, which the relaxed Namath grants on his terms.

    New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7

Super Bowl IV: January 11, 1970

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    A meeting of the minds at the outset of Super Bowl IV.

    Tulane Stadium is hosting the matchup, with Minnesotan Vikings and, chiefs, making their way down to New Orleans for what was expected to be the closest Super Bowl yet.

    Seriously: the Vikings' mere 12-point advantage is the smallest margin that oddsmakers had yet granted in a Super Bowl, per

Super Bowl IV: January 11, 1970

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    Kansas City Chiefs center E.J. Holub's ill-fitting helmet looks like it lost a demolition derby.

    It's not hard to understand why so many linemen of his era suffered traumatic brain injuries and debilitating mental-health issues—although Holub appears to be 78 years into a happy, satisfying life.

    Kansas City Chiefs 23, Minnesota Vikings 7

Super Bowl V: January 17, 1971

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    The Super Bowl returns to Miami for its fifth edition, with the Dallas Cowboys making their debut against the Colts. "Super Bowl V" is the first to be billed that way, complete with Roman numerals.

    Here, Cowboys tight end Mike Ditka takes full advantage of the R&R offered by the area's famous a polo shirt and slacks.

Super Bowl V: January 17, 1971

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    Try not to cringe in your seat as free safety Rick Volk engages in a bighorn sheep-style head-butting with Cowboys running back Duane Thomas.

    See what you hit, kids, and wrap up afterward.

    Super Bowl V is the first post-merger edition of the game, with the Colts and Cowboys representing the NFC and AFC, not the NFL and AFL.

    This time, though, the favored Colts avenge their Super Bowl III loss with a 16-13 win, paying back bettors by covering the 2.5-point spread in the process. 

    Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas Cowboys 13

Super Bowl VI: January 16, 1972

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    Now this is entertainment.

    Ella Fitzgerald and trumpeter Al Hirt perform a "Salute to Louis Armstrong" theme at the halfway point of Super Bowl VI, while the U.S. Marine Corps Drill Team (not pictured) and the Goodyear blimp (very pictured) provide accompanying visuals.

    Dallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 3

Super Bowl VII: January 14, 1973

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    The Big Game returns to where it all started, the Los Angeles Coliseum, for Super Bowl VII. Going by announced attendance figures, 28,236 more fans are here to watch the game's seventh edition than its first.

    Thanks to the sellout, the rest of the Los Angeles metro area was fortunate enough to see what was already a national television-ratings juggernaut.

    Here, the University of Michigan Marching Band and others perform a halftime show themed "Happiness Is." Before the game, they'd paid tribute to the crew of Apollo 17—who led the stadium in saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

    Yes, per, really.

    Apparently, happiness is flying from northern California to southern California in a papier mache jet? Or, is that supposed to represent the Apollo 17 mission vehicle? If so, they've done a very poor job.

Super Bowl VII: January 14, 1973

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    The Dolphins' big victory inspires them to carry their head coach, Don Shula, off the field. A fair number of random fans managed to make their way onto the field and "help."

    Shula looks nonplussed, but the diversity of the people swarming the coach looks much different than the homogeneous business-hat crowd of the first few Super Bowls.

    To this day, the 1972 Dolphins have the only perfect season in the Super Bowl era. 

    Miami Dolphins 14, Washington 7

Super Bowl VIII: January 13, 1974

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    We're in Houston for Super Bowl VIII. Everything is bigger here, especially the tailgating.

    NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle lends a helping hand to revelers spit-roasting what appears to be an entire cow.

Super Bowl VIII: January 13, 1974

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    It is flat-out unimaginable that a Super Bowl facility would force players to change in a converted gym with temporary clothing racks and folding chairs, yet such are the amenities here at Rice Stadium in 1974.

    Minnesota Vikings staffers unload uniforms, towels and equipment onto folding tables as players arrive and figure out where they're supposed to sit.

    Miami Dolphins 24, Minnesota Vikings 7

Super Bowl IX: January 12, 1975

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    Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton scrambles to collect an errant football in the shadow of his own end zone.

    Contrast this scene with the empty sidelines from the first few Super Bowls: a large group of uniformed officers, plenty of support staff and fans on the ground, NBC signage lashed to a retaining cyclone fence to keep fans from encroaching on the playing surface (and a couple of must-be civilians on the other side of it anyway).

    Tarkenton won't reach the ball until it gets to his own end zone, where a horde of Pittsburgh Steelers will convene on him. The result of the play will be a safety, and the Vikings will lose their second consecutive Super Bowl.

Super Bowl IX: January 12, 1975

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    Art Rooney, known as "The Chief" and also the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers, collects his first Lombardi Trophy from Rozelle. Note he's been given the trophy in the locker room while the players are still changing in the background. 

    Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Minnesota Vikings 6

Super Bowl X: January 18, 1976

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    The Super Bowl has returned to Miami after four years away, and one merchandise vendor is pumped up about it. Even in black and white, his tux is something to behold: coat, frilly shirt, bow tie and top hat with a working water faucet (?!?).  

Super Bowl X: January 18, 1976

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    Here in 1976, the Super Bowl crowd looks much more like America: some hats, yes, and even some suits—but many of those hats are cowboy hats.

    Long-haired hippies, women and people of color are front and center in this pregame crowd shot, and they're even more pumped up to watch big, mean dudes smash into one another than the starched-shirt set that used to fill the stands.

Super Bowl X: January 18, 1976

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    The famed Steel Curtain defense takes a bite out of the Cowboys offense.

    Note equipment is starting to evolve; there's a heavy use of tape, extra pads and neck rolls. The helmets fit properly, with oversized facemasks.

    We also have our first sighting of a camera-baiting sign featuring a name-of-the-broadcast network acrostic.

    Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17

Super Bowl XI: January 9, 1977

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    Halftime entertainment is starting to get ambitious.

    Super Bowl XI is held in Los Angeles again and this time features a Disney-produced "It's a Small World" show that, for the first time in NFL history, includes crowd participation. It will not be the last time.

Super Bowl XI: January 9, 1977

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    Kenny Stabler and the 1976 Raiders embody confidence.

    Stabler, coat on and chinstrap unbuckled, sips out of a sponsor-branded water cup while letting the assembled photographers know where the Raiders rank in the NFL's pecking order. The Raiders cruise to a 32-14 win over the Vikings.

Super Bowl XI: January 9, 1977

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    Raiders head coach John Madden discovers the mechanics of being carried off the field aren't as simple or graceful as they look.

    Given the photographer being crushed underneath linebacker Ted Hendricks, it appears as though Madden's shoulder ride has come to a premature and ungraceful end. 

Super Bowl XI: January 9, 1977

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    Raiders owner Al Davis stares deeply into his franchise's first Lombardi trophy. Nine years after getting stomped in Super Bowl II, the Raiders have done stomping of their own—and Davis' Raiders are NFL champions.

    Madden, his head coach, is on an eight-year tear: His Raiders teams are 83-22-7 and have made the playoffs seven times. He'll coach the Raiders two more seasons, go 20-10 and add another playoff berth to his resume before retiring at the tender age of 42.

    While Madden talks to the media, Davis contemplates his triumph.

    Oakland Raiders 32, Minnesota Vikings 14

Super Bowl XII: January 15, 1978

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    Back to New Orleans for Super Bowl XII, and revelers are lining Bourbon Street. Well, "lining" is a bit of an exaggeration, but they're here!

    New Orleans, an NFL city since 1967, has had its team, the Saints, playing in borrowed stadiums. The Superdome was completed in 1975, though, just three years after Tulane Stadium hosted Super Bowl IX. The NFL rewarded the city with Super Bowl XII, and fans of the Cowboys and Denver Broncos are into it.

Super Bowl XII: January 15, 1978

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    "They left all their stuff up in the locker room! No wonder these guys haven't ever broken .500!"

    That is probably not what Cowboys defensive tackle Jethro Pugh said upon seeing the Saints' performance charts in the home locker room of the Superdome, but it's fun to imagine he might have.

    Note that Stram, now the Saints head coach, includes both "stop all third-down plays that are three or more yards" and "stop all third-down plays that are two or less yards" in his goals.

Super Bowl XII: January 15, 1978

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    For the first time in NFL history, the Super Bowl will be played indoors. With no sun to light the way, it only makes sense to play football's biggest game at night.

    Per the New York Daily News, the 5:17 CT kickoff was the first prime-time Super Bowl ever, and it was such a massive event there was even a fictionalized TV movie about it. The movie was not well-regarded by critics, but everything about a nighttime Super Bowl in New Orleans was well-received by the footballing public.

    This Super Bowl had lots of other random firsts, including a celebrity—football legend Red Grange—tossing the coin, as opposed to the game's referee.

    Another Super Bowl first: two players shared the Most Valuable Player award. Incredibly, it's two defensive linemen: Cowboys tackle Randy White and end Harvey Martin. The pair combined for three sacks, per Pro Football Reference, and their pressure helped force Broncos starting quarterback Craig Morton into four interceptions.

    Morton and his eventual replacement, Norris Weese, would combine to go 8-of-25 for 61 yards. Cowboys starter Roger Staubach went 17-of-25 for 183 yards, a touchdown and no picks.

    Dallas Cowboys 27, Denver Broncos 10

Super Bowl XIII: January 21, 1979

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    Staubach arrives in Miami for Super Bowl XIII, resplendent in an Adidas T-shirt tucked into tight jeans. He's ready to compete for his second straight title (and first Super Bowl MVP).

    A handful of savvy autograph-seekers have been waiting for him at the hotel, and he appears to be in an obliging mood.

Super Bowl XIII: January 21, 1979

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    Meanwhile, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw shows off his physique for the cameras.

    Kids, this is what happens when you only work on your arms. Also, tube socks and boxer shorts are not a good look.

Super Bowl XIII: January 21, 1979

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    In 1977, a thriller movie called Black Sunday made football fans realize the burgeoning threat of international terror just might target what was already the biggest American sports event of the year.

    As unlikely as it was that the Goodyear blimp would be used to rain hot death upon the 79,484 at the Orange Bowl, more visible security measures have been put in place to assure safety.

Super Bowl XIII: January 21, 1979

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    The calm before the storm: Tom Landry, in suit and tie and hat, with his Cowboys poised to take the field behind him. Some are intense, some are pumped up, some are hanging loose. The fans drape themselves over the rails.

    Above, a tiny banner lets the world know that Clymer and Homer City, Pennsylvania, are here to watch their Steelers meet the Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII.

    The Steelers would triumph 35-31 in a game that probably got Lynn Swann into the Hall of Fame.

    Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31

Super Bowl XIV: January 20, 1980

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    Bradshaw, back to defend his title, samples Pasadena delights in the run-up to Super Bowl XIV. The week of banquets, honors and parties isn't yet what it will become, but this is clearly a swanky reception.

    With a 16-game calendar, the league has pushed the Super Bowl back into late January, when an ice sculpture doesn't seem that out of place even in Pasadena.

    The "SUPER BOWL XIV" ice sculpture is quite dramatic; you can tell the game will be held in the Rose Bowl, because it's trimmed in roses.

Super Bowl XIV: January 20, 1980

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    Jubilation, as the hometown Los Angeles Rams score a go-ahead touchdown in the first quarter.

    The Rams are the first team to play in a Super Bowl in their home market—but this is the Rose Bowl, not the Rams' L.A. Coliseum, so it isn't quite a straight home game. The Rose Bowl's packed bleachers hold a Super Bowl record 103,985 fans.

    Though the game would be back-and-forth for the next two quarters, the Steelers offense eventually overcame the Rams defense. A 73-yard touchdown catch from John Stallworth and a one-yard plunge from Franco Harris will end the Rams' hopes of winning the Super Bowl at home and make the Steelers the first team (and only team to this day) to win back-to-back Super Bowls on two separate occasions.

    Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Los Angeles Rams 19

Super Bowl XV: January 25, 1981

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    Philadelphia Eagles owner Leonard Tose, famous for his outsized (and ill-advised) lifestyle, shows comedian Don Rickles around the Superdome before the big game.

    The Super Bowl was beginning to spread its cultural influence well beyond football. Massive TV ratings led to skyrocketing ad costs, and the Super Bowl's television presentation was already an institution. It's only natural that celebrities would want to see (and be seen at) such an event.

Super Bowl XV: January 25, 1981

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    Davis, gloriously attired, holds his second Lombardi Trophy (and what appears to be Bryant Gumbel's microphone) as his players threaten to collapse the locker-room ceiling.

    Gumbel and other media, crammed into the tiny space, attempt to interview Davis while the players stand, cheer and dance on a table.

    Oakland Raiders 27, Philadelphia Eagles 10

Super Bowl XVI: January 24, 1982

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    The NFL's tradition of awarding Super Bowls to cities that build new stadiums begins in 1982; the NFL world travels to the snowed-under suburbs of Detroit to bless the six-year-old Silverdome with the league's biggest event.

    After 15 years of Miami, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Houston taking turns, it was not a popular choice—and a snowstorm on the day of the game, and sitting Vice President George H.W. Bush's motorcade to the stadium, made the already difficult logistics of the event all but impossible.

    The snow helped inspire a record number of Americans to stay in and watch the game: Per Newsday, 49.1 percent of homes tuned in. The raw number of viewers would continue to get bigger over the years, but the game's 73 share (73 percent of all homes watching TV) will stand for at least another 33 years.

    Prior to Super Bowl XVI, the northernmost city to host a Super Bowl was Pasadena, California. Now, the honor belongs to Pontiac, Michigan—about 600 miles closer to the North Pole.

    The Silverdome is scheduled to be demolished in 2016, per the Detroit News.

Super Bowl XVI: January 24, 1982

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    A fit Bill Walsh and young Joe Montana hold court on the air-supported turf of the Silverdome. It's all smiles for the pair, as Joe Cool was built for big moments and Walsh is ready to unleash Montana on the Bengals franchise that spurned him years before.

    None of the gathered media seem to have a clue that they're watching the birth of the NFL's next great dynasty.

Super Bowl XVI: January 24, 1982

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    Madden, after two years of seasoning, is now CBS Sports' top color commentator.

    Here, in preparation to call his first Super Bowl, he practices on a fancy, newfangled computer-type device called a telestrator that will allow him to diagram plays as they occur.

    San Francisco 49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21

Super Bowl XVII: January 30, 1983

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    Field-painting technology has advanced somewhat since Super Bowl II—better paint guns, better artists, more assistants—but the tools to keep wanderers off the field while it dries are still delightfully improvised. This pennant-string-on-trash-cans barrier is surely more effective than a sign tied to a folding chair.

    Played after a bizarre, strike-shortened season wherein Washington's kicker, Mark Moseley, won the Associated Press' MVP award, the NFL spared no effort in making the game's 17th edition feel super.

Super Bowl XVII: January 30, 1983

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    A picture is worth a thousand words.

Super Bowl XVII: January 30, 1983

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    Something called the "Los Angeles Super Drill Team" provides the entertainment for Super Bowl XVII, and full-stadium crowd participation culminates in a theme they called the "KaleidoSUPERscope."

    It's not ambitious in terms of star power, but it's the first real whole-stadium halftime-show effort.

    Washington 27, Miami Dolphins 17

Super Bowl XVIII: January 22, 1984

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    This fan would like the world to know he loves hogs more than frogs. The "Hogs" this fan loves are, of course, the famous Washington offensive linemen. Miss Piggy of The Muppet Show, depicted here, is a sow, the hog's female porcine counterpart.

    Miss Piggy, the Muppet, was canonically dating Kermit the Frog, the Muppet, at the time of Super Bowl XVIII, and "hogs" rhymes with "frogs."

    That's as close as I can come to making sense of this goofy display.

    On television, though, this game is deadly serious, a platform for one of the most famous, artistically ambitious and commercially successful Super Bowl commercials: The Ridley Scott-directed, 1984-inspired commercial preparing the world for Apple Computer's Macintosh PC.

Super Bowl XVIII: January 22, 1984

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    Davis, upon receiving his third Lombardi trophy from Rozelle and a young Brent Musberger, looks just as contemplative, just as intense, as he did when he received his first.

    His Raiders had defeated Washington 38-9 and removed any doubt that the old AFL iconoclast still had the goods to dominate the merged league—even with Madden in the announcer's booth.

Super Bowl XVIII: January 22, 1984

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    In just their second season in Los Angeles after Davis strong-armed his way there from Oakland, the Raiders bring the Lombardi Trophy home to Orange County.

    L.A. may have "luv"ed its Raiders back then, but that love wouldn't last.

    Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington 9

Super Bowl XIX: January 20, 1985

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    There's so much going on here.

    These four fans got their big wooden television set running off the RV and are enjoying beers piled up in a toilet. The toilet sports an "I [heart] San Francisco" bumper—and why wouldn't the toilet love San Francisco? The hometown 49ers are playing in Super Bowl XIX in the Bay Area's Stanford Stadium—though, again, they play in Candlestick Park, so it isn't a true home game.

    But the toilet also has a "Go Indians" bumper sticker, which could be in relation to Stanford's former sports team name. The guy at the bottom is wearing both a 49ers cap and a Dolphins T-shirt; since the two teams are playing each other in the Super Bowl, that's a little bizarre.

    The guy across from him, sitting on a cooler, is wearing a Stanford hoodie and what appears to be some type of hard hat. What really gets me, though, are his Olympic Rings novelty glasses sourced from the previous summer's Los Angeles Olympics.

Super Bowl XIX: January 20, 1985

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    The burgeoning spectacle of the Super Bowl: The U.S. Air Force Band performs, with balloons of each team's color being released.

    Interestingly, while the halftime show was a patriotic salute to "The World of Children's Dreams," the national anthem was performed as a salute to the NFL's new mascots, the Huddles.

    In one of Rozelle's less successful decisions, every NFL team was assigned a mandatory, standardized mascot, and they were marketed with accompanying plush toys. Using the Super Bowl national anthem to push that product was an...interesting decision.

    Despite the increasingly corporate feel, some of the Super Bowl's less modern roots still show: The Big Game is being played at a college stadium with a running track.

Super Bowl XIX: January 20, 1985

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    We don't know if this shot is before or after Super Bowl XIX, and it almost doesn't matter. Second-year phenom Dan Marino, rocking a popped-collar leather jacket and unruly mop of hair, chews on his lip as he wanders around the back of Stanford Stadium.

    The Dolphins would lose that game, 38-16, and Marino would never win the big one.

Super Bowl XIX: January 20, 1985

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    A young Dolphins superfan wells up in the wake of her team's loss with a tattered plastic lei, an idle foam finger and an outlandish plush dolphin that looks just as shellshocked as she does.

    San Francisco 49ers 38, Miami Dolphins 16

Super Bowl XX: January 26, 1986

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    Jim McMahon and the 1985 Chicago Bears were a multimedia phenomenon well ahead of their time. With the "Super Bowl Shuffle" rap video blowing everyone's mind, the assembled media swarmed around McMahon, "the punky QB."

    Decked out in designer sunglasses and sitting on the dais of a swanky hotel ballroom while talking to what looks like hundreds of assembled media members, McMahon seems ages removed from an oiled-up Namath indulging a handful of scribes on the trainer's table—but later that week he would go on to show plenty of skin, mooning a television helicopter that was trying to film practice from overhead.

Super Bowl XX: January 26, 1986

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    Now here's a shoulder-carry done right: Ditka, looking even fitter than he did in his playing days, riding William "The Refrigerator" Perry off the Superdome turf. The other player carrying Ditka's number has been obscured, but it's pretty clear Perry didn't need much help.

    Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10

Super Bowl XXI: January 27, 1987

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    New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells becomes the first beneficiary—or, possibly, victim—of a Super Bowl Gatorade bath.

    The Giants had invented the ceremonial bath back in 1985, per the New York Times, when Jim Burt got a little celebratory vengeance. Parcells had been publicly critical of Burt during the run-up to a big divisional game, and during the win Burt let his coach know he was all wet.

    The Giants splashed Parcells quite often over the next few seasons, and it became a regular thing in the lead-up to Super Bowl XXI. Here, during the Big Game, linebacker Harry Carson borrows a security pullover to get this close to the wary Parcells.

    Quarterback Phil Simms was paid $75,000, per the New York Times, to proclaim "I'm going to Disney World!" at the end of the on-field celebration and anchor an ad campaign around the moment that would be repeated almost every year thereafter.

    Parcells and Simms can thank another Super Bowl first for helping make the win possible: the first Super Bowl instant-replay gaffe.

    New York Giants 39, Denver Broncos 20

Super Bowl XXII: January 31, 1988

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    San Diego Stadium was built in 1967, and in hindsight it seems odd the NFL took so long to put a Super Bowl in a sun-soaked coastal city that built a new facility. Yet, here we are in 1988, ready for Super Bowl XXII.

    The facility has already been renamed Jack Murphy Stadium, after the sportswriter who helped lobby to get it built. It will eventually be re-renamed Qualcomm Stadium, and the wantaway Chargers who've played there since its construction may never again.

Super Bowl XXII: January 31, 1988

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    Doug Williams, the No. 17 overall draft pick of the 1978 draft, was set to become the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl.

    There was a bit of media attention surrounding this milestone.

    Williams handled it all in stride, and his heavily favored Washington squad handled the Denver Broncos 42-10.

    Washington 42, Denver Broncos 10

Super Bowl XXIII: January 22, 1989

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    The modern era of NFL stadia has finally arrived.

    Joe Robbie Stadium was built in 1987, and the NFL put a Super Bowl in it almost immediately. Super Bowl XXIII was held in 1989, on the heels of the 1987 season, and the mix of 1980s angles with 1960s spirals made for a pleasingly modern design.

    Now called SunLife Stadium, it's still the Dolphins' home—and the second phase of an attractive, extensive, sea-breeze courting overhaul is underway.

    San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16

Super Bowl XXIV: January 28, 1990

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    Jerry Rice scores a touchdown in Super Bowl XXIV, one of eight the San Francisco 49ers scored on the Denver Broncos in a 55-10 beatdown.

    Back in the Superdome again, it's hard not to notice there are just a few more credentialed photographers on the sideline than there were in the early days. 

    San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10

Super Bowl XXV: January 27, 1991

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    New commissioner Paul Tagliabue enjoys Super Bowl XXV from the Tampa Stadium cheap seats with his kid, like a regular Joe.

    Unlike a regular Joe, Tags wears a dress shirt and tie underneath his Super Bowl XXV sweater and a sport coat over it.

Super Bowl XXV: January 27, 1991

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    Whitney Houston belting out the most iconic, and probably best, Super Bowl national anthem of all time. The orchestra, the outfit, the color guard, the Marlboro ad, the voice: all perfect.

Super Bowl XXV: January 27, 1991

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    New York Giants center Bart Oates possibly proves hockey players don't have a monopoly on doing immature things with one of sports' most prestigious trophies.

    The Giants' victory is their second in five seasons and will remain the only one-point victory through the first 49 Super Bowls. The Bills' loss was their first Super Bowl appearance ever, though it would not be their last.

    New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

Super Bowl XXVI: January 26, 1992

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    Everything about this photo is a perfect snapshot of early-1990s Super Bowls: The Buffalo Bills, Zubaz, satin jackets, face painting, bad facial hair and Budweiser looming over everything. The bye week given to every team this season pushes the Super Bowl a little further back yet; soon the NFL will be pushing into February.

    Super Bowl XXVI, held in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, wrested the mantle of northernmost Super Bowl away from the Detroit area; it holds the title to this day. Barring Seattle, no NFL market (not even Toronto!) can possibly top the superior geography of the Twin Cities.

    The "Winter Magic" halftime show was headlined by Havana-born, Miami-raised Gloria Estefan.

Super Bowl XXVI: January 26, 1992

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    With the NFL pulling in ever-increasing amounts of eyeballs, private dollars and public funds, it's no wonder political groups began targeting Super Bowls as high-visibility opportunities to make a point.

    A group called the "National Summit on Racism in Sports and the Media," per the New York Times, held summits and media talks before the game, picketed an NFL Alumni awards banquet and staged a demonstration protesting the nickname of the Washington team playing in Super Bowl XXVI.

    Washington 37, Buffalo Bills 24

Super Bowl XXVII: January 31, 1993

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    Super Bowl XXVII finally turned up the ambition to maximum: Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, put on a fantastic halftime show with the assistance of Radio City producers and 3,500 local children. 

    The packed-full Rose Bowl capped the finale with an inspiring card stunt and permanently raised the bar for Super Bowl spectacle.

    This game was originally planned to be Arizona's first Super Bowl, but it was pulled from Sun Devil Stadium when the Arizona governor rescinded his predecessor's executive order recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    Dallas Cowboys 52, Buffalo Bills 17

Super Bowl XXVIII: January 30, 1994

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    Cowboys fans display zero chill in their post-win revelry outside the brand-new Georgia Dome. They're rocking windbreakers and champagne out of the back of a limousine while holding up a sign that reads "Because I Love Losing Super Bowls."

    Never has classlessness been so darn classy.

    Super Bowl XXVIII would be the last of the Bills' four consecutive Super Bowl appearances and the second of the Cowboys' three titles in four years.

    Dallas Cowboys 30, Buffalo Bills 13

Super Bowl XXIX: January 29, 1995

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    Who are 49ers and Chargers fans both cheering for?

    Elmer Bruker, a player who doesn't exist.

    Per a contemporary Advertising Age report, the soaring costs of Super Bowl ads drove marketers to find new ways to get Super Bowl eyeballs without paying Super Bowl prices. Enter Bruker, the fictional star of a Miller Lite campaign playing heavily off the Super Bowl without actually running during the game.

    The question is, are these fans that wrapped up in the successful campaign? Or are they, in a proto-viral marketing move, paid plants?

    Note the handheld camcorder, sunglasses on a chain and that young Chargers fan's sweet mullet. If you are that Chargers fan, please notify the Bleacher Report NFL Twitter account.

Super Bowl XXIX: January 29, 1995

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    This is peak Eddie DeBartolo Jr. The since-disgraced former 49ers chairman accepting the Lombardi Trophy while accepting a cellphone call from somebody else perfectly encapsulates the wheeling, dealing, literal riverboat gambler who owned one of the NFL's great dynasties.

    His genteel right-hand man Carmen Policy grins and bears it, as he most likely did last month when NFL owners kiboshed his Carson stadium project.

    The media member DeBartolo is big-timing isn't Lesley Visser, who became the first female sideline reporter to work a Super Bowl during San Francisco's win. 

    San Francisco 49ers 49, San Diego Chargers 26

Super Bowl XXX: January 28, 1996

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    In the eighth, and so far final, appearance of the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl, new-money owner Jerry Jones poses with Tagliabue and Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who inherited the team from his father Art in 1988.

    Rooney will have to wait another decade to get "one for the thumb," as quarterback Neil O'Donnell and the Steelers would shortly implode against Jones' Cowboys.

Super Bowl XXX: January 28, 1996

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    The NFL embraced the XXX label of the 30th Super Bowl, going extra, extra, extra large on the halftime entertainment.

    Motown legend Diana Ross not only had a stadium-card stunt and massive pyro, but she embodied the "Take Me Higher" theme by flying out of Tempe's Sun Devil stadium in a helicopter, pictured here above the scoreboard.

    That's right: Arizona finally got its Super Bowl. A 1992 voter referendum acknowledged the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., and Arizona would go into the rotation of warm-weather Super Bowl cities.

    Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Super Bowl XXXI: January 26, 1997

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    NFL sidelines look a lot different in 1997 than in 1978. This is still the Superdome, as it was for Super Bowl XII, but look at the changes: support staff, phones by the bench, cooling fans, branded towels, even as most every Patriots player and coach are out of the frame.

    Note the changes in equipment, too: elastic sleeves and bands instead of tape, much bigger pads all over, jerseys with breathable fabric and varying thicknesses.

    All of the modern spectacle just seems to make fullback Keith Byars look more alone. His Patriots are in the process of losing to the Packers; when the crowds and cameras and confetti flood the field, it won't be for him.

    Green Bay Packers 35, New England Patriots 21

Super Bowl XXXII: January 25, 1998

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    Quarterback Brett Favre demonstrates the practicality of interviewing players scrum-style in a wide-open media availability session. With his own little booth, media can crowd around him most effectively; his teammates are elsewhere, in their own little booths.

    Holding the availability right on the Qualcomm playing field also gives everyone far more elbow room than the cramped conference rooms of the previous decade.

    Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24

Super Bowl XXXIII: January 31, 1999

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    Here's how huge Super Bowl entertainment has become: KISS, one of the biggest rock acts in the history of huge rock acts, is set to do Super Bowl XXXIII's pregame show.

    The show, designed to capture "the merriment of a Caribbean Cruise," will hype the Pro Player (nee Joe Robbie) Stadium crowd.

    No word, though, on why KISS was selected to headline a Caribbean-themed performance. The theme does match the Miami setting; the city was awarded Super Bowl XXXIII after the original award to San Francisco fell through.

    Denver Broncos 34, Atlanta Falcons 19

Super Bowl XXXIV: January 30, 2000

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    The Big Game has gone down to Georgia again for Super Bowl XXXIV; the tradition of using the Big Game as a political football continues.

    Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition is protesting the Georgia State flag's current design, which incorporates the Confederate battle flag.

    The following year, Georgia would change its state flag to a design that incorporated all previous designs; in 2003 it would adopt a wholly new flag that incorporated elements of previous Georgia flags (but not the Confederate battle flag).

    St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16

Super Bowl XXXV: January 28, 2001

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    If you're on the winning end of this spectacle, as a young Ray Lewis is here in Super Bowl XXXV, it's the greatest thing in the world.

    Only the third defensive MVP since White and Martin split the honor in 1978, Lewis is the unquestioned heart of his team—and, perhaps, the best player in football.

    Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7

Super Bowl XXXVI: February 3, 2002

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    The New England Patriots turn the Super Bowl era upside down.

    Not only would they go on to upset the St. Louis Rams 20-17, but they insisted on being introduced as a team. Few players would give up the once, possibly never-in-a-lifetime chance to be introduced at the Super Bowl, but all the Pats starters did so as a symbol of their unity.

    They would go on to dominate the next decade (and then some) of the Super Bowl Era.

Super Bowl XXXVI: February 3, 2002

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    Super Bowl XXV's MTV-produced halftime show, "The Kings of Pop and Rock," suffered from an overload of A-list talent: Aerosmith, Britney Spears, N'Sync, Mary J. Blige and Nelly combined to form a discombobulated mess of a show that was far less than the sum of its parts.

    In 2002, the NFL has gone in the opposite direction: It's gotten the biggest band in the world, U2, to pay tribute to the victims of the previous year's terror attack on the World Trade Center.

    It is as special as it is spectacular.

    New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17

Super Bowl XXXVII: January 26, 2003

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    The long-suffering fanbase of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has finally reached the mountaintop in 2003, and the fans are ready to take on the Raiders in Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego benefited from another stadium failure in San Francisco, as again the NFL awarded a Super Bowl based on planned construction in the Bay Area that never came to fruition.

    These Bucs fans don't care where in California they are. They've let it all hang out, applying modern space-age polymers to a decades-old craft of fake hair, headdresses, glasses, masks and festive beads.

Super Bowl XXXVII: January 26, 2003

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    Commercialism has extended well beyond in-game signage, official sponsorship and television commercials. The Super Bowl has become a fortnight of all things football, a massive confluence of athletes, personalities and brands.

    Here, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and his mother participate in some kind of Campbell's Chunky Soup promotion, even though McNabb and his Eagles won't be playing.

Super Bowl XXXVII: January 26, 2003

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    The player-availability concourse has swelled to massive proportions, encompassing much of the Qualcomm turf. Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden is the focus of the big scrum at the bottom of the frame.

Super Bowl XXXVII: January 26, 2003

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    Madden has become the biggest celebrity in football, with his broadcasting career and series of video games that have taught an entire generation (and soon, their children) how the game is played. A broadcasting icon, he is the only commentator to have called a Super Bowl for all four networks that have ever broadcast a game.

    As a result, Madden is as sought-after an interview as any of the players—or more so.

Super Bowl XXXVII: January 26, 2003

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    Inflatable-giant technology has improved dramatically since Super Bowl II.

    After four appearances and three wins in the 14-year stretch from 1968 to 1982, the Raiders played in their first Super Bowl in 20 years—and it would be their last for at least another 13 years.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48, Oakland Raiders 21

Super Bowl XXXVIII: February 1, 2004

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    With the opening of Reliant Stadium and the inception of the Houston Texans, the NFL has finally reached a stable, mature alignment. A 32-team, two-conference, eight-division alignment with geographically sensible groups of four and balanced scheduling will go on to foster unprecedented league-wide growth.

    Meanwhile, Houston gets another Super Bowl and one of the league's prettier facilities.

Super Bowl XXXVIII: February 1, 2004

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    The halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII isn't just a full-on hip-hop takeover of what had been a primarily rock/pop affair—it's changing the world of broadcasting forever.

    Not only will Justin Timberlake's reveal part of Janet Jackson's right breast spark national conversation about nudity, obscenity and censorship, but the inability to find a decent clip of it online would spark the idea to found YouTube, as co-founder Jawed Karim would tell USA Today in 2006.

    For the journalistic record, the Associated Press' photographs of the image are unaltered, while Getty Images censored Jackson's body.

    New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29

Super Bowl XXXIX: February 6, 2005

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    McNabb's Eagles finally have made the Super Bowl, and the media horde has grown exponentially. Just look at the army of reporters, cameras and microphones pointed at Eagles receiver Terrell Owens.

    Owens' incredible recovery from a severe right ankle sprain, and eventual MVP-caliber performance, will often go overlooked because of McNabb and the Eagles' sputtering final drive. The Eagles would eventually lose to the Patriots 24-21, which would make it an incredible three titles in four seasons for head coach Bill Belichick and Co.

Super Bowl XXXIX: February 6, 2005

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars, incepted in 1995, didn't get their own Super Bowl for 10 years. Not an ideal Super Bowl site for many of the same reasons it wasn't considered a likely expansion market, Jacksonville's unusual downtown and insufficient hotel space were magnified logistical issues that plague every Super Bowl.

    Finally, though, the Big Game has arrived. Using riverboats as hotels and ferries to get visitors and media from one part of the city to the other, Jacksonville's hosting effort isn't being well-received—and, as Jaguars president Mark Lamping would go on to tell Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union 10 years later, the team won't even seek the opportunity any time soon.

    "At this stage of our development, we’re better focused to do everything we can to stabilize the Jaguars in Jacksonville," Lamping said. “Once we accomplish that, then it would be the time to think about attracting other events."

    New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21

Super Bowl XL: February 5, 2006

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    One unpopular Super Bowl location is followed up by another, as the city of Detroit welcomes the NFL for Super Bowl XL.

    The weather isn't quite as dire as it was in 1982, and the four-year-old Ford Field facility is considerably nicer than the old Silverdome. Though the 40th Super Bowl can't accommodate a helicopter flyaway like the 30th edition, the league managed to get a big act onto the FieldTurf at halftime.

Super Bowl XL: February 5, 2006

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    The Rolling Stones were the league's choice to perform at Super Bowl XL. Even if the mashup of Motown and British Invasion rock didn't seem appropriate, the staging and production were appropriately massive.

    During the intro to the closer, frontman Mick Jagger quipped that the aging Brits could have played "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" at Super Bowl I, per the Associated Press (via Some lightly censored lyrics add a controversial edge to a performance that isn't particularly edgy.

    That wouldn't be the only controversy of the evening: A host of refereeing mistakes would play a huge part in the Steelers' finally claiming their fifth championship ring, while Seattle Seahawks fans would leave bitterly disappointed.

    Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10

Super Bowl XLI: February 4, 2007

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    A southern latitude doesn't guarantee beautiful weather, as Super Bowl XLI attendees are finding out. Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts fans will have to tough out 67-degree temperatures, 10 mph winds and the first rainy night in Super Bowl history.

    This enthusiastic Colts fan braved the weather to watch her Colts, and quarterback Peyton Manning, try to cash in on a superlative regular season.

Super Bowl XLI: February 4, 2007

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    This is what happens when you let Cirque Du Soleil do a Super Bowl pregame show.

    Don't let Cirque Du Soleil do a Super Bowl pregame show.

Super Bowl XLI: February 4, 2007

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    Fortunately, Prince saves the evening when he goes out and puts on the best halftime show in Super Bowl history. The best. Indisputably. Do not @ me.

    He plays "Purple Rain," and it starts raining.

    Indianapolis Colts 29, Chicago Bears 17

Super Bowl XLII: February 3, 2008

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    The New England Patriots, riding the greatest winning streak in NFL history, are on the verge of completing the first undefeated season of the 16-game era.

    These fans have come to the beautiful new University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona, ready to watch quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots bury the Giants in the desert.

    It will not quite work out that way.

    New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14

Super Bowl XLIII: February 1, 2009

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    This moment is a perfect microcosm of the A-list cross-cultural corporate pastiche the Super Bowl has become.

    Joe Montana has been invited to a Gatorade press event to see a commissioned painting of his great Super Bowl moment, per Alana Nguyen (formerly of Yardbarker). Miss America Katie Stam is in town to help promote "Taste of the NFL," the NFL's anti-hunger campaign featuring superstar chefs like Food Network's Tom Colicchio.

    Stam finds out some sports legends were going to be at the Gatorade event, per Nguyen, and makes her way over.

    That's how we have a crowned Stam holding a football helmet that says "Taste of the NFL" and looking at Montana as if she's not sure who he is, while he's looking at her as if he's not sure why she's there.

    The Super Bowl!

    Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

Super Bowl XLIV: February 7, 2010

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    Originally awarded to a planned New York Jets stadium, Miami is again the beneficiary of another market's failure to build. 

    After Bruce Springsteen's excellent Super Bowl XLIII performance, the NFL has doubled down on old white dudes and flown in The Who for Super Bowl XLIV. Their performance is OK, but a generation of NFL fans spent much of the intermission staring at the TV and mumbling "They look so I look that old?" Coming on the heels of Tom Petty's uninspiring Super Bowl XLII performance, a changing of the guard seems inevitable.

    Anyone asleep at the start of the second half wakes up when Saints head coach Sean Payton dials up a surprise onside kick. Payton's aggression is rewarded with an extra possession, and the Saints would go on to win 31-17.

Super Bowl XLIV: February 7, 2010

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    I'm not sure how Drew Brees managed to get his child onto the victory podium to experience the magic of Super Bowl confetti—complete with ear-protecting headphones!—but the result is one of the most poignant Super Bowl photographs ever taken.

    New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17

Super Bowl XLV: February 6, 2011

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    Of course: It's the Super Bowl debut of the biggest, grandest, most expensive NFL stadium ever built, located in north Texas, and a freak ice storm throws everything out of whack.

    Falling ice over a ticket gate causes a hazard, improperly installed temporary seating leads to people with valid tickets watching the game on TV outside the stadium, lawsuits start flying, and the NFL's biggest spectacle becomes an easy symbol of the NFL's spectacular, self-defeating greed.

    For all of the hiccups around Super Bowl XLV, and as gratifying as it was to see a money-first owner like Jones get taken down a peg in what was supposed to be his moment of triumph, it was a triumph for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers—and, with the kinks worked out, AT&T Stadium has become one of the football's great facilities.

    Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25

Super Bowl XLVI: February 5, 2012

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    A Giants fan isn't planning on letting the Patriots forget their previous Super Bowl matchup, when Eli Manning and the Giants ended their bid for a perfect 19-0 season.

    The scope of the rematch was massive: 5,156 media members were credentialed for the game, per, the most in NFL history (and over 15 times as many as were credentialed for Super Bowl I). Not only did Super Bowl XLVI set an American television-ratings record for most viewers, it also broke a world record in a new eyeball-grabbing metric: most tweets per second during a live sporting event.

    Don't worry, Giants fan: Big Blue will go on to knock off the Pats yet again.

    New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17

Super Bowl XLVII: February 3, 2013

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    The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, extensively refurbished in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, hosted the Super Bowl once again in 2013.

    The San Francisco 49ers certainly enjoy the new digs far more than they would have enjoyed Tulane Stadium's old changing rooms.

Super Bowl XLVII: February 3, 2013

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    With Beyonce and Destiny's Child's strong Super Bowl XLVII performance still echoing in the ears of Super Bowl XLVII attendants, half the Superdome lights go out.

    Fortunately, redundant system design prevents a full blackout (and the dangerous chaos that would ensue), and a brief delay gives sponsors time to craft jokey memes. The lights finally come on, and the 49ers claw their way back into what had been a blowout by the Ravens.

    In the end, the Ravens hang on to win 34-31 in one of the more memorable, exciting Super Bowls of the current era.

    Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31

Super Bowl XLVIII: February 2, 2014

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    MetLife Stadium, the new New Jersey facility built to house both New York franchises, was the first northern, outdoor NFL stadium to host the NFL's title showcase.

    Dire predictions of snow and ice melted away, as the NFL's risky decision was bailed out with surprisingly balmy weather: At kickoff, the Seahawks and Broncos were glad to be playing in 49-degree weather.

    Shortly after kickoff, the Broncos were losing by what felt like 49-nothing (the final score was 43-8).

    Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8

Super Bowl XLIX: February 1, 2015

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    In Super Bowl XLIX, pop icon Katy Perry checks all the entertainment boxes: enormous set-pieces, a mix of broad-appeal pop and edgy hip-hop (courtesy of guest Missy Elliott) and a literally soaring finale.

    Best of all, Perry gives us a shared memory far more universally moving, lasting and meaningful than the Patriots' dramatic 28-24 victory over the Seahawks: #leftshark.

    Coldplay has a high bar to clear if the Super Bowl 50 halftime show is going to be even grander.

    New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24