The Super Bowl’s Evolution From Football Game to Entertainment Extravaganza

By Peter M. Hopsicker and Mark Dyreson
February 4, 2017

In just 50 years, the Super Bowl has become one of the biggest “shared experiences” in American culture, up there with attending religious services, voting in presidential elections and playing Pokémon Go.

But curiously, many of the tens of millions who tune in don’t actually want to watch football.

Perhaps it’s because the game itself has never been all that exciting, with the outcome rarely a close call. As a response, it seems the NFL has created a thriving, celebratory atmosphere around the game.

So how did a battle of gridiron gladiators become second fiddle to a flashy spectacle of singers, fireworks and advertisements?

The Super (boring) Bowl

The Super Bowl is generally super boring – at least, in terms of the typically lopsided score. The game is so boring that a rehash of all 50 of the past Super Bowls finds that the average margin of victory is more than 14 points. Only 18 of the games have been decided by seven points or fewer, while only seven have been settled by a field goal or less.

The first 20 Super Bowls produced only five close games, and criticisms of the lack of parity in the other 15 drowned out the excitement of the handful of close contests. The average margin of victory for Super Bowls I to XX was over two touchdowns. Sports columnists in the 1970s and 1980s dismissed Super Bowls as “hopelessly” and “unbearably dull,” “sleep-inducing” and “lacking high drama.” Even former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle admitted that the day was “probably more of an event than simply a game.”

Still, by the 1980s, the Super Bowl had become a de facto American holiday. But much of the public remained indifferent about the game itself. For example, prior to Super Bowl XXI, one poll indicated that 40 percent of viewers didn’t even care who won.

The show must go on

Because of its inability to consistently guarantee a reasonably competitive championship game, the NFL decided to ramp up the production of a spectacle, with expensive – sometimes controversial – halftime shows and pregame showcases distracting from the football.

Super Bowl halftime performances started out as relatively simple affairs featuring university marching bands and faded pop stars. But as early as Super Bowl XI in 1977 – when the league contracted with the Walt Disney Company to produce a halftime show titled “It’s a Small World” – the NFL began to craft a new production template.

‘It’s a Small World’ was the first highly produced Super Bowl halftime show.

The 1993 halftime show for Super Bowl XXVII featured pop icon Michael Jackson, the first in a long list of high-energy halftime productions built around top musical artists. Megastars of all genres suddenly began to covet a Super Bowl gig. The headliners of these shows soon took their own steps to redirect the focus of millions of television viewers away from football and onto themselves, whether it was Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction during Super Bowl XXXVIII or Beyoncé’s Super Bowl 50 political statement. This year, the NFL will shell out US$10 million to produce Lady Gaga’s halftime show.

The NFL’s schemes for pumping up off-field excitement rather than relying on the drama (or, more frequently, the lack of drama) on the field soon moved to other aspects of the event. The national anthem soon became its own highly produced and coveted gig, joining pregame fireworks and military flyovers.

Whitney Houston’s booming rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for Super Bowl XXV, performed weeks after the U.S. entered the Gulf War, set a new standard.

Not everyone could live up to Houston’s example. At Super Bowl XLV, Christina Aguilera wilted in the spotlight when she forgot the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” stealing some of the post game commentary of what turned out to be one of the closer games, a 31-to-25 victory by the Green Bay Packers over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A commercialized holiday just like the rest?

The NFL’s strategic marriage to television has also diverted attention away from the game on the field. In 1967, advertising rates for a 30-second commercial spot cost a modest $42,500.

In the years since, they’ve escalated to become the most expensive advertising time in the history of television. After 1985, in response to the huge impact of Apple’s legendary “1984” commercial, advertising rates soared to over $500,000 for a 30-second spot. This trend sparked the emergence of the “Ad Bowl,” an unofficial but hyper-intense marketing competition to produce the most creative and memorable television commercial targeting the Super Bowl’s enormous captive audience, which hit 111.9 million viewers last year. Within a decade of the debut of “1984,” advertising rates doubled to $1 million for a 30-second spot. For Super Bowl 50 in 2016, the price reached $5 million. The Ad Bowl has further eroded the focus on football, drawing in viewers who claim that they watch the game more for the commercials.

In recent years, the Super Bowl has actually become much more competitive: Seven points or fewer have decided six of the last 10 games.

Yet better games haven’t produced an audience primarily interested in good football. A 2016 Huffington Post poll found that millennials were less likely to be interested in “the game itself” than in the commercials and the halftime show. The same poll showed that the older you are, the more important football is in your Super Bowl celebration.

Interestingly, a similar trend of commercialization seems to now color most holidays. Independence Day, Labor Day and Memorial Day celebrations have become less about honoring the men and women who serve our country and more about backyard barbecues. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day have become more about mattress sales and three-day weekends than recognizing those individuals’ great deeds. The same flurry of commercialism has dampened the religious foundations of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Even with the recent spate of close contests, it’s unlikely we’ll see a major revamping of Super Bowl productions to focus more explicitly on football. To those, however, who hunger for the halcyon days of old when Super Bowl Sunday was about the contest on the gridiron – and not the hoopla at halftime or the barrage of ads – we’d point out that a quality football game has almost never been the core component of this distinctly American holiday.

The Conversation

Peter M. Hopsicker, Associate Professor of Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University and Mark Dyreson, Professor of Kinesiology, Affiliate Professor of History, Director of Research and Educational Programs for the Penn State Center for the Study of Sport in Society, Pennsylvania State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Black Hills Ukulele Orchestra Give Sterling Performance At Way Park Summer Music Series

All Images – Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

The Black Hills Ukulele Orchestra founded in late 2013 by third generation Hawaiian Sheila Martin finally had a chance after two previous dates were rained out to perform. On Thursday evening the orchestra entertained an appreciative group of fans at Way Park as the final act in the Custer City and Custer Area Arts Council 2016 Summer Music Series. The Black Hills Ukulele Orchestra performs music from the 17 century to current pop and is scheduled to perform at the Southern Hills Music and Arts Festival next weekend August 26-27, 02016.

Current members of  The Black Hills Ukulele Orchestra:
Bert Fischesser
Sheila Martin
Hanna Honors
Emma Lee Holllick
Joyce Sutter
Janet Gardner
Juni Hill
Jackie Lubber
Susan Haeker
Mary Fechner

Also attending the performance were Patrick Baker South Dakota Arts Council Director, Jim Speirs Executive Director Arts South Dakota and Jared Carson Mayor Custer City.

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Sheila Martin leads the The Black Hills Ukulele Orchestra at the final performance of the Custer City and Custer Area Arts Council 2016 Summer Music Series, at Way Park Thursday August 18, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Janet Gardner is in the zone at the final performance of the Custer City and Custer Area Arts Council 2016 Summer Music Series at Way Park, Thursday August 18, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Hanna Honors plays lead ukulele at the final performance of the Custer City and Custer Area Arts Council 2016 Summer Music Series at Way Park, Thursday August 18, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Patrick Baker South Dakota Arts Council Director and Robin Prior Custer Area Arts Council Board Member enjoy a pre-concert chat at the final performance of the Custer City and Custer Area Arts Council 2016 Summer Music Series at Way Park, Thursday August 18, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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The audience enjoys The Black Hills Ukulele Orchestra at the final performance of the Custer City and Custer Area Arts Council 2016 Summer Music Series at Way Park, Thursday August 18, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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The audience enjoys The Black Hills Ukulele Orchestra at the final performance of the Custer City and Custer Area Arts Council 2016 Summer Music Series at Way Park, Thursday August 18, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

The Matthews Opera House and Art Center’s 39th Annual Festival in The Park Sampling

A sampling of items that were available this weekend in Spearfish at The Matthews Opera House and Art Center’s 39th Annual Festival in The Park.

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Kitzan Family Farms of Nisland were selling products from sheep that were raised on their farm at The Matthews Opera House and Art Center’s 39th Annual Festival in The Park in Spearfish, SD. Pictured L-R Heather Kitzan and Gwendolyn Kitzan. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Shannon and Gail Macklin of Macklin’s Sculpture from Flagstaff, Arizona were doing a brisk business with their unusual hand crafted copper and driftwood fountains at The Matthews Opera House and Art Center’s 39th Annual Festival in The Park in Spearfish,SD. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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A conference is held to decide what to see next at The Matthews Opera House and Art Center’s 39th Annual Festival in The Park in Spearfish, SD. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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John Werbelow displaying his decorative and functional pottery at The Matthews Opera House and Art Center’s 39th Annual Festival in The Park in Spearfish, SD. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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The group “6 Mile Road” entertains Saturday afternoon at The Matthews Opera House and Art Center’s 39th Annual Festival in The Park in Spearfish, SD. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

The Matthews Opera House and Art Center’s 39th Annual Festival in The Park on July 15-17

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Spearfish, SD -From July 15-17, be one of the over 25,000 people who will enjoy one of the largest outdoor festivals in the upper Midwest. The Festival in the Park includes over 180 craft and art booths, including 25 different varieties of food booths. The Festival in the Park is sponsored by The Matthews Opera House & Arts Center, a non-profit organization. All proceeds are used to produce the annual festival and assist other arts activities in the greater Spearfish area.

Festival hours are:
July 15, Friday (wristband night): 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. (VENDOR BOOTHS)
July 16, Saturday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. (VENDOR BOOTHS)
July 17, Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (VENDOR BOOTHS)

To ensure quality, diversity, and originality, every vendor and entertainer applicant are subject to a juried process. Throughout the day, the Festival in the Park offers free on-stage entertainment, artist demonstrations, and children’s activities. There is also the Watering Hole Refreshment Garden, where one can relax with a beverage, listen to three days of live music, and enjoy the festival in the beautiful Spearfish City Park.

Coming back this year will be the Park and Ride Service. Harrows Bus Company will be providing shuttle service to and from the festival. The lower Passion Play parking lot will be used as the park and ride area. It can be accessed off of Meier Avenue and will be clearly marked. The shuttle service is free and will rotate every 15 minutes. Please feel free to park and walk from this area as well.  

$5 WRISTBAND NIGHT
Friday, July 15 is our fundraising night, where you can purchase a wristband for $5.00 in order to gain early entry into the festival from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. While enjoying the cool of the evening, be the first to preview and buy from your favorite vendors, as well as listen to two exclusive musical groups performing in the Watering Hole only on Friday night: Andrew Jandt (aka Trap Kit) from Rapid City, SD, and The Weathered Heads from Winona, MN. The wristband is also a great way to support The Matthews Arts Center, with the proceeds accounting for over a third of the arts center’s annual revenue, making the festival the largest fundraiser for the art center. You may pre-purchase wristbands from the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce, Visit Spearfish, Bay Leaf Cafe, and The Matthews Art Gallery. *Children ten and under are free if with a paid adult.

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(submitted photo)

“The Festival in the Park is not only a Black Hills tradition, but it is an essential aspect of the arts in this area. The Black Hills community has supported this event and the work of the Matthews Opera House & Arts Center for the last 39 years. It is because of that support that we are able to continue our legacy of arts outreach and education for another three decades,” says Ava Sauter, Festival in the Park event manager.

“We have a wonderful show for our Friday Night fundraiser. The Weathered Heads are bringing a lot of talent to our stage. They really have something for everyone.  Described as a seamless blend of unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, jam, soul, and pop, The Weathered Heads will be a show you won’t want to miss,” continues Sauter.

It’s a “Puppet Paradise!” The Saturday kids’ activities are puppet-themed this year. Kids’ activities run from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and are free for all ages. The children’s activity area is located next to the band shell. Art projects, games, and the annual boat race are just a few of the events planned for Saturday. The kids will be making and decorating their boats for the 1:00 p.m. boat race on Spearfish Creek. If children want to participate in the race, they need to go to the children’s activity area earlier. The boat race starts promptly at 1:00 p.m.

“Festival in the Park doesn’t happen by itself,” mentions Sian Young, executive director of The Matthews. “We are so grateful for the support we receive from the City of Spearfish, and of course, the many volunteers that assist us throughout the event. We would be dead in the water without the ongoing community support!”

NOTE: A special reminder for these three days is that no pets are allowed in the park per city ordinance. If you do bring your pet, the Western Hills Humane Society will be providing free pet sitting services at their booth (with limited space) just north of the tennis courts.

The next event at The Matthews is the summer theater production, “The Phantom of The Matthews Opera House.” The show runs 7:30 p.m., Mondays-Wednesdays, July 5 through Aug. 3. Tickets are now on sale. For additional information or to learn about upcoming events, visit www.matthewsopera.com.

French Creek Folk and The Black Hills Story Tellers Entertain and Soothe The Savage Beast

By Herb Ryan

Arriving at the Custer Courthouse Annex Pine Room Saturday evening, my anxiety level registered way over the limit.This had been a long day with a Democratic Rally at the Rocky Knolls Golf Course and a quick trip to Custer High School, for dodgeball shenanigans, home for a quick late lunch and a brief nap. Back out at six thirty and wondering what to expect from the Black Hills Story Tellers. Would the stories be long and drawn out, full of mixed metaphors and deep introspection, I really hoped not.

The stories as it turns out, were told without being overly dramatic or theatrical. There was the perfect combination of verse and motion, allowing for a fluid grace in the story lines that was captivating.

The French Creek Folk have always been a “non attitude” musical group, while appearing  solemn in their presentation, the sheer pleasure of playing for an appreciative audience shines through. Granted both groups have practice sessions to develop their arts, and I know from experience this can be mind numbing and tedious. So, Thank you French Creek Folk and The Black Hills Story Tellers for a delightful evening.

This event was hosted by The Custer County Library.

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Members of the French Creek Folk perform at the Custer Courthouse Annex Pine Room Saturday evening. Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Nancy Eldridge – Black Hills Story Tellers. Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Anne Rodman – Black Hills Story Tellers. Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Pam Burrell – Black Hills Story Tellers. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Liz Twomey – Black Hills Story Tellers. Herb Ryan/ Custer Free Press