And then we came to the present. And the end of an era of legendary logos. As we previously addressed, the 80s and 90s brought about a Golden Age of Super Bowl logos, logos that blew earlier logos out of the water. It was like pre-River of Dreams Billy Joel: the present just can’t compare. But somewhere in the last 10 years or so, the NFL decided to abandon the unique logos and move towards something that flirted with standardization before settling on something that’s just downright boring. One could see the decision to use the same Super Bowl logo year after year as reflective of the homogenization of the league itself. Some would call it “parity,” others would call it the rise of “mediocrity.” The Phoenix Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl, for Chrissakes. Oh, and Eli Manning is a TWO-TIME winner, twice as many as his brother Peyton (for now, anyway). The logos have become as soulless as the event itself, the stadium full of corporate sponsors and high-rolling ad men who could give two shits about who actually wins.
(Side note: if you think the 12th Man was full of bandwagonners this season, wait til you see the crowd on Sunday with their crisp, newly-purchased Sherman and Wilson jerseys.)
It’s no secret the league has suffered under The Rog even as the game has never been more popular. Hell, The Rog is playing just the tip with the Buffalo Bills and no one cares! London? Why the hell not? 18 game seasons and expanded playoffs while players are retiring early so they don’t become CTE-ravaged zombies later in life? No worries! It’s a strange dichotomy: never has the league come under more fire while also being more popular than ever. For fucks sake, even The A.V. Club is writing about the NFL now!
Of course, the cost is a soulless corporation. Not that we should fool ourselves into thinking the league has ever been pure, so to speak; it’s a professional sports league, after all. But it’s just even MORE soulless than it’s ever been before under Goodell. And nowhere is that better reflected than in the fall of the Super Bowl logo.
On to the logos.
Super Bowl XXXVII
A HUGE improvement over the last time San Diego had the Super Bowl. Quaint, even as it threatens to be too big, but that’s what you get when you use roman numerals. Which reminds me: what will happen at Super Bowl L? Will the ‘L’ morph into the Lombardi Trophy? More on this later, but no one can deny how intriguing this question is. NO ONE CAN DENY IT.
Verdict: Properly Rated
Super Bowl XXXVIII
Yes, this game will be remembered for one thing and one thing only: a nipple.
But there was so much more:
Jake Delhomme joining the Rex Grossman All-Stars (terrible QBs who have started a Super Bowl)!
A nearly-scoreless first half!
A ridiculously high-scoring fourth quarter!
A legitimately last-second win!
And, of course, the badass, spacey logo, reflecting host city Houston’s background as the nation’s space capitol. It was the first in a series of Super Bowls awarded to cities that built new stadiums for their team, interrupting the perfectly-fine rotation of Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena, and sometimes Tampa (with a wild card Silverdome or Palo Alto thrown in for good measure). But, no, it’s all about a boob.
Super Bowl XXXIX
How in the blue fuck did Jacksonville ever get a Super Bowl. No one can defend this. No one. The logo is okay, though, and the Pats won this Super Bowl so I probably shouldn’t complain. But I will anyway. It’s my thing. Even though this brings to an end the Golden Age of logos. Going out with a whimper, like The Counting Crows.
Verdict: Properly Rated
Super Bowl XL
The theme of “Oh, new stadium? Here’s a Super Bowl” continues with a … wait for it … Super Bowl in a cold-weather city!! Shock! Of course, it’s a dome – and a nice one at that – so there’s that. And it’s not like there’s not a precedence: Detroit has hosted Super Bowls, Final Fours, even Wrestlemania (!!!!) in the Silverdome so it makes sense its successor gets a game. That said, the first in the league’s move to standardize the logo isn’t totally terrible with a bold design and the return of the standard red, white, and blue color scheme. At the time, we weren’t to know what was to come but we should have seen it coming like a late-game Cowboys collapse.
Verdict: Properly Rated
Super Bowl XLI
Keeping more or less the same font – except making it bendy in another direction – this logo adds the “I” as an endzone pylon and also brings back the football as part of the logo, the first time this was done since XXVI. Why this didn’t become part of the logo earlier is beyond me: it adds an extra element to the whole affair, a sneaky good addition. But the color scheme is a little weird. I know I complained earlier about the red, white, and blue color schemes, and this scheme kinda works because of the pylon orange. But this starts a trend that I’m none too happy about. And “South Florida”? Just say Miami, dammit.
Verdict: Properly Rated
Super Bowl XLII
At least the NFL made an attempt to acknowledge where this game was taking place via the weird, Back to the Future-esque Arizona outline? By the way, The Michael J Fox show? It’s okay, but how can you deny Betsy Brandt?? It’s Hank’s wife from Breaking Bad! And I can’t decide if that show is better than The Wire! God, decisions. Still a kinda lame logo, though. But don’t talk to me about this game because ugh David Tyree holding helmet catch Brady winning streak ugh. Also, bad colors. Just… bad.
Super Bowl XLIII
Who designed this? A child? Bland, boring, bad colors, nothing that reflects the host city (which is Tampa so maybe bland and boring is appropriate?). Horrible, like Rondo after a margarita bender. On the Super Bowl Logo manifesto, this violates, I don’t know, every rule?
Super Bowl XLIV
And improvement over XLIII for sure, but the weird color scheme doesn’t help it. The inclusion of a goal post and football help but those touches pale in comparison to previous examples of how previous logos were made unique. Sure, this was another great Super Bowl thanks to the Saints’ upset over Peyton Manning’s Colts but the logo is pretty impotent. Yeah, I said it.
Verdict: Properly rated
Super Bowls XLV, XLVI, XLVII, XLVIII
And here we are: the seemingly now-standard logo which shows no difference from year to year, save a silhouette of the stadium in which the game is played. I guess if there’s one plus, at least they’re consistent even as they’re soulless. I’ve said most of what I have to say about them above in the intro but just to drive the point home, Dr. Jack style, these are really boring and terrible and just dumb. Bring back the old school logo! Come on! If there’s one thing we know about today’s culture, it’s that it is rife with navel-gazing nostalgia wank fests. Since when the hell did R.L. Stine because the Hemingway of this generation? How did “Pete and Pete” come to be the go-to TV show over, say, “NYPD Blue”? A return to old school logos would be a boon for cash – hear that, Rog? You love cash – and Buzzfeed could do a gallery of them and kids would wear the tshirts and we’d all be happier.
But know, go ahead. Use this design. Just don’t complain when Super Bowl L looks kind of weird.
Verdict: Turds, all of them