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Super Bowl 2020 Recap – Best and Worst Moments of Super Bowl LIV
The moment at which Jennifer Lopez hit a perfect crucifix pose on the very top of a pole, held up only by her legendary thighs and strong work ethic, was the moment at which I knew I was watching the greatest Super Bowl Halftime Show of all time (non-Prince division). It would have blown last year’s sleepy Maroon 5 performance right out of my memory if it had stayed in there to begin with, and that’s before we even get into whatever Shakira was doing here:
It’s good that these two spangly goddesses showed up. They had dancers pulling the most intense dancer faces this side of Toni Basil’s “Mickey” video, and special guests J Balvin and a guy I initially identified as “I think Mister Bananas?” (it was Bad Bunny). Shakira and J. Lo saved the night, because the Super Bowl and its associated branded traditions were pretty grim this year. (It’s also lucky that Shakira’s breasts are small and humble, so you don’t confuse them with mountains. That is a real actual lyric from Shakira’s breakthrough U.S. single “Wherever, Whenever” from 2001, and I just celebrated my 19th anniversary of not fucking believing it.) The whole thing has become so grand, so jingoistic, so overstuffed with meaning and significance, that it’s impossible to find joy in it. It’s very loud white noise by now, a song that’s all crescendo.
The pomp was turned all the way up this year for the 100th anniversary of the NFL. It’s an organization that is mired in scandal, but you cannot deny that one hundred is a nice round number, so we celebrated by naming the 100 greatest NFL players of all time, which included OJ Simpson, who was for some reason a no-show.
Before the induction ceremony of the CTE Hall of Fame, Fox aired a Sean Hannity interview with President Trump, which ended in Hannity’s apparent trademark “Lightning Round,” in which Hannity just named people Trump doesn’t like and let him criticize them with no follow-up questions. In this interview, we learned that Mike Bloomberg is trying to get the DNC to provide him an apple box to stand on for the upcoming debates, and in the last few decades, we have learned not to believe anything Donald Trump says. (His claim is, of course, categorically false.) Listen: the country has never been more divided—one half of the country believes the president of the United States committed a crime, while the other half believes the President of the United States committed a crime— but we can all agree on one thing: an interview with the leader of the free world should not steal a segment from Family Feud.
From here, it only made sense for the National Anthem to be performed by someone recovering from a very public breakdown. Demi Lovato crushed it, and got it all out in less than one minute and fifty seconds, which both made me happy and earned me $20 in a side bet. This was after Yolanda Adams sang “God Bless America,” and I don’t know how we haven’t made Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)” a required part of every sporting event, but I am certain it will happen in my lifetime. The coin toss was festooned with flags that parted to reveal elderly veterans. It was all infused with a performative, flag pin kind of patriotism, so of course the first spot in the commercial break afterwards was for the Top Gun sequel.
The players entered the field via some kind of Britney Spears video narrated by The Rock, and then a million children sprinted out, and then there were fireworks, and then we found out there is about to be a Lego game show. The commercials were baffling and sometimes effective: I don’t know which skateboarding toddler in the Mountain Dew demographic will be moved by Bryan Cranston inside The Shining, but I’ve already been to three grocery stores looking for those pretzel PopTarts. I also don’t know how “BabyNut” went over at your Super Bowl party, but mine was full of comedy people, and my eardrums sustained permanent damage.
One legitimate surprise was a full-length ad from a cruel and vindictive death cult ( and then also there was one for Scientology). The Trump re-election campaign ran an ad touting its success in criminal justice reform, and while I applaud it, a Trump ad about reuniting families is Mister Bananas. Also, there was some kind of game, which someone won, and if my body were less than 60 percent queso, I might remember who. Football is not my thing, but the Super Bowl can reliably tell us who we are as a country, and this year, we seem a little belligerent and insecure. We’re desperate to tell you how important we are, how vital our century-old institutions, and our brightest lights are our pop stars, our dancers and our immigrants. Jesus Christ on a stripper pole, ain’t that America.
Dave Holmes is Esquire’s Los Angeles-based Editor-at-Large.