Day 123: The Super Bowl Shuffle – When Football Goes Musical

originally published May 2, 2012

In that dark cosmic closet that holds all the universe’s most famously bad ideas, there is a tiny spot on a high shelf for the 45RPM record known as the Super Bowl Shuffle. If you’re already craving a taste, here’s a link for your pleasure:

If you watched that entire video, I’m sorry. If you only watched the first 30 seconds or so, then you pretty much saw the entire thing. The melody doesn’t change, there’s no bridge, just a couple of saxophone solos mimed by running back Calvin Thomas. Also, they rhyme ‘trouble’ with ‘shuffle’ six times.

A little background. The 1985 Chicago Bears are considered by many to be one of the greatest football teams in the history of the game. Their defense was unfathomably mighty, and they had (among others) Walter Payton on offense, a man who remains one of the most beloved figures of the sport today – one of the most treasured awards handed out at the end of every season bears his name, for the player who best serves humanity through charity and general awesomeness.

So why a horrible rap song? Isn’t it enough to win fifteen out of sixteen games?

This was the brainchild of advertising executive Richard E. Meyer. Meyer was a huge Bears fan, and in 1985 he leapt suddenly to the world of music, starting up a label then writing, producing and ‘choreographing’ (if you can call it that) this song and video.

On the surface, the song is embarrassing. Embarrassing to the point of inspiring douche-chills. But there’s more to be said than just some lazy rhymes and dreadful rapping. Walter Payton’s verse hints that the Bears were doing this to “feed the needy”, and it’s true: the song raised over $300,000 for the Chicago Community Trust. The record was actually a hit – it reached #41 on the Billboard charts. The track also gained enough notoriety to garner a Grammy nomination.

That’s right, this song was up for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, along with Run DMC, Sade, and Ashford & Simpson. I’m sure Prince’s “Kiss” won by the narrowest of margins.

The real coup is that they talked almost the entire team into doing this. Three future Hall of Fame players (Payton, Richard Dent and Mike Singletary) were willing to boogie their booties in full uniform during the heart of what they clearly believed to be a championship season. Only defensive end Richard Dent declined, feeling it was too arrogant a gesture to make.

Had the team not obliterated the New England Patriots 46-10 in one of the most lopsided Super Bowl wins in history, Dent might have been proven correct. But that’s what happened – the Patriots never stood a chance. I just want to point that out again because it made me very happy.

The best part of this story is that the Bears were neither the first nor the last team to put out a record. How wonderful this would be for, say, Packers fans if I was to devote my entire kilograph to mocking the ’85 Bears. But I loved the ’85 Bears. You know who else I loved to watch? The ’84 San Francisco 49ers.

“We don’t take no stuff; everybody knows we’re too tough.” That’s right, the dearth of 1980s music spread into professional sports all over this decade. This one is called “We Are The 49ers.” There’s not a lot of information on this track, except for it’s awful. And it has a sequel, complete with a video, “The 49ers Rap”. If you happen to be a completionist fan of Jerry Rice, the guy voted the greatest NFL player of all-time in an NFL Network poll, then you should check out his atrocious rapping skills. The guy may be able to dance, but he can’t rap.

The Bears’ “Super Bowl Shuffle” was recorded mid-season, allegedly right after their one loss, to the Miami Dolphins. The 1986 New York Giants continued the tradition, but they waited until after they’d beaten the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI to release their single, “Walk Like A Giant.”

There is no evidence of this song on Youtube, but I did find “We Are The New York Giants”, another song from the same year. Like the 49ers, the team’s strongest musical statement appears to be identifying who they are.

The Bears’ success in the music world really inspired a number of followers the following year. The Los Angeles Rams produced a song called “Let’s Ram It”, which you can listen to here. The song meets the stupidity requirements apparent in this genre of “NFL MC’s”, but I have to give credit to Eric Dickerson & company for being much better at the art of pretending to be rap artists than their competition.

Oh, and the 1986 L.A. Raiders chimed in also, putting out a single called “The Silver And Black Attack.” About 45 seconds in you can hear noted Fox Sports personality Howie Long try out rapping. We should all be very glad he opted not to pursue it as a career. These last two songs were so awful, they started a chain of events that drove football out of Los Angeles completely, out of total shame for their desecration of the music world. Probably.

I know I’m riding a football wave with this article, but I feel as an Edmontonian I should mention the 1986-87 Calgary Flames’ effort at a hit single, “Red Hot”. These guys actually made an effort to sing rather than rap, and I commend that. The song (and honestly, the singing) is pretty terrible. But if you want to see Lanny McDonald’s mustache in a moment of artistic expression, I guess this is a video you’ll want to watch.

One more from the gridiron. The 1985 New England Patriots, who faced the ’85 Bears in Super Bowl XX, put out their own single, “New England, The Patriots, And We.” Again we have some singing instead of rapping, and whichever players laid down the vocals for the first verse (that’s all I watched) did a decent job, although they had some female singers to balance out the sound.

The lyrics take us through the Patriots’ journey in the playoffs, culminating in their prediction that they’ll destroy the Bears in the big game. They tossed in a bunch of local Boston-area celebrities, including Spencer: For Hire’s Robert Urich.

Similar attempts at this genre were made by the 1994 Pittsburgh Steelers, the 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars, and the 2005 Cincinnati Bengals. None of these teams had Super Bowl success. The Bears and the 49ers were the fluke. Football teams should simply never release songs that identify themselves and announce their impending victory.

Leave it to the pros. Like these guys. That’s Will Arnett as Brett Favre and Jimmy Fallon as Tom Brady doing the “Pro Bowl Shuffle.”

Now that’s music.

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