We take for granted the Super Bowl. The NFL. It's players, the plays, its merchandise we wear. The fact that every Sunday (and now every Thursday and Monday) we have something to plop into our schedules. However, in the scope of American history, it wasn't that long ago the NFL and really, the Super Bowl, was a complete mess. Some would even argue the NFL is still a complete mess, it's just dealing with its issues under different and less publicly scrutinized circumstances than before.
The National Football League has come a long way to make both its sport and grandest game into a gold mine. The league has proven it's almost bullet proof. Would kryptonite take down the NFL? Probably not. Since the NFL was founded on August 20, 1920 and merged with the AFL (American Football League) in 1966, it's as popular to Americans as soccer is to the rest of the world. The only thing that could take down the NFL is, well, itself.
However, it hasn't been without its bumps and bruises, some of which we've seen in its most recent Super Bowls. We've taking some liberties with this article to also include a few in-game moments we feel were either disastrous for a franchise or had a major effect on the NFL as it slowly built its empire. We also include a couple of NFL Championship games for fun since we're pretty talking about the same league.
Weather, traffic, seating, rogue performers. We're sure the Super Bowl committee discusses these potential problems prior to the big game. But when the issues happen and then persist, it leaves everyone wondering whether the NFL had any logical plan in place to save face. At times we're talking more about what went wrong, than the actual game itself.
20 Bill O'Reilly Grills President Obama Before Super Bowl 48
I'm not sure why someone thought this interview would have been a great idea. If Fox wanted ratings based on a controversial segment, they got it. If O'Reilly wanted, like always, to be the center of attention, he got it. If you were looking for a way to get fired up for the Super Bowl, this segment probably did it for you. So, maybe that person was right. Still, watching O'Reilly grill Obama about the glitchy HealthCare.gov website and Benghazi made everyone squirm in their seats.
19 Leon Lett Celebrates Potential Touchdown too Early at Super Bowl XXVII
Lett's showboating on his way to the end zone is likely one reason America hates the Cowboys. Dallas went on to destroy the Bills 52-17, so Lett's fumble recovery meant nothing to change the game's outcome. However, it did everything to ruin the reputation of Lett who had the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead of the big man returning a fumble recovery for a long touchdown, Buffalo receiver Don Beebe stripped the ball from his hands at the five-yard line.
18 A War Report Interrupts 1991 Super Bowl Half Time
War and the Super Bowl, just like peanut butter and Jelly. Oreos and cream. Peyton Manning and playoff losing (sorry had to keep it relevant). Right? Well, not really. Unless you were in Tampa Stadium, you didn't see the half-time show until after the game. ABC cut away from New Kids on the Block and aired a war report on the Gulf War instead. The New Kids didn't sing any of the hits fans really wanted, so no one missed much.
17 Red Hot Chili Peppers Mime Performance for Super Bowl 48
I mean, why not insult the millions of people who make up your fan base? Why not insult those people who have logged hundreds of miles on their car to attend your concerts. Or who have spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, to attend your events, buy your merchandise and support your band. The Red Hot Chili Peppers admitted the bass, drums and guitar were not plugged in during their Super Bowl half-time show, but the vocals were. We get that it's cold, but at least fake it! Plug some fake wires in and don't let people second guess.
16 Eugene Robinson Arrested Day Before Team's Super Bowl Appearance
Robinson's arrest was part of the reason the Broncos beat the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. Or, so players say. According to some Falcons' players, Robinsons arrest for illegally soliciting a "lady of the night" on the night before the Super Bowl distracted them from focusing on the game. Instead of talking about the Broncos, most of the locker room was talking about Robinson's arrest.
15 Heaviest Super Bowl Rain Falls During Super Bowl XLI
This should have been the perfect setting for the Super Bowl. Located in South Florida during the state's dry season, it sounded like a spot only New Orleans might rival. Officially, .92" of rain cascaded down on Miami Int'l Airport during Super Bowl Sunday, making it the "wettest Super Bowl" according to some reports. The Colts went on to win that sloppy Super Bowl over the Chicago Bears, by a score of 29-17.
14 Super Bowl XXIII Featured a Half-Time Show Magic Trick
The Super Bowl wasn't always a big-budget extravaganza like it is today. At one point in time, mostly B-plus performers owned the stage during the Super Bowl's beer break, and while shows were relatively safe by today's standards, they could get weird. Take for example the 1989 Super Bowl half-time show, which featured former Solid Gold Dancer Alex Cole as an Elvis impersonator. Dubbed Elvis Presto, Cole put on the worst magic show for an audience that clearly demonstrated they had better things to do.
13 Fans and Players Clear Snowy Field During 1948 NFL Championship Game
What would the NFL have done if such a storm hit New Jersey during Super Bowl XLVIII? We can't imagine players and fans clearing off the field with league officials, but back in 1948, that's what you did. The game was scrappier. The rules more flexible both on and off the field. The 1948 title game was the first to be televised and Commissioner Bert Bell had been thinking about postponing it due to weather. The players and fans argued otherwise--all 36,000 who showed up--and together, they helped clear off the field for the big game.
12 Jacksonville Uses Cruise Ships to Accommodate Super Bowl Guests
In what can only be described as a lodging nightmare, Jacksonville was forced to use cruise ships so it could bring the city's room total up to the league minimum to host Super Bowl XXXIX. Using cruise ships to accommodate guests isnt completely uncommon--in 2004 Athens used them during the Olympic Games--but it was a shock to Americans who are used to staying in, at minimum, four-star hotels for Super Bowl weekend.
11 Mass Transit Nightmare at Super Bowl VLVIII
We all figured there would be mass transit issues when the NFL decided to have its first cold weather game in years in New Jersey. After all, there was no parking, so would buses, trains and cabs be able to deal with the pressure? Well, few thought transportation issues would come after the game. Tens of thousands of Super Bowl attendees had to wait for hours for trains and buses post game. According to New York Daily News, there was only one train per hour back to Secaucus.
10 Atlanta's Hit by Crippling Ice and Snow Storm During Week of Super Bowl XXXIX
Not too long ago, Roger Goodell supported the idea of playing a Super Bowl in New Jersey by saying, "Some of our most memorable games were played in unusual weather circumstances. Winter and cold are part of football, and snow is also." What about ice storms? In Super Bowl XXXIX, two crippling ice storms left North Georgia out $48-million dollars before the Super Bowl even kicked off. Talk about a logistical nightmare.
9 400 People Unable to Get Into Super Bowl XLV
Imagine this scenario. You buy a Super Bowl ticket, are about to head out to Dallas and then are told you actually have no seat. This nightmare became a reality for 400 fans who went to Super Bowl XLV in Cowboy's Stadium. The NFL declared 1,250 seats unusable by game time and scrambled to get at least 850 seats. They did so, but 400 were left without seats. Many watched the game in a club beneath the stands and the NFL promised to reimburse the tickets triple its value. However, the reimbursement likely hardly covered airfare and hotel costs.
8 M.I.A. Flips off Super Bowl 46 Audience
When was the last time we heard M.I.A do anything relevant? Probably not since the 2012 Super Bowl when she indisputably flipped off the entire world while singing Madonna's "Give Me All Your Luvin." While slightly muffled M.I.A also added in a swear when she sang, "I don't give a (expletive.)" Back in 2004, the NFL instituted a broadcast delay because of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, but they were late in blurring out M.I.A finger malfunction.
7 Superdome Not Completed in Time for 1972 Super Bowl
This one's tough to explain to fans. Think a thousand or so seats not being ready for Super Bowl XLV was bad? Imagine an entire stadium not being completed in time for the big game. That's what happened in 1972 between the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. The two teams were forced to play in nearby Tulane Stadium, which was open to the elements. It became the coldest, day-time Super Bowl ever played with temps ranging in the low 40s. Tulane also hosted three of the first nine Super Bowls.
6 Scott Norwood Sends Buffalo Fans Wide Right and to Their Cars
How can you not put Norwood on the list? The day he missed the potential game-winning field goal at the end of Super Bowl XXV will be etched into the minds of Buffalo Bill fans until they win a Super Bowl. Or at least get back there. The Bills rolled to a 13-3 season regular season and were primed to beat the Giants in the big game. It was obviously all for not when Norwood 's 47-yard kick sailed wide right. Buffalo released Norwood after the 1991 season and he disappeared for a long while, but occasionally visits Buffalo for charity events and to see family.
5 Christina Aguilera Forgets the Lyrics to America's National Anthem
Awkward for the players. Awkward for the fans. And even more awkward for the disgraced troops that had no choice, but to stand and watch their anthem slowly be destroyed. The surprising thing is, Aguilera had been performing the anthem for years and was no stranger to the big stage. Instead of singing, " Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, o'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming," Aguilera sang, "Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, what so proudly we watched at the twilight's last reaming."
4 Lights Go Out During Super Bowl XLVII
An act of God? A disgruntled 49ers' fan working the game? The NFL being afraid they were about to lose viewers because the Ravens were blowing out the 49ers? The Ravens were leading the 49ers 28-6 when most of the lights in the Superdome abruptly went out with 13:22 remaining in the third quarter. When the lights went back on, the 49ers scored 17 unanswered points, but still went onto lose a 34-31 thriller.
3 The First NFL "Gate." Janet Jackson Introduces the World to "Nipplegate"
This wasn't an accident. Say what you want. Rewatch the tape over and over again and you can see Justin Timberlake look, grab, and pull on Jackson's attire until he rips it off. In fact, I'm not sure what else he could have been trying to accomplish. Because of his actions, the NFL banned MTV from producing future half time shows, the FCC tried fining Viacom $550,000, which was later repealed by the Third Circut, and a 5-second delay was implemented on NFL broadcasts.
2 The Iconic 1967 NFL Championship Was Actually an Icy Disaster
Drastic weather has been a theme winding itself through each segment of this article, but no game was more affected by conditions than the 1967 NFL Championship game. "The Ice Bowl," actually an icy disaster, was almost postponed, if more extreme weather wasn't coming through the area the next day. It's the coldest game in NFL history with temperatures plummeting to 15 degrees below zero. Frost bite was common and players had trouble even getting to the stadium.
Sure, it's one of the reasons many fans love seeing football played in the elements. "The Ice Bowl" is an iconic game that helped define American football, but in terms of some of its finer details, it was a logistical mess.
1 The Worst Play Call in the History of Play Calling
Maybe this comes in at #1 because it's still fresh in our mind. Maybe it's because it's the most perplexing play call in sports history. Down four points with 20 seconds left, with the ball at the one-yard line, with a timeout to spare, and with the best running back in the league, the Seahawks decided to throw the ball. After the success Chris Matthews had during the game, a fade to him would've been acceptable if they REALLY wanted to throw the ball. Instead, they threw the ball to Ricardo Lockette. Ricardo Lockette? A slant over the middle to your fourth option from the one-yard line? Come on! Darrell Bevell called the play, Pete Carroll accepted the call, and they combined for one of the worst decisions in history.
Full credit to Malcolm Butler who made an incredible play on the ball, but the biggest Super Bowl disaster of all-time is the most ridiculously horrible play call in Professional Football history.