In the late 80s, football players rapping about being good at football was a thing. The 1985 Chicago Bears inserted themselves forever into pop music lore with “The Super Bowl Shuffle.”
This is, without contest, the artistic high point in the confluence between old school hip hop, pantomime saxophoning, and public access cinematography.
In February of 1986, as the Bears hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, the “Super Bowl Shuffle” peaked at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100. Selling more than half-a-million copies, “The Super Bowl Shuffle” even earned a Grammy nod in the Best R&B Song category.
Prince might have ultimately secured the Grammy for “Kiss” that year, but it was the Chicago Bears who set off a frenzy of copycat musical ventures.
In fact, fossil evidence suggests that NFL teams of the 1980s were suddenly and irretrievably drawn to the music video as a form of expression. The results are varied, but almost uniformly incredible.
First among imitators were the Patriots, who would face off with the Bears in that year’s Super Bowl. The Patriots recorded “New England, The Patriots, And We.”
Believe it or not, the song sucks even worse than the title.
In the aftermath of the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” most teams were granting their own players studio time, and cashing in on the popular emergence of hip hop.
The Patriots hadn’t received the memo. Behold an assembly of studio goons emoting all over this New England Tourism Board jingle.
In 1986, the Bears would destroy the Patriots both on the field and on the Billboard charts. Future New England quarterback Tom Brady was 37 at the time.
The Los Angeles Raiders took their own stab at it, swiping a Stryper tune for “The Silver and Black Attack”. If you ever wanted to see Howie Long spit a rhyme, this is your big day.
Across town, the Rams went to the studio with “Let’s Ram It,” a video laden with sexual innuendo and synchronized dancing. Try to stick with it all the way to the end (or at least just fast-forward to the last minute). You have to hand it to defensive back Norm Cromwell (#21). Dude really gives it his all.
That year, the Rams were knocked from the playoffs in the Wild Card round and the Raiders missed the postseason altogether.
Both songs missed the charts.
Buddy’s Watchin’ You
In 1988, the trend had reached Philadelphia. Notably, so had former Super Bowl-winning Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Now in his third season with the Philadelphia Eagles, he was also the titular subject of the team’s entry into the NFL rap wars.
Eleven players gathered at Kajem Victory Studios on November 15, 1988. Notables included quarterback Randall Cunningham, wide receiver Mike Quick, and future Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White, may he rest in peace.
Randall Cunningham struggles on his lead verse, but absolutely crushes the Flavor Flav impersonation with his surgically-placed “Yeah Boyyyyy” fill.
The sessions were produced by Eugene “LambChop” Curry and legendary Philly Soul architect, Bunny Sigler. The final product was released on 12″ single through Philly-based VHS rental chain West Coast Videos.
“Buddy’s Watching You” was a huge hit in my house…but it was not a charting success
And in the post-script, the Chicago Bears bounced the Eagles from the playoffs in a classic New Year’s Eve matchup thenceforth remembered as the Fog Bowl.
The highlights above are really just the tip of the iceberg. If you weren’t recording a music video in the mid- to late ’80s, did you really even have an NFL team?
Below is a lightly annotated look at the best of rest. Keep an eye out for the hallmarks of this genre–line dancing, cypher rapping, Commodore 64 graphic FX–each executed with its own distinctively regional flair.
Speaking of regional flair, I’ll warn you before you even begin that I’ve saved the best for last. If you like laughing at the expense of the Cleveland Browns–and who doesn’t–I’d strongly advise reading to the end.
Cuz the Blue Wave is On a Roll by the Seattle Seahawks (1985)
Kenny Loggins meets “Yakety Yak” meets a guy tooting his own horn in the shower.
We’re the New York Giants by The New York Giants (1986)
…wherein the performers forget to wear matching jerseys and instead remind you that they are, in fact, the New York Giants, no fewer than 600 times.
The Team of the Eighties by the San Francisco 49ers (1988)
Jerry Rice was a great wide receiver. Nothing but respect for his game. Anyway, here’s this…
Who Dey Rap by The Cincinnati Bengals (1989)
I always pictured Cincinnati as a depressing place in the late ’80s. This video didn’t change my mind.
The Miami Dolphins–Can’t Touch Us (1990)
Zubaz pants, mall escalators, and a Hooters girl all rolled up in an M.C. Hammer ripoff by an imaginary artist named Corey and the Fins. Pure poetry.
Masters of the Gridiron by the Cleveland Browns (1986)
I don’t even know how to properly prepare you for this epic 17-minute slice of cinematic brilliance. “Masters of the Gridiron” is a mashup between Conan the Barbarian and whatever kinds of hallucinations people probably have when they mix steroids and mead.
Set aside a few minutes for this one, featuring a full-length music video performance by Cleveland’s Michael Stanley Band, a riveting theatrical turn by Tiny Tim (who is not at all from Cleveland), and the spear-wielding offensive line of the 1986 Cleveland Browns.
Trigger warnings for violent stabbing death, child acting, and a total disregard for current concussion protocol standards.