It’s hard to argue that the Super Bowl isn’t the most important sports day of the year. It all comes down to this: one game for all the marbles. This year the Ravens and the 49ers will square off, but before the coin toss why not reacquaint yourself with exactly how crazy the game will be. In this feature, we’ll explore ten of the most infamous Super Bowl moments, on and off the field.
David Tyree’s Helmet Catch, 2007
Super Bowl XLII pit the New England Patriots against the seriously overlooked New York Giants in one of the lowest-scoring Super Bowls ever. Both teams fielded incredible defensive lines, so it’s not surprising that one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history came from trying to overcome them. Deep in the fourth quarter, Giants QB Eli Manning threw a pass to receiver David Tyree, who leapt into the air and snagged the ball with an unbelievable one-handed catch, pressing the pigskin to his helmet as he hit the ground to retain possession. Watching the replay, it’s an absolutely crazy display of athleticism that shouldn’t have even been possible. That play led to a Plaxico Burress touchdown that would seal the deal for the Giants.
Janet Jackson Wardrobe Malfunction, 2004
It’s kind of sad that the Patriots-Panthers showdown at Super Bowl XXXVIII is so overshadowed by this halftime moment, because it’s one of the greatest games ever played. Tense, exciting and close as hell, both teams gave it their all. But the next morning around the water cooler, the only thing people were talking about was Janet Jackson’s nipple. During a performance with Justin Timberlake, Jackson’s shirt was deliberately ripped open, revealing her bare breast with a sun-shaped nipple shield on it. The FCC fined CBS $550,000 for the nip slip in question.
Streaker Gets Tackled, 2004
Hilariously enough, Janet’s exposed breasticle wasn’t the only notable nudity at the Super Bowl in 2004. Mark Roberts, a British guy who has made it his life’s work to put his naked body in front of as many people as possible, hit the field right before the second half started disguised as a referee. He proceeded to rapidly strip down to just a thong and start doing a bizarre dance for the assembled crowd. Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham wasn’t having any part of it, though, and tore off after the barely-clothed man, dropping him hard to the turf with a shoulder and letting security scrape him up.
Jim McMahon Moons A Helicopter, 1986
Nudity isn't just for halftime. The media attention on the Super Bowl players can be suffocating – reporters are desperate for any kind of scoop that could influence the game. So when Bears quarterback Jim McMahon took a hit at the NFC championship game that resulted in a strained glute, the press was all over him. He flew his acupuncturist to New Orleans to treat the injury and was confident that he’d be at 100% for the game, but that wasn’t good enough. Reporters badgered him with questions about his hind end for days. Finally, to shut them all up, McMahon spotted a helicopter hovering over the field during the Bears’ last practice before the game and decided to give them some footage. He swiftly dropped his pants and gave the cameramen a full view of his bare (but healed) ass.
Eugene Robinson Prostitution Scandal, 1998
There’s a lot of temptation surrounding the Super Bowl – when you’re just a game away from being crowned the best football players in the world, it’s easy to get caught up in the craziness. One of the most notorious examples happened in 1998, when the Denver Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons to win their second straight Super Bowl. The Falcons had a stellar season, and one standout player was safety Eugene Robinson. The day before the game, Robinson was awarded the Bart Starr Award for being a football player with “high moral character,” and he decided to go out and celebrate that night by… picking up a prostitute. Unfortunately, his lady of choice turned out to be an undercover cop and he was arrested. The Miami P.D. let him out to play the game, but it didn’t help as the Broncos trampled the Falcons 34-19.
Joe Namath Guarantees A Win, 1969
Trash talking is an essential part of football – if you’ve got your opponent’s line intimidated, you’ll blow right through them. This classic example shows that it’s not a new development. Super Bowl III pit the New York Jets against the Baltimore Colts. The Jets were led by superstar Joe Namath, the flamboyant quarterback who was one of the most iconic players of his day. The working-class Colts didn’t cotton to Joe’s Hollywood ways, and when Baltimore kicker Lou Michaels confronted Namath at the Miami Touchdown Club, saying “We’re going to kick the sh*t out of you and I’m going to do it,” Namath responded with a guarantee to the press assembled that the Jets would triumph. They did, naturally, and Namath was named the game’s MVP just to add insult to injury.
Thurman Thomas Loses His Helmet, 1992
You’d think that getting all the way to the Super Bowl would be a little humbling, but for Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas, the big game was just an excuse for him to complain that he wasn’t getting the respect he deserved from the media. Unfortunately, Thomas proved them right when, as the Bills took the field, he couldn’t find his own damn helmet. The Bills ran the first two offensive plays of the game without one of their best players as Thomas frantically searched for his headgear. It only got worse from there as the Bills ended up losing to the Washington Redskins 37-24.
Garo Yepremian’s Butterfingers, 1973
The 1972 Miami Dolphins are widely regarded as one of the most dominant teams the game has ever seen, completing the season with a perfect 17-0 record. Going into the Super Bowl against the Washington Redskins, the outcome was never in doubt, but one gaffe by kicker Garo Yepremian threatened to screw everything up. In the game’s last minutes, Yepremian attempted to kick a field goal to bring the score of the game to 17-0 (which would have been totally badass). The kick was blocked, and instead of flopping down on the ball like normal, Garo for some reason tried to pass it forward. His hilariously limp-wristed throw was easily intercepted by the Redskins’ Mike Bass, who ran it back for a touchdown. Sure, the Dolphins won, but it’s still hilarious.
Leon Lett’s Mistimed Showboating, 1993
Let’s be honest here: the Buffalo Bills really had no chance in hell of beating the Dallas Cowboys at Super Bowl XXVII. Always the bridesmaid, the Bills had made it to the last three Super Bowls only to lose, and this year was no different. Dallas forced nine turnovers on Buffalo and racked up 52 points on the team. In the game’s fourth quarter, Dallas defensive lineman Leon Lett grabbed a fumbled ball and ran it back to his goal line. Unfortunately, Lett slowed down to showboat before he crossed into his end zone, giving Buffalo wide receiver Don Beebe a chance to slap the ball out of his hands for a touchback instead.
Next: How They Make The Super Bowl Trophy
James Harrison’s 100-Yard Run, 2009
Every once in a while, the Super Bowl sees a play so absurdly spectacular that it becomes a part of football history. Super Bowl XLIII, held between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals, delivered one in spades. The Cardinals were woefully overmatched heading into the game, but managed to hold the Steelers close throughout the first half. The game’s epic moment came right before halftime, as Cardinals QB Kurt Warner tried to sneak a touchdown pass in right before the half. Unfortunately, Steelers linebacker James Harrison intercepted the pass and ran it back the entire 100 yards for a score as time expired to set a Super Bowl record. This swung the game firmly in Pittsburgh’s favor and they eventually took it 27-23.