Super Bowl weekend came and passed with little surprising news. After weeks of speculation that the party scene in Tampa would be more subdued this year, that’s exactly what happened. And at the game itself, Bruce Springsteen's halftime show has earned praise for being adequate—neither an inspiration nor the kind of disaster seen in the past.
Celebrations started as early as Wednesday and carried on through last night, but the most successful parties seemed to have been Thursday and Friday night. Sports Illustrated reporter Arash Markazi named John Madden’s “Madden Bowl XV” the party of the week, though he also noted that ESPN The Magazine’s party would likely earn the rest of the press’s affections—mainly because the two shared something in common. “ESPN and Madden were the only two parties that didn't scale back from previous years (if anything they grew from last year) and it paid off,” wrote Markazi.
The New York Times’ John Branch wrote about the parties’ red carpet reliance on athletes in lieu of other celebrities this year and gave a rundown of ESPN’s eclectic guest list. The combination of Lil’ Wayne, Lindsay Lohan, and Jared (from the Subway sandwich commercials) was, as Branch put it, “as if popular culture had just coughed up something unimaginable.”
Inside the ESPN party, things weren’t that easy for the celebrity contingent. The New York Daily News's Gatecrasher reported that Patriots’ quarterback Matt Cassel was assaulted in the bathroom when one drunken reveler “purposefully pee[d] directly on Cassel’s leg” when he told him to wait his turn for the urinal.
The non-celebrity crowd had almost as tough of a time at the Leather and Laces party. The AP reported, “City police officers were frustratingly trying to manage crowd control and at one point refusing to let anyone else into [party venue] Jackson's Bistro on Harbour Island.” This, despite the fact that tickets to the party were reportedly still for sale just hours before the event.
During the game, the stage production for Bruce Springsteen’s halftime show seems to have gotten a pretty unenthusiastic reception. The Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot wrote, “The set bottomed out when a performer popped on stage wearing a football referee’s uniform and signaled ‘penalties’ while the singer and Steve Van Zandt shared vocals.”
Springsteen himself has gotten mixed reviews. Noting that “he rose to the occasion, but never above it,” The New York Times' Joe Carmanica said the commercialism of the performance wasn’t even ignored by Springsteen, whose new album came out last week. “He made it clear from the start that his performance with the E Street Band at the halftime show of Super Bowl XLIII on Sunday night was business, not personal.”
Many acknowledged the shill factor, but few seemed to fault him. The Los Angeles Times admited that it isn’t necessarily Springsteen’s doing, but the trap of performing at the Super Bowl at all. “It turns artists into pitchmen,” wrote the paper’s music blogger, Todd Martens.
One thing that was undoubtedly Springsteen’s choice: His calls for the home audience to “step away from the guacamole dip,” have been universally chided as the worst possible way to start a performance.