Super Bowl LI was braced for controversy well before the coin toss Sunday night. From a provocative Anhueser-Busch ad focused on immigration to rumors that Lady Gaga would hijack her own halftime performance to push an anti-Trump agenda, many Americans were expecting an over-politicization of America’s most high-profile sporting event.
After all, once a performer trots out a Black Panthers-inspired performance, all bets are off.
But defying many expectations, Super Bowl LI actually ended up being far more patriotic than divisive, culminating in a five-hour visual display that honored the troops, saluted the flag and made us all feel downright proud to be American.
Here were our favorite patriotic moments from Super Bowl LI.
1. The Ragged Old Flag
FOX Sports started the evening off right with a patriotic hat tip to Old Glory, launching a nearly five-minute pre-game featurette that honored America’s Stars and Stripes. Check out the clip here, along with a special behind-the-scenes look into the making of the inspiring short film.
2. George H. W. Bush's coin toss
Fresh from a pretty scary stint at the hospital recovering from pneumonia, the 41st president rolled out into Houston’s NRG Stadium in a wheelchair guided by a Navy serviceman at the start of the game to perform the traditional coin toss. With his wife, Barbara, by his side – also having just recovered from illness – the pair looked in good health and high spirits as 92-year-old President Bush flipped the commemorative coin to a standing ovation from the packed crowd.
3. NFL’s “Inside These Lines” ad
Following a year of stark political division and harsh rhetoric on both sides of the aisle, the National Football League celebrated America’s diversity and perseverance in a classy, tasteful way with their “Inside These Lines” commercial.
Check it out here:
4. Hyundai’s epic tribute to the U.S. military
Hyundai wrapped up the evening with a tearjerker, rolling out a commercial that was actually filmed during the game itself. The ad featured American service members who, thanks to Hyundai and modern technology, were able to watch the Super Bowl with their loved ones.
5. Luke Bryan’s National Anthem
Perhaps more well-known for his choice of denim than his vocal chops, country star Luke Bryan wowed with his simple, respectfully slow version of the U.S. National Anthem (which, thankfully, didn’t include a subjective and politically-charged word change a la the case of Hamilton’s “America the Beautiful”).
6. Lady Gaga’s America-inspired intro
Shortly before swan-diving from the roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium, pop star and halftime show performer Lady Gaga belted out a solid tribute to America with short clips of “God Bless America,” “This Land Is Your Land” and even an excerpt from the Pledge of Allegiance. Watch her full (very non-political) halftime show here: