Texans aside, Houston finds itself second on this all-time Super Bowl list

Lady Gaga's album sales skyrocketed. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images. Composite by Brandon Strange

The NFL, and most everybody outside of Green Bay, Wisc. and Buffalo, N.Y., the NFL's two smallest markets, got their wish:

A dream matchup between Tampa Bay vs. Kansas City, and the greatest quarterback ever Tom Brady, vs. the greatest now Patrick Mahomes, in Super Bowl LV, which should be played in Las Vegas (LV) but will settle for Tampa, the first time a team will play the Super Bowl in its home stadium.

Records are made to be shattered, and plenty should fall Feb. 8. For sure Super Bowl LV will have the smallest in-stadium attendance, only 22,000 fans, including 7,500 invited vaccinated health care workers. The current low-water mark is 61,946 for the first Super Bowl in 1967, when the game wasn't even called the Super Bowl. It was officially the "AFL-NFL Championship Game." It didn't become the "Super Bowl" until 1970.

LV could become the highest-rated and most-watched (they're different measurements) Super Bowl ever. The current champ for highest-rated was Super Bowl XVI, when San Francisco defeated Cincinnati and pulled a 49.1 Nielsen number in 1982. So much for that nonsense that Super Bowls, World Series and NBA Finals need Top 10 market teams to draw a rating.

The most-watched honor goes to Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, when 114 million viewers watched the Patriots pull a rabbit out of their hat to beat the Seahawks on a last-minute interception.

Fun facts to know and share about the Super Bowl's dominance in U.S. television history. Twenty-nine of the 30 most-watched shows ever have been Super Bowls. The only non-Super Bowl show to sneak into the Top 30 was the M*A*S*H finale in1983. It ranks No. 9 all-time with 105 million viewers.

Here's a TV trivia question you won't get, but you'll say "Oh, yeah" when you find out the answer: what single televised sports event, not counting Super Bowls, had the most viewers ever?

Ready? It was the ladies figure skating finals of the 1994 Winter Olympics, featuring Nancy Kerrigan and America's Sweetheart Tonya Harding. For the record, the gold medal went to Oksana Baiul of Russia. Kerrigan got the silver and Chen Lu of China grabbed bronze. Harding didn't earn a medal after suffering a devastating broken shoelace.

Super Bowl LV will air on CBS with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo in the booth. Those two are the best, except for Nantz.

Now for LV's halftime show, starring The Weeknd. Will The Weeknd ride the game's coattails and set viewing records, too? Super Bowl halftime shows have their own ratings and sometimes they don't parallel the game's viewership.

The all-time halftime champ is Katy Perry with Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot from the 2015 Super Bowl. More than 120 million fans, more fans than watched the actual game, watched Perry ride a 16-foot robot lion while singing her hit "Roar."

Second place goes to Lady Gaga from right here in Houston. About 117 million people watched her jump off the roof of NRG Stadium – seemingly. It was pre-recorded magic.

Weird fact: Super Bowl halftime acts do not get paid for their performance. So why do they do it? The Super Bowl airs in 180 countries and the acts usually enjoy a spike in album and concert ticket sales. Lady Gaga's album sales skyrocketed 1,000 percent after her halftime show. Other top half time shows: Coldplay with Beyonce and Bruno Mars with 115 million viewers in 2016, Bruno Mars with the Red Hot Chili Peppers with 114 million viewers in 2014, and Madonna with Cee Lo Green LMFAO, M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj with 113 million viewers in 2012.

So you know, Bruno Mars, star of two of the top-rated halftime shows in history, took his stage name from pro wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino. Apparently when he was 2 years old, Mars resembled the "Abruzzi Strongboy" and his father nicknamed him Bruno.

Not every artist jumps at the chance to play the Super Bowl. Last year, Pink, Rihanna and Cardi B said no thanks. All three protested the NFL's treatment of Colin Kaepernick and the league's lack of support for social issues. Instead, the NFL invited Jennifer Lopez and Shakira who tore it up in one of the more acclaimed halftime shows. It's not like Pink needed the exposure. Her 2019 tour raked in $215 million, finishing as the top moneymaking worldwide jaunt.

The Weeknd's "After Hours Tour" is scheduled to stop at Toyota Center on July 22. Supporting acts are Sabrina Claudio and Don Toliver. Tickets ranging from $30 to $450 are on sale now at

After 54 Super Bowl halftime shows, who's left that hasn't already played "The Big Game," as businesses like Gallery Furniture are obligated to call the Super Bowl? If you want to use "Super Bowl" in a promotion, you must pay the NFL. It's so silly. I'm waiting for Progressive Insurance to buy the word "Christmas" and charge Mariah Carey to sing "All I Want For Christmas is You."

Who would be your choice to play the 2022 Super Bowl?

The Who, Stones, McCartney, Springsteen, U2 and most heavyweight classic rock acts have had their turn.

The hottest "current" acts who've never done the Super Bowl include Taylor Swift, Drake, Harry Styles, BTS, Luke Combs, Billie Eilish and the judges from NBC's The Voice: Blake Shelton, John Legend, Miley Cyrus, Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, etc.

Historic, still-active superstars who've never played the Super Bowl include Garth Brooks (156 million albums sold in the U.S.), the Eagles (120 million), Billy Joel (85 million), Elton John (79 million), and AC/DC (75 million).

The top-selling female artists of all-time are Barbra Streisand (69 million albums) and Mariah Carey (66 million), neither with a Super Bowl halftime on their resume.

Carey did sing the national anthem in 2002, however. In 1977, one time only, the national anthem was not performed before the Super Bowl. Vicki Carr sang "America the Beautiful."

The only performers to double-double the national anthem and halftime show are Lady Gaga and Beyonce.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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