The Super Bowl started as a football game half a century ago, but it has morphed into what is annually the biggest cultural event of the year. At the beginning, only the sporting press had interest in the Big Game, but as the years went on it became a full-on media circus. Basically, every outlet in the world wants in on the massive amount of public interest the Super Bowl generates, and that includes Music Television. Or at least it did for a few years back in the early 21st century.
This year MTV appears to be showing a Ridiculousness marathon that will run from 3pm on Friday to 6am on Monday. That is maybe the grimmest thing I've ever typed, so let's never think about that again. Instead, let's look back at the era where MTV tried to mix sports and pop culture for the Super Bowl. It only lasted a few years, but man, what a time capsule.
With CBS having broadcast rights for Super Bowl XXXV, they put MTV in charge of a halftime show that featured Aerosmith, NSYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly. That appears to be the inflection point for MTV's Super Bowl era where they brought the whole gang to Tampa to get the full NFL experience. We also may be able to pinpoint the moment where MTV moved on from the football content game. After the success of the Super Bowl XXXV halftime show, Viacom again put MTV in charge of the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show. That one featured a solo Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction. That was the last time that MTV was allowed to produce a halftime show and also appears to have ended their on-site entertainment experiments. So let's go back to the beginning.
The week of Super Bowl XXXV (Ravens - Giants, 1/28/01) MTV played the first ever Rock N' Jock football game. Here is the glorious footage.
If you don't feel like watching the full grainy, two decade-old, half-hour clip, then I have taken some notes.
The game features a three-person booth with Gus Johnson, Jerry Glanville and Ananda Lewis, who hosted. At one point Glanville claims to have seen Shannon Elizabeth all the time in Houston, rooting for the Oilers. Glanville then called Gina Lee Nolin the best-looking center he's ever seen.
Dan Marino was the all-time quarterback, a role he would reprise for multiple MTV football games. Mystikal was in charge of the celebration wheel, which may have been a precursor to the NBA Slam Dunk competition dunk wheel in 2002. Innovation!
The AFC team was "coached" by Tony Gonzalez. The team consisted of Ja Rule, Jerry O'Connell, Nick Lachey, Colleen Haskell, Molly Sims, Shannon Elizabeth and Justin Jeffre, with a lightning bolt on his forehead. The NFC team was "coached" by Warren Sapp and featured Drew Lachey, Jeff Timmons, Jaron and Evan, Gina Lee Nolin and Eve, who didn't appear until the fourth quarter.
Active NFL players were scattered around the field with Levon Kirkland and Marshall Faulk in a chairs going back and forth behind the end zone. Kirkland actually caught the TD, while Marino failed to find Faulk while he was properly seated. Then there was Cris Carter and Jason Taylor in tall lifeguard chairs. Carter caught two touchdown passes, which seems incredibly unfair. Donovan McNabb was an armchair quarterback, which consisted of McNabb sitting in an armchair on the back of a golf cart. It was a lot of work for a bit that resulted in McNabb throwing two incompletions while sitting down.
Jim Nantz and Mike Ditka did the highlights at halftime, but the video does not include Jim Nantz, the voice of the Masters, doing Rock N' Jock football highlights. Nantz would be joined by Boomer Esaiason on a future Rock N' Jock halftime show.
Rob Schneider, who was promoting The Animal, was the sideline reporter. That's why Colleen Haskell was involved. People forget how big a deal The Animal was.
The biggest revelation in this is how athletic Nelly was. He returned the opening throw off for a touchdown and then made a one-handed interception of a deep pass by Dan Marino. When asked about the interception, Nelly credited his team with putting him in the right place at the right time. Look the part, be the part, I guess.
Much of what happened in 2002 has been lost to history, but we do have a little footage from 2003, ahead of the Bucs - Raiders Super Bowl, MTV brought in the hosts of the Man Show to join Carson Daly. Adam Carolla filmed a bit with Blink-182 that has aged about as well as you would expect. You should also know that Wee Man dressed like a football and Jimmy Kimmel kicked him into a vat of nachos.
It was a different time!
Moving along quickly before anyone gets canceled, there is also video from the final Rock N' Jock football game which took place in 2004 outside NRG Stadium in Houston. VJ Damien, Tony Siragusa and La La were on the call for that game which featured The Rock and Warren Sapp as coaches. Dan Marino is still involved, but Warren Moon plays quarterback for one team. Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe were also involved.
This is the kind of nonsense American needs. Hopefully MTV will be brave enough to return to the Super Bowl next year. Football coverage just isn't the same without them.