Illustration by Amelia Madarang

Super Bowl LVI features thrilling game amid stellar halftime show

A head-to-head affair between the best football team each conference has to offer, a massive, collaborative concert featuring household names both old and new, and humorous, indulgent advertisements with numerous, celebrity cameos — this cocktail describes arguably the most American sporting event we have: the Super Bowl. This year’s game delivered on all fronts, making an entertaining three hours for viewers of varying tastes.

The game itself featured two teams that, at the beginning of the season, were not expected to make it this far and entered the playoffs as four-seeds. The Los Angeles Rams, however, were considered a dark horse to make the championship. Mid-season, the Rams added two stars, trading for former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and picking up Odell Beckham Jr. after he was released by the Cleveland Browns. They also boasted a three-time Defensive Player of the Year recipient in Aaron Donald, a record-setting wide receiver in Cooper Kupp, an elite cornerback in Jalen Ramsey and an experienced quarterback in Matthew Stafford, all of which made the Rams’ regular-season record a soft indicator of their playoff potential. 

The Cincinnati Bengals, by contrast, were composed of sophomore, superstar quarterback Joe Burrow, a good defense, a trio of talented wide receivers and a historically bad offensive line. Joe Burrow was sacked seventy times between the regular season and postseason, and still brought his team to the Super Bowl, getting the Bengals their first playoff win in more than thirty years in the process. Despite their underdog appearance, the Bengals were no slouches. They started their run by besting the Las Vegas Raiders, before toppling the one-seed Tennessee Titans and the reigning AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs. After the Rams obliterated the Arizona Cardinals, ended Tom Brady’s career with a loss and edged out the San Francisco 49ers to take the NFC Championship, anticipation built for an exciting Super Bowl.

The first half picked up quickly, with Matthew Stafford finding Beckham Jr. in the endzone for the first score of the game just six minutes in. After a Bengals field goal and a second Rams touchdown, the ball slipped from punter Johnny Hekker’s nervous grasp during the extra point attempt, and they failed to convert it. The score would not remain 13-3 for long, as Joe Mixon threw a touchdown pass to Tee Higgins on a trick play. Stafford soon added to his league-leading interception total, giving the Bengals an opportunity to take the lead. However, after a punt a piece, the first half came to an end.

The historic halftime show featured a large cast of hip-hop artists, including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent. Despite the popularity of hip-hop in the United States, this marks the first rap-dominated halftime show in Super Bowl history, and it did not disappoint. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg opened the show by performing a portion of Dre’s song “Next Episode,” followed by a rendition of Tupac’s song “California Love.” This preceded a variety of amazing performances, such as Blige’s pop inflected remix of “Family Affair,” Lamar’s energetic performance of “Alright,” and Eminem’s  “Lose Yourself.”

After the show, the Bengals quickly took the lead, with Burrow finding Tee Higgins for a 75-yard touchdown. The teams later traded field goals, leaving the Bengals with a 20-16 advantage headed into the fourth quarter. Burrow proceeded to go down with an apparent injury, in what was later confirmed as an MCL sprain. Thankfully, the young star returned to the field. Eventually, the Rams stampeded into the Cincinnati Red Zone with only a few minutes remaining. The Bengals attempted to make a defensive stand, but a series of defensive holding calls upset their chances. With a minute and twenty-five left in the game, Stafford flicked it to Kupp to give the Rams a twenty-three to twenty lead, which Donald, Miller and Ramsey easily closed out.

The final component of the super bowl was also the weakest — this year’s commercials seemed to rely more heavily on excessive cameos than quality advertising. A few personal favorites included Larry David criticizing revolutionary inventions and implying  that crypto is next in line, and Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen recounting a series of wacky journeys they went on involving Lay’s chips. I also enjoyed Matthew McConaughey advocating for planetary investment over the Metaverse and space travel for Salesforce, and the Austin Powers’ reunion where Dr. Evil promoted General Motors’ new electric initiative. Additionally, there was a minute-long, $13 million commercial that featured a QR code bouncing off the edges of the screen, that crashed the website of Coinspace (its sponsor).

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