The Sports Archives – History of Halftime (American Football & More)!

4 quarters, each slated for 15 minutes of gameplay, and the first and last 2 separated by a brief respite, known quite appropriately as “halftime”; this is the working formula for American football games, as well as rugby matches. The contesting teams play in two 15-minute intervals for each ‘half’ of the game, with a rest period (comparable to the 7th-inning stretch of baseball) offering players and fans alike the opportunity to take a break, stretch, and prepare for the concluding portion of the game. Yet, today, halftime seems to be something many fans take for granted. In fact (again, much like the 7th-inning stretch) most fans of football probably could not give any history on halftime – it has always been a part of major football and rugby sporting events, and to most participants, “it is just something that has always been.” Halftime came from somewhere, however, and many of the more obscure, curious ‘traditions’ of football actually originate from it. Here are 5 major points that overview the history and development of halftime as a fundamental component of sports…

  1. Halftime started in English “public schools” – In the early 1800s, the first codes, or ‘rules of engagement,’ of football were established in the English public schools; take note that the term “public school” in England is actually more equitable to the private schools of the U.S. and other countries. By extension, even though football (and rugby) is widely considered ‘the every-man’s sport’ today, it could be considered as having “noble origins,” as the schools of its upbringing catered largely to upper-class, wealthy students, who were mostly male. The environment of these English public schools served as a perfect proving ground for football’s early years.

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    Hard as it may be to believe, football was established in the likes of this; an English public (preparatory) school.


  1. Early halftimes highlighted a change of rules – Before the rules of football became universal in the mid-late 1800s, halftime instituted a swap of actual rules, based on the model of football/rugby at the particular school of one of the competing teams. Halftime also featured a swap of field positions for the competing teams if neither had scored by halfway through the game (although the teams would also, traditionally, swap each time one of them scored). After football acquired a more consistent ruleset, only the practice of changing up positions on the field remained. It is still prevalent in today’s football, coined with the same effort of “reducing or diminishing any advantages or disadvantages the respective teams may have been experiencing in the first half.”


  1. Halftime is featured differently across a wide variety of sports – Even though halftime may have originated in football or rugby, it is a highly-significant component of many other modern sports now, including handball, basketball, field hockey, bandy, and lacrosse. The duration of halftime has been known to vary based on the sport, as well, with American football’s and Lacrosse’s lasting 12 minutes in the NFL and NLL, respectively (although 20 minutes is standard for College-tier football), handball’s lasting 10 minutes, basketball’s lasting 15 minutes, and bandy’s lasting as long as (but not in excess of) 20 minutes.


  1. The first Super Bowl “halftime show” was in 1967 – This was also the first year in the NFL in which the “Super Bowl” was to be played. Super Bowl I took place at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in California, and featured the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, as well as the Grambling State University Marching Band as the musical performers. While halftime shows can and do happen at any tier of
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    The University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band was among the few who kicked off the tradition of an organized, halftime ‘show.’

    American football, the Super Bowl halftime show is renowned for its sociocultural significance and sheer size (both monetary and spiritual!). The more recent Super Bowls featured performances from pop culture idols and renowned musicians, such as Katy Perry, Beyoncé, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Black Eyed Peas, and more.


  1. Halftime performers are generally not paid a commission – this one may be surprising! Famous celebrities and bigtime performers that appear to liven up halftime shows aren’t actually paid for their gig (at least not for the Super Bowl…). Instead, only the production expenses of the performances – payments that go towards equipment, setup, and props – are covered. Essentially, performers are given the opportunity to showcase at the NFL Super Bowl for no cost. They’re doing it all for you!


    Today, the Super Bowl is one of the most popular, celebrated components of Professional American football. At the same time, the halftime show of this renowned pastime has served as a platform to elevate the performing and musical arts of today’s pop culture.

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