The Petty Archives

Commentary: Petty whine about show for halftime
By Gregg Patton
Sarasota Herald-Tribune - February 2, 2008

PHOENIX -- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have had more hits than Tom Brady took all season.

Now that I've taken care of the obligatory football reference, I can move on to the real reason most of the Super Bowl journalists showed up Thursday: to check out the rockers who will be doing the halftime entertainment.

This has become an annual ritual here, the meet-the-music-legends news conference. It began with Paul McCartney three years ago. Since most of the people covering this event are Baby Boomers, who could pass up a chance to be in the same room with a real, live Beatle? No one, judging by the standing-room-only crowd.

Anyway, the Rolling Stones followed McCartney to the event the next year. Then came last year. Prince showed up, actually performing, nor answering questions -- and wasn't that just what the doctor ordered for a group of people who had been trying to think up something to ask Rex Grossman, other than, "Why are you here?"

So that brings us to this year, and Tom Petty. Now I love Petty's music as much as the next over-the-hill, thick-waisted, hair-losing, sight-faltering guy in this joint. I have the CDs to prove it, and I still turn them up loud in the car, although, granted, it's because I can't hear so well anymore.

Certainly, Petty and his mates fit the mold of the recent halftime entertainment choices. That is, they are so old that their first hits, "Breakdown" and "American Girl," appeared in 1976, or one year before Brady did. The band's greatest hits CD came out 15 years ago, and it's been so long since they were actually heartbreakers that a local TV reporter felt compelled to lie to get him to answer her question.

"You are still smoking hot," she said, stunning a couple of hundred other 50-somethings in the room.

"Thank you, honey," said Petty, whose skinny bones, pale features and wispy shoulder-length locks aren't really as "smoking hot" as his credentials.

He and his band certainly have a monster portfolio: 18 Grammy nominations and a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But I think the gods-of-rock train bypassed this year's Super Bowl. Hey, we've been spoiled. A Beatle, the Stones and a Prince show? Come on. Who could follow that holy trinity of Boomer idols? Maybe Bruce Springsteen.

The golden age of halftime idolatry is taking a break. The Eagles reportedly turned down a dance to play this year. So we get Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and I'm not complaining, honest. But I'm also guessing that this could have been Fleetwood Mac's year, or the Talking Heads, or the Cars.

Petty was charming enough about all of it. Someone asked him how hard it was to play a 12-minute "concert" when you have three decades of music to choose from. He said they'd like to play more, but "there's this football game going on."

He said he was a poor athlete and not much of a football fan, except for rooting for the Gators, as you might expect from a Gainesville native.

He also said he and his bandmates didn't hesitate to say "Yes" to the NFL, and he not only doesn't mind playing his old songs, but he also still can get into them.

"I always turn up the old ones on the radio," he said.

Well, what do you expect? He's getting up there, too.