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

NRG stadium Texans
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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Welcome back, Justin! Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander will make his season debut Friday night at the Washington Nationals.

Houston manager Joe Espada made the announcement Wednesday.

“Getting him back is huge because it brings a level of confidence to our team, a boost of confidence that we’re going to get someone who’s been an MVP, a Cy Young (winner) on the mound,” Espada said. “It's (good) for the morale and to get stuff started and moving in the right direction.”

The three-time Cy Young Award winner opened the season on the injured list with inflammation in his right shoulder. He made two rehabilitation starts, the first for Triple-A Sugar Land on April 7 before Saturday’s start for Double-A Corpus Christi.

Espada wouldn't say how many pitches the 41-year-old would be limited to but said they'll keep an eye on his workload.

“We've got to be careful how hard we push him early,” Espada said. “I know he’s going to want to go and stay out there and give us an opportunity to win, but we've got to be cautious of how hard we push him early in the season.”

Verlander wasn’t thrilled with the results in his rehabilitation starts, but he said Monday that those games were valuable in getting him prepared to come off the IL.

He allowed seven hits and six runs — five earned — in four innings against Frisco on Saturday. He struck out three, walked one and threw 51 of 77 pitches for strikes.

Verlander allowed six earned runs and struck out six while pitching into the fourth inning for Sugar Land on April 7.

The Astros have gotten off to a tough start with Verlander and fellow starters Framber Valdez and José Urquidy on the injured list. They enter Wednesday's games last in the AL West with a 6-13 record.

Espada hopes Verlander can be the boost the team needs to get on track.

“It’s good to get him back in the rotation,” Espada said. “With what he means to this club just to get him back on track, getting some innings from him (to) build our rotation with the pieces that we need to move forward is exciting.”

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