Which act will get the nod for Super Bowl XLIV?

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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will soon make one of his toughest decisions: The Super Bowl XLIV halftime act. OK, it isn't as important as negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement or deciding the NFL fate of bad-boy players like Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress. But don't underestimate the significance of making the right choice for the championship game February 7, 2010 in South Florida. The NFL wants to keep as many viewers as possible during its extended halftime, especially to appease advertisers. Almost 90 million people tuned into the Super Bowl XL halftime extravaganza featuring The Rolling Stones.

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A poor decision can lead to controversy — a la the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" of Super Bowl XXXVIII — or even a massive channel change to counterprogramming. In 1992, the league presented the mismatched combination of Cuban-born singer Gloria Estefan and figure skaters Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill in a spectacle dubbed "Winter Magic." Approximately 20 million viewers switched to FOX for an episode of "In Living Color." The decline was so significant that the NFL began booking major halftime acts the following year starting with the late Michael Jackson. The performers also benefit from Super Bowl exposure. Although the NFL only pays for expenses, the Nielsen Company reports that an artist's record sales generally increase between 100 to 300 percent in the week that follows the Super Bowl. Since becoming commissioner in September 2006, Goodell has shied away from the multi-act/themed halftime shows featured in seven of the previous 10 Super Bowls. Goodell's halftimes have featured Prince (Super Bowl XLI), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Super Bowl XLII) and Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band (Super Bowl XLIII). "We are looking for Super Bowl entertainment that is exciting, relevant and has broad appeal due to our immense and diverse worldwide audience," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told in an email. But as the music industry has changed, the types of mega-acts the NFL is seeking have become harder to come by. The league also wants family-friendly presentations to avoid a repeat of the Janet Jackson mess and any other public-relations fiascos that could develop beforehand. Reliability is a factor as well, which eliminates those with "off-field issues" that may keep them from performing. Still, there are plenty of musical acts who could hit a high note with the NFL. Here are 10 that Goodell and the NFL may consider when finalizing a decision this fall:

1. Eagles

Yes, hell has frozen over. After band members gave each other the cold shoulder for 14 years, Don Henley's claim that this rock/country supergroup would never play together again is a distant memory. That's great news for the NFL, which has never booked one of the top selling musical acts in history. Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 sold more U.S. copies (26 million) than any musical release of the 20th century. The group also is still relevant with a current European tour and Long Road Out of Eden, which has sold more than seven million copies since its 2007 release.

2. Bon Jovi

There's no "Bad Medicine" for these 1980s rockers. More than 20 years since the release of their multi-platinum album Slippery When Wet, Jon Bon Jovi and Co. remain as popular as ever. According to Billboard Magazine, Bon Jovi's 2008 tour even outdrew Springsteen with a U.S.-best ticket-sale total of $210.6 million. There also would be great symmetry if AFC favorite New England reached Super Bowl XLIV. Bon Jovi, a diehard football fan and Arena League team owner, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick are good friends.

3. Black Eyed Peas

For a league that's always trying to capture young viewers, this dance/hip-hop act would be Fergalicious. The Peas are the summer's hottest act with singles from their latest release, The E.N.D., dominating online downloads of new music. They aren't a one-hit wonder, either. Even Perez Hilton can't deny the Peas are worldwide stars with album sales of 18-million plus in their 11-year existence.

4. Elton John

Can stagehands roll a grand piano onto the field quickly enough? That would be the only thing that should keep "Sir" Elton from consideration. John has a slew of rockers he can play, including the apropos "I'm Still Standing" for the league's final two Super Bowl contenders. Booking the 62-year-old musical legend also would send a strong message from the NFL about the tolerance of sexual orientation, something its players have often shown little sensitivity toward.

5. Dave Matthews Band

I'm more bullish on this act than Goodell's wife, Jane. She seemed skeptical about the chances of DMB doing a halftime show when we discussed the subject at an NFL dinner last summer. I'm hoping the fact that Goodell loaded his iPod with DMB songs for his recent Mount Rainier hiking trip with Seattle coach Jim Mora is a good omen. While known for long jams in concert, DMB has a large enough musical catalogue to fit some hits into the 12 minutes allocated for halftime music.

6. Jimmy Buffett

Miami will be playing in Land Shark Stadium throughout 2009, so this is a natural next step. Buffett — who has sold more than 20 million albums in the U.S. — would give a tropical feel to a South Florida Super Bowl. He just shouldn't play "Fins" unless Miami is vying for the Lombardi Trophy.

7. Eric Clapton

Outside of Prince, no recent Super Bowl act could make a guitar sizzle like Clapton. The NFL also could consider pairing Clapton with fellow musical icon Steve Winwood. The two are on tour together this summer.

8. Garth Brooks

Brooks might not work for 2010 because he doesn't seem to have a comeback project in the works. But if he should ever resume active touring, booking Brooks is a no-brainer. Only Elvis Presley and the Beatles sold more music than Brooks in the 20th century. He might be a good fit for Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, especially if the NFL also wanted to throw best-selling acts like Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts in the mix for an updated version of the "Rockin' Country Sunday" halftime show from Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994.

9 (tie). Mariah Carey/Beyonce

I can't choose between two of music's top divas, so why not pair them together? "Mimi" and "Sasha Fierce" already teamed in 2008 for a cancer-fundraising single that included other top female stars like Rihanna, Carrie Underwood and Miley Cyrus. Carey or Beyonce would be the biggest female star the NFL has booked since Diana Ross at Super Bowl XXX in 1996.
Tagged: Patriots, Giants, Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress

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