Fan cardboard cut-outs are seen in the seats before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021
While the stadium looked filled, it was due to 30,000 cardboard cut-outs

This year’s Super Bowl was like no other, for obvious reasons.

Tom Brady steered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a comfortable 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, but many of the night’s talking points were off the pitch.

Canadian R&B star The Weeknd was largely forced to perform his half-time show from the stands due to coronavirus protocols.

And while the stadium looked filled, it was due to 30,000 cardboard cut-outs.

Here we take a look at some of the standout moments from a Super Bowl taking place in the middle of a pandemic.

Old boys club no more?

The 55th Super Bowl was the first to be officiated by a woman, referee Sarah Thomas.

The former college basketball player is not new to firsts. Working as a college football official at the start of her career, she was the only female referee in the league.

Then in 2015, she became the first woman to referee full-time in the NFL.

Sarah Thomas
Thomas was also the first woman to full-time referee in the NFL

This year also saw the first women to win the Super Bowl as coaches.

Lori Locust, a defensive line assistant, and Maral Javadifar, an assistant strength and conditioning coach, are both on the staff of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians. The Buccaneers are the only NFL team with two full-time assistant coaches who are women.

The two are among a small handful of women in the league’s coaching staff – still a heavily male-dominated field. It wasn’t until 2015, when Jen Welter was hired as a coaching staff intern for the Arizona Cardinals, that a woman held any type of coaching position in the entire league.

Last year, the San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant Katie Sowers became the first woman in history to coach in a Super Bowl.

Tom Brady, the GOAT?

With a seventh Super Bowl win in the books for Tom Brady, some fans quickly took to Twitter to declare the quarterback the greatest of all time – the GOAT, if you will.

The 43-year-old’s seven championships have outnumbered the six won by NBA legend Michael Jordan and the four won by the self-declared “King”, basketball MVP Lebron James.

But some online were not convinced of Brady’s GOAT-iness, pointing to tennis star Serena Williams, who has won 23 grand slams – one while pregnant – and four Olympic gold medals.

But Williams herself does not seem concerned with the internet competition.

Asked about Brady from Melbourne, where she’s currently competing at the Australian Open, Williams called him a “champion” and joked he should have played for the Miami Dolphins, the NFL team she part owns.

Cardboard fans

At first glance, you may have thought the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, looked worryingly full, considering we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

But there were only around 25,000 people in the 65,000 capacity stadium, which included 7,500 vaccinated health workers.

The numbers were made up by some 30,000 cardboard cut-outs, including the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Billie Eilish.

Fans and fan cardboard cut-outs are seen during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs
Fans watched the game alongside cardboard cut-outs

Brian McCarthy, a spokesperson for the NFL, tweeted that the cut-outs were to provide physical distance between fans and vaccinated health care workers.

But despite the reduced numbers, many on social media were still unhappy.

Amanda Gorman opens the show

It’s been quite a few weeks for Amanda Gorman.

The 22-year-old youth poet laureate, who captivated audiences around the world with her performance at Joe Biden’s inauguration last month, opened the Super Bowl with a pre-recorded poem about key workers.

In her poem, Chorus of the Captains, she honoured educator Trimaine Davis, ICU nurse manager Suzie Dorner and veteran James Martin.

Working 5 to 9

The Super Bowl is perhaps the only event on earth that sparks interest in the ad breaks.

This year Dolly Parton reworked her classic hit 9 to 5 for Squarespace, the website builder.

“Cuz it’s hustlin’ time,” Ms Parton sang in 5 to 9. “A whole new way to make a livin’.”

But not everyone appreciated the “side hustle” celebration.

“You are advocating no down time, no family time, no recreation. Just work 5 to 9. It is disturbing and dystopian,” one user tweeted at Squarespace.

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