NFL, military continue Super Bowl traditions

  • Published
  • By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
  • American Forces Press Service
From fighter jet flyovers to military performances at halftime shows, the National Football League and U.S. military have shared more than 40 years of Super Bowl history. 

The tradition continues Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla., during Super Bowl XLIII, with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, performing the ceremonial coin toss for the Arizona Cardinals' and Pittsburgh Steelers' team captains.

"It is a privilege to represent our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen in the coin-toss ceremony," General Petraeus told American Forces Press Service today in an e-mail. "And it is an honor to thank the NFL commissioner and the teams and players for all that they have done in recent years to recognize the service of our troopers and their families."

The Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration squadron is set for a pregame flyover, and an all-service U.S. Special Operations Command color guard is planned to present the nation's colors during the game's national anthem. 

Tech. Sgt. Holly Bracken will be on the field in the color guard formation, presenting the Air Force colors. She's privileged to represent her service and the military, she said, adding that it just wouldn't be a Super Bowl without military support.

"It's such an honor to go there and present the colors," said Sergeant Bracken, who grew up near Pittsburgh rooting for the Steelers. "You can't have the presentation of the colors without [military] representation."

The NFL-military Super Bowl partnership stems from the first Air Force flyover in 1968 over Miami's Orange Bowl for Super Bowl II. Ever since, flyovers have become a staple of the Super Bowl, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, citing military flyovers as "an unbelievable experience" to watch from the football field.

Since then, the military has supported flyovers for nearly every Super Bowl, he said. Also, military choirs have performed the pregame national anthem twice, with the U.S. Air Force Academy Chorale singing for Super Bowl VI in 1972, and a combined chorus from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy singing for Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005.

The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performed at halftime for Super Bowl VI in 1972, and the Air Force Tops in Blue did the same in 1985 for Super Bowl XIX.

The military even has taken on its normal role as peacekeeper and protector for past Super Bowls, with the Florida Army National Guard taking part in security efforts in 2005 and 2007 along with other federal and state agencies.

"The NFL has had a longstanding tradition of supporting the military," Mr. McCarthy told American Forces Press Service during a phone interview. "We have a great appreciation for what the military does and feel honored to include the military in the Super Bowl."

Throughout the years, the Super Bowl has become one of the most highly rated televised events of the year. This year, Super Bowl XLIII will be broadcast to more than 230 countries to a potential worldwide audience of more than 1 billion viewers, including servicemembers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. McCarthy said the NFL is working with NBC, which has the broadcast rights for Super Bowl XLIII, to coordinate a "look-in" from some of those military members serving abroad. A live satellite feed will show military football fans watching the big game from a military post in the Middle East, he explained.

The NFL wouldn't give specifics on whether the feed would air from Iraq or Afghanistan, but McCarthy said the "look-in" has generally become another staple of Super Bowl broadcasts and tradition, as it's occurred regularly throughout recent years.

"[The NFL] feels that the 70,000 fans attending the Super Bowl this year should be cheering louder for the military than the two teams playing," he said. "It is, indeed, very important for the NFL to look for every opportunity to support the troops."

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