In the pantheon of great NFL teams, the 1985 Chicago Bears are rightly considered the absolute greatest ever assembled. With a 15-1 record, they stormed through the playoffs, shutting out the Giants and Rams before steamrolling the Patriots for their first – and to this day, only – Super Bowl championship. While there is a lot to remember about the team – the deadly defense that only allowed an absurd 12.4 points per game all season long, Walter Payton’s 1,551 yard season and future G.I. Joe action figure, WrestleMania battle royale participant and undefeated Celebrity Boxer William Perry being called in for periodic fullback duties – perhaps the longest lingering pop cultural influence of the ‘85 Bears, of course, is “The Super Bowl Shuffle.”
You kids know what “The Super Bowl Shuffle” is, right? Well, for those not up to speed, the ‘85 Bears thought they were so awesome they recorded a music video – back when that was still a thing – describing how they were going to kick everybody’s ass en route to Super Bowl XX. Yes, it was an extraordinarily ballsy thing to do – the video came out before the regular season was even over – but seeing as how they ended up winning the whole shebang, it’s pretty hard to fault the guys for wanting to flaunt themselves.
Naturally, the success of “The Super Bowl Shuffle” – it was actually released as a single, radio stations played it and people bought it with real money – lead to a deluge of imitators. In fact, NFL teams as late as this decade have done their darnedest to replicate the magic of “The Shuffle,” with … well, very mixed results. With the pro football season in full swing, I reckoned it was worth our respective whiles to revisit some of the “classic” videos inspired by the ‘85 Bears foray into the music video art form. And yeah, get ready to cringe, a lot.
The Chicago Bears – “The Super Bowl Shuffle” (1985)
Any and all discussions of terrible NFL music videos begin and end with “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time a pro football team recorded a song to extol and exalt themselves; indeed, the San Francisco 49ers released “We’re the 49ers” during their Super Bowl run just a season earlier. Still, the Bears were the first team to harness the power of the newfangled “music video” format, and as such, they get all the credit for kickstarting the trend. As for the song itself, it’s not totally unlistenable, even though at almost six minutes in length, it does give you ample time to take a quick nap. Pretty much every stereotypical thing you could say about the 1980s, you could say about this video: it’s got the ADHD quick cut editing, it’s got the uncomfortably tight spandex, and it’s got a LOT of homoerotic pelvis thrusting. As you’d imagine, there is a lot of groan-inducing spots on the track, such as the couplet when Walter Payton compares his love of running the ball “to making sweet romance” and the bitterly ironic refrain from Mike McMahon – who is now addled by severe CTE – about “throwing my body all over the field.” Like I said, though, compared to the other tracks on the list, this one is almost decent – and unlike the lengthy list of imitators it spawned, I’ll give them credit for actually entrusting members of the team to play the musical instruments on the track. I mean, who would have ever thought Calvin Thomas was such a damned fine saxophonist, anyway?
The Seattle Seahawks – “The Blue Wave Is On A Roll” (1985)
Hold on a minute, you mean to tell me another pro football team released a music video talking about how great they were around the same time as “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” but nobody ever brings it up for some reason? That is indeed the case, but in hindsight, there’s very good reason why no one remembers this one – primarily, because after all the singing and rapping and saxophone soloing about how much ass they kick, the Seahawks wrapped up the season with a mediocre 8-8 record. Additionally, while “The Super Bowl Shuffle” had a semi-decent, Herbie Hancock-inspired vibe to it, “The Blue Wave Is On A Roll” is effectively a parody of “Yakety Sax,” with linebacker Michael Jackson (yes, that is his real name) trying to inspire his teammates in the locker room with his smooth lyricism about “chasing those backs, and getting those sacks, each and every time” to the tune of The Benny Hill Show theme song. Still, the video gets some points for trying to carry on a thematic; while the Bears just stood in front of a sound stage, the Seahawks at least tried to do a little bit of acting … even if it does come across as, well, a little less than hetero.
The New England Patriots – “New England, The Patriots And We” (1986)
Ahead of Super Bowl XX – when they got stomped 46-10 – the Patriots’ organization decided to release a “diss track” of sorts as a riposte to “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” Except, uh, it didn’t actually feature any of the Patriots players singing or pretending to know how a synthesizer works. Instead, “New England, The Patriots And We” features a whole lot of old white people you’ve never heard of in a studio, singing about how Chicago isn’t that great (because sometimes subtlety is too hard, at one point a bunch of dock workers beat the crap out of an actual refrigerator with William Perry’s iconic “72” on it) how the Pats’ defense is a lot better than everybody thinks and generally how awesome it is to live in Boston (as one singer puts it, “the Bruins are the only bears for me.”) As for the song itself, it’s the absolute most soulless, mid-1980s, all-our-bosses-are-on-cocaine McDonald’s commercial-sounding corporate anthem dreck you’ve ever heard in your life. Oh, and it’s also got some unfortunate racial overtones, too, with one singer declaring, gleefully, “we’ll hang the Bears from the Liberty Tree.”
The Los Angeles Raider – “The Silver and Black Attack” (1986)
By now we all know I am a hopeless Raiders homer, but even through a strictly objectivist lens, this song kicks all kinds of ass. For one thing, whereas the previous NFL music videos had sort of a carefree, almost self-parodying tone, this one came off as super stern. Yeah, the song itself is a little cheesy, but the way the players deliver the lines you can’t help but feel a little intimidated. Nobody smiles, nobody horses around – they just deliver their lines, sway back and forth a little and go back to scowling, just like Al Davis would’ve wanted them to. In terms of production values, this thing is miles ahead of anything that came before it, with really aggressive editing, super-dark lighting and a whole lot of great Raiders aesthetics tossed in as B-roll footage. And as for the music itself? Well, the only thing more hilarious than hearing Todd Christensen talk about his “hand sticking to the balls” is realizing that Marcus Allen sounds just like Eazy E.
The Los Angeles Rams – “Let’s Ram It” (1986)
Ladies and gentlemen, I present the absolute most homoerotic thing mankind has ever made. Granted, I know hindsight is always 50/50, but how could they not know what people we’re going to think about a song – featuring a bunch of muscular, hairy men in various stages of undress – singing about their communal love of “ramming it?” This thing is so over the top it makes the Judas Priest discography look discrete. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment from the video, but hearing safety Nolan Cromwell describe himself as “Hollywood handsome, Dodge City tough” before obliviously declaring “nobody likes ramming more than me” has to be one of the ten funniest things I’ve ever witnessed in my life.
The Philadelphia Eagles – “Buddy’s Watchin’ You” (1988)
By the late 1980s, pop-rap had become a legitimate musical force, and with former Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan coming in as the team’s new coach, the Philadelphia Eagles said “hey, why not get everybody in the recording studio to rap about how awesome we’re going to be this year?” The end results, as you’d imagine, are a mixed bag. For one thing, the production values are somehow worse than “The Super Bowl Shuffle” and the lyrics are just unimaginably bad (the lowlight has to be the kicker rhyming “I kick field goals” with “Am I nervous? Yeah, I suppose.”) As positives, though? You do get to hear Reggie White talk about hitting other players “like they committed sin” and marvel at just how much Randall Cunningham looked like Jon Jones in his salad years. Plus, literally the only white person in the entire video is palpably nervous the entire time, and it’s absolutely hilarious.
The Miami Dolphins – “U Can’t Touch Us” (1990)
Hoo boy, this thing just encapsulates everything awkward about the early, early ‘90s – you know, that really weird transitional period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and Nirvana. Just about every form of tacky ephemera you can think of makes its way into this video; we’ve got keytars, we’ve got Hooters waitresses skanking it up and down on escalators and do we have defensive linemen shaking their junk on Zubaz pants? YES, YES WE DO. The only downside? If you’re hoping to see Dan Marino wearing baggy britches and spitting hot rhymes over a royalty check to the Rick James estate, you’ll be sorely disappointed; not only does Dandy Don not make an appearance in the video, the guy who does most of the singing on the track isn’t even an actual football player – he’s just some random white guy named Cory.
The Green Bay Packers – “Packerana” (1996)
Technically, this wasn’t an in-house video – it features no Green Bay Packers players doing vocals, and I highly doubt the organizational brass signed off on it – but in terms of pure mid-90s cheese – yes, I mean that both ways – you’ll have to dig long and hard through the VHS vaults to find anything as groan-inducing as this. As the name suggests, the track – originally sung by a couple of Milwaukee-area DJs – spoofs “La Macarena,” the absolutely inescapable dance craze that was pretty much the Pokemon Go and doing flakka of its day. You can pretty much guess the lyrical content already – lots of references to the Lambeau Leap, Brett Favre and Robert Brooks – and it’s made all sorts of uncomfortable because the obviously white singers are trying absurdly hard to sound like the most stereotypical Mexicans in the history of ethnocentrism. Believe it or not, this thing, I have heard, gets heavy rotation come playoff time in Wisconsin to this day – which, really, is just further proof the entire state is still stuck, culturally and technologically, in the year 1995.
The Jacksonville Jaguars – “Uh Oh, The Jacksonville Jaguars Super Bowl Song” (1999)
Kids, let me take you back in time to a magical era we call “the late ‘90s.” The economy was roaring, the Middle East wasn’t a smoldering turd hole on the brink of starting World War III at any moment and – perhaps most unfathomably – the Jacksonville Jaguars were actually a good football team. No seriously, like good enough to make it to the AFC Championship and be one game away from playing in the Super Bowl. So optimistic about their postseason chances, the team recorded the highly aspirational (yet clumsily titled) “Uh Oh, The Jacksonville Jaguars Super Bowl Song” in Nov. 1999, which featured long-forgotten stars Jimmy Smith and Gary Walker talking trash about the Steelers and Ravens over a generic rap track that sounds sort of like a cross between Outkast and what white people think Outkast sounds like. Oh, and the whole video is interlaced with stock footage of actual jaguars on the prowl, because sometimes, there’s no such thing as being too blunt. And as for the Jags self-fulfilling Super Bowl prophecy? It never came to pass, seeing as how they got blistered by the Tennessee Titans 33-14 in the AFC title game.
The Minnesota Vikings – “Purple and Gold” (2010)
OK, I’m breaking a lot of rules on this one. For one thing, there was never an official video released for “Purple and Gold,” which was produced just in time for the Brett Favre-led Vikes to hunch the pooch against the Saints in the 2010 NFC championship game. Secondly, the track doesn’t feature vocals from any Vikings players. So why is it worth mentioning? Because the track was written – and performed – by PRINCE. That’s right, one of the greatest musicians of all-time just got a wild hare in his keister one evening (and since this is Prince we’re talking about, that may or may not just be a euphemism) and said “I think I will record a soulful melody about my hometown professional football team, right after I purify myself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka,” and the team ran with it because he’s Prince. Granted, the song itself is one of His Purple Majesty’s lesser tracks, but it’s not like you’ll find that many Jock Jams produced by legitimate first ballot Rock and Roll Hall of Famers out there. And if given the option of listening to Z-level Prince or the Cincinnati Bengals’ “Who Dey Rap?” Yeah, give me Prince drugged out of his mind singing lovemaking ballads dedicated to huge men in purple tackling each other any day of the week.