Super Bowl 53, with a heavily defensive game and what many are calling an underwhelming halftime show, brought in the lowest ratings that a Super Bowl has in the last eleven years.
The dip in ratings was accompanied by an overall lack of viewership, with CBS reporting that their estimates indicate that only about 98 million people tuned into the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. Last year’s Super Bowl, a showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, garnered around 103.4 million viewers, but that number was still significantly lower than it had been in previous years.
Some of the disappointment around the Super Bowl 53 stems from the lackluster halftime show. Many agreed that Maroon 5, the halftime headliner, performed a set that wasn’t even quite worth comment. After their first set ended, the transition teased what many fans had been holding their breath for; an eight-second video and audio clip of “Sweet Victory,” as performed by “SpongeBob Squarepants” and various Bikini Bottom citizens.
After Stephen Hillenburg, creator of the cult-classic “SpongeBob Squarepants” animated TV series, passed away in November of 2018, fans called for a tribute in the form of a performance of the song “Sweet Victory” at the 2019 Super Bowl. The song reached fame after SpongeBob Squarepants and Co. were shown performing “Sweet Victory” in the Bubble Bowl during the episode of the series titled “Band Geeks.”
During the episode, Squidward lies to rival Squilliam Fancyson about having a marching band, and his band, made up of various Bikini Bottom citizens, ends up playing the halftime show in the Bubble Bowl, much to the amazement of Squidward’s rival. The episode immediately became a fan favorite, and considering “SpongeBob Squarepants” impact on pop culture, fans felt that it would only be right to honor Hillenburg’s passing with a tribute at one of the largest sporting events in America.
A petition, which gained over one million signatures on Change.org, called for “Sweet Victory” to be played, “As a tribute to [Hillenburg’s] legacy, his contributions to a generation of children, and to truly showcase the greatness of this song.”
Fans of the show were, however, let down when the clip played at the halftime show only lasted eight seconds, before transitioning to Travis Scott’s entrance to hit song “Sicko Mode.”
Although the Super Bowl didn’t manage to serve “Sweet Victory” the justice or the performance it deserved, another major league sports team took it into their own hands to honor Hillenburg. The NHL, not wanting to miss out on the chance to one-up one of the biggest sporting events on TV, played the entire scene at a Dallas Stars game on Feb 4. The team had only taken the liberty to re-color the band uniforms on the Bikini Bottom citizens to match the green jerseys of the Stars, interspersed with shots of the crowd to maintain the feeling of the original performance.
Although the Super Bowl may not have lived up to everyone’s expectations, one of the takeaways we can be sure about is this — “SpongeBob Squarepants” is a powerful cultural icon, and by snubbing SpongeBob, the Super Bowl cemented its ratings without much of a thought.