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The Greatest Halftime Performance of All Time

On September 7, 2001, the greatest halftime show ever occurred. It was not Prince, nor was it U2 or Michael Jackson. Rather, it was a squid and a sponge.

On Sunday, February 3, Maroon 5 will take the stage in Atlanta for the Super Bowl LIII Halftime show.

The performance will be 12-15 minutes long, presumably with a stage full of lights and theatrics. The setlist will feature five recognizable, hit songs, throughout the band’s two-decade long run. Adam Levine will hit high notes, shred a few riffs, and a pair of celebrities will make a cameo.

Many spectators will praise the performance, while others will despise it. Some will rant that Maroon 5 is past their prime and were a poor choice for the halftime show, while others will argue that their music has become underrated over time.

This is your standard argument over the annual Super Bowl halftime show. Every year, a new act takes the stage, only to be loved by some, and criticized by more. With the exception of Prince and U2, more oft than not, halftime shows are a mixed bag of reviews. Performances during the Big Game tend to feature memorable moments more so than overall sets, like Bruce Springsteen power sliding his crotch into the stage camera, or Janet Jackson’s titty being exposed to the world on that fateful night in 2004.

Regardless, a performance that is rarely (if at all) mentioned in the all-time rankings of halftime shows, is one so iconic that it will never be replicated. An underdog story akin to that of Rudy and the Bad News Bears, it is shocking that this heroic tale fails to crack a single list. It is absurd and asinine that Peter Berg has yet to direct a 30 for 30 on this historic moment in time.

I am referring to, of course, the 2001 Bubble Bowl performance, where an unlikely group of ragtag sea scoundrels performed an epic power ballad, under the conduction of a cynical, manically-depressed squid.

Prince may have serenaded us to Purple Rain in a monsoon and Katy Perry may have introduced us to a confused Left Shark, but there is one performance that truly stands above the rest:

SpongeBob SquarePants’ “Sweet Victory” at the 2001 Bubble Bowl.

The Build Up

Prior to SpongeBob and company melting thousands of faces at the Bubble Bowl, came a period of heartache and struggle for their conductor.

A week before the performance, Squidward Tentacles was home alone, practicing his clarinet as per usual. He receives a knock at the door and is greeted by several doctors from the pet hospital just down the street. The doctors appear to have serious news, as they were concerned that Squidward had, “…a dying animal on the premise.”

Sadly, the only dying animal was that of Squidward’s fourth grade sounding clarinet melody.

Immediately after this interaction, Squidward receives a phone call from none other than his arch nemesis from band class, Squilliam Fancyson.

Tentacles and Fancyson exchange blows. Squilliam scoffs at Squidward for working behind a cash register, while Squidward fires back with a unibrow joke. Squilliam goes on to say that he is the leader of a “big, fancy band now” and that they have been selected to play the Bubble Bowl, which is presumably, the premiere live event for made-up, underwater cartoons.

Unfortunately for Squilliam, he is unable to attend and wants Squidward to perform. Though he does not have a band, he lies and states that he will “drum up a band” before next Tuesday from scratch.

Now, Squidward has exactly one week until showtime. He must scrounge up a band of Bikini Bottom’s finest musical talent and perform to hundreds of thousands of viewers on the biggest stage.

With that, he hangs up fliers around town (and in Larry the Lobster’s shower?), which garners the attention and intrigue of 35 other residents.

This leads to an initial meeting at what appears to be a city hall style building. Here, Squidward is able to gauge the musical prowess he will be working with for the next several days. He asks how many attendees have played musical instruments, which leads to several questions about various types of instruments, including ones for torture and, yes, condiments.

Unsurprisingly, no one has any musical experience.

But regardless of their ability, the show must go on. This lead to the band’s first practice session, which began surprisingly well. However, it took a sharp turn when a confused Patrick kicked Sandy in the leg, who ended up sticking a trombone between Patrick’s head and upper torso.

Day two of practice seemed to go smoother. The band marched in the street and it appeared as though the unit was coming together. Then, tragically, two flag twirlers spun their batons at such a rapid pace, that they built up enough to speed to fly in to the air, and crash directly into a blimp, causing it to explode.

Taps ensued.

On the third practice, Plankton collapsed due to a lack of air capacity while attempting to perform a solo on a harmonica five-times his size. We later find out that Plankton’s talents are better-suited for the piano rather than the harmonica.

Tensions were high on the band’s final night together before the show.

Squidward instructed his crew to play loudly, because if they play at a high volume, people will believe they are good. They attempted this method, but literally blew out the windows in the process.

Following this, Squidward sadly mentions in passing, that they should play so quietly, that no one will hear them.

This, in turn, leads to an argument between townie Harold Reginald and Mr. Krabs. Harold implies that the band may sound better if someone (Mr. Krabs) didn’t play with “Big, meaty, claws!” This strikes a nerve with Krabs, who fights back in a fit of rage.

Shortly after, an all-out brawl occurs.

Drums are bashed over heads, Mrs. Puff smashes a pair of bandmates’ heads together with cymbals, and Sandy (once again) chases a screaming Patrick around with a trumpet.

We can only imagine what orifice that brass instrument went in this time.

Practice ends with the bell ringing and Squidward, in tears, standing at the door. He tells his band that they ruined his chance, his one shining moment, and that they should not even bother to show up for the performance. For a few days, Squidward showed desire and drive, but that motivation to prove his arrogant foe Squilliam wrong, had now dissipated.

Defeat, however, quickly turned into a moment of hope, when frontman SpongeBob SquarePants delivered a speech straight out of a cheesy, inspirational sports movie.

SpongeBob harps at his peers that Squidward had always been there for them.

SpongeBob: “Evelyn, when your little Jimmy was trapped in a fire, who rescued him?
Evelyn: “A fireman?”
SpongeBob: “And Larry, when your heart gave out from all those canning pills, who revived you?”
Larry: “Some guy in an ambulance.”
SpongeBob: “Right! So if we can all pretend that Squidward was a fireman or some guy in an ambulance, then I’m sure we can all pull together and discover what it truly means, to be in a marching band.”
Harold: “Yeah! For the fireman!”

The night passes, and it’s now crunch time.

Squidward shows up to the game, hoping that Squilliam doesn’t appear. Much to his surprise (and dismay), Squilliam is at the front entrance and asks him where his band is.

Squidward informs them that his band had “…died.”

But die they did not, as they stood proudly right behind him, including an eager SpongeBob.

Like a dad ready to leave Applebee’s, the Band Geeks were ready to rock n’ roll.

The Performance

0:00-0:04: Squidward and company are ascended onto the field (in a bubble, of course) for the halftime performance. This stadium is the home of the Showboats and there looks to be around 70,000-plus fans in attendance.

Also of note: There are now 15 members in the band, as opposed to the 35 that attended the initial practice session.

0:05-0:08: The announcer reveals the name of this heroic squad: The Bikini Bottom Super Band.

0:09-0:15: Shots of the crowd are shown. There appears to be at least a full section of fans with their shirts off, waving them above their heads. The Bubble Bowl (like the Super Bowl) attracts a wide range of demographics. Elderly women are shown clapping their hands, while middle age men sporting painted faces are high fiving one another.

This begs the question…who the fuck is playing in this game?

0:16-0:22: Patrick states that these fans are, “…some ugly looking fish.” SpongeBob believes they are next to a toxic waste dump and Mr. Krabs seems to have struck up an illness. Is it from performance anxiety or the disgusting wasteland which is the Showboats’ stadium?

We will never know…

0:23-0:31: Squidward raises his conductor’s wand, counting down the Bikini Bottom Super Band. All the while, Squilliam watches directly behind him.

Speaking of which, why would Squidward even let Squilliam near his performance? It’s one thing for him to be in a luxury suite, but to have your enemy inches away? That’s preposterous. Show some balls, Squidward. Kick his ass out.

0:32: Showtime.

0:33-0:43: The trumpets begin the performance with an Olympics-esque intro. Squidward, who is drenched in sweat from anxiety and nerves, is surprised the band actually sounds decent.

0:44-0:48: Plankton now behind the keyboard, thankfully.

0:49-0:53: The band parts like the Red Sea.

Ahead stands a shadowy figure.

The spotlight dances upon him.

His head is down, eyes are closed, and microphone in hand.

This is a man ready to melt thousands of faces.

That man…is SpongeBob Fucking SquarePants.

0:54-1:08: The winner takes all/ It’s the thrill of one more kill/ The last one to fall/ Will never sacrifice their will.

Already this sounds like a true, arena anthem. If you’re not bumping this at the gym, what are you doing with your life?

Spongebob’s vocals (also known as David Glen Eisley) sound like a mixture of John Parr and Bruce Springsteen, with a hint of Steve Perry.

1:09-1:10: Patrick (who is wearing sunglasses) kicks in with the drums. He is playing what looks to be a Rock Band kit specially designed for Neil Peart.

1:11-1:13: Pyro!!!

1:14-1:18: The Super Band is in full swing and has the crowd in the palm of their hand. They are busting out stage antics, with a set full of lights and fire. A true spectacle, really.

The crowd (which now features dudes in flannels and cowboy hats) are shown with lighters in the air. Lighters in the air is a key indicator that an epic power ballad is occuring.  

1:19-1:24: The camera pans to Squilliam, who is in utter disbelief. Squidward turns around in pure delight. He then gives Squilliam the look of, “Oh yeah? Check this shit, breh.”

1:25-1:38: And it’s sweet, sweet, sweet victory, yeah/ And it’s ours for the taking/ It’s ours for the fight.

Patrick is rolling behind the kit. Sandy is tearing up the rhythm guitar. SpongeBob and Plankton are going duel vocals into one mic. Squidward is on his knees with his fists raised to the heavens as if he is Andy Dufresne escaping from Shawshank.

Additionally, the band is performing so well, that THE BUBBLE BOWL FANS ARE NOW SOBBING.

1:39-1:45: “Sweet Victory” has overpowered Squilliam. He grabs his heart and collapses to the floor.

Squidward then, in an ultimate “fuck you” move, waves goodbye to Squilliam, as he is escorted out of the building in a stretcher.

The stage may be scorching hot, but Squidward’s heart remains ice cold.   

1:46-1:49: Squidward runs to the end of the stage to face the crowd, hoists up his arms in the air once more, as pyro spurts up from the floor.

1:50-1:54: Mrs. Puff comes sliding across the stage as if she’s Eddie Van Halen. Puff holds the song’s pinnacle note and guitar above her head, shaking it like a total badass.

1:55-2:03: A jubilant Squidward busts out some dance moves and does the splits multiple times, before jumping up in the air. The frame stops on Squidward, with his arms out and grin larger than Squilliam’s ego.

The song fades away, thus concluding the greatest halftime performance ever. More importantly, it was a “Sweet Victory” for the underdogs.

The Aftermath

The historic Bubble Bowl performance may have happened on September 7, 2001, but it has not been forgotten in the minds of many.

In fact, there is currently a petition on change.org, pleading for the NFL to have “Sweet Victory” performed during the Super Bowl Halftime show next Sunday. This petition has over one-million signatures, including my own.

Now, the internet is no stranger for using GoFundMe and change.org for gags. On the surface, this would appear to be one, but let’s not lose faith quite yet.

Any other year this would immediately get shut down. However, with the unfortunate passing of Stephen Hillenburg this past November, “Sweet Victory” could easily be performed as a tribute to him. SpongeBob has been a show since 2001 and is loved just as much by kids now as it was back then. Everyone watches the Super Bowl, and that includes a large influx of SpongeBob fans.

I believe this was a Harvard study.

Obviously, Maroon 5 will be performing the halftime show, so all of this falls on them. While we can almost be certain “Sugar” and “Moves Like Jagger” will be played, we can still hope for “Sweet Victory” making the setlist.  

Here’s why.

On January 13, Maroon 5 tweeted out this hype video, plugging their halftime performance.

Fast forward to the 32-second mark. Who do you see?

That’s right. SpongeBob Fucking SquarePants.

Is this tweet foreshadowing a “Sweet Victory” into Maroon 5’s set? Only time will tell.

It’s yours for the taking, Adam Levine. Make us all proud.

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Mark Radlund

By Mark Radlund

Mark is a writer for Super Metal World, as well as an avid supporter of live music, cheesy power ballads, and over-the-top action movies. Send over your questions, comments, and concerns to [email protected] Follow Mark on Twitter and Instagram @MarkRadlund. 

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