"Where were Forbes and Snipe?"
Super Bowl LVI played out in my favor. As a diehard Detroit Lions fan, I was rooting for Matthew Stafford (the Lions’ former quarterback) and the Los Angeles Rams. There were times when the game was worrisome, but I had faith that Stafford would pull it off, and he did. The Rams won, 23-20, and Matthew Stafford finally got a Super Bowl ring.
But as much as the game itself, I was really looking forward to the halftime show this year. About two weeks before the big game, friends on Facebook began sharing articles and memes about deaf rappers Sean Forbes and Warren Snipe, who were set to perform in the Super Bowl halftime show alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Eminem.
We thought Forbes and Snipe would be a big part of the show, using American Sign Language while they performed. That was what the article from the Detroit Free Press seemed to be implying.
When halftime rolled around, I made it a point to not look away from the TV. I was excited about this. I love Snoop and Dre, but that night they were the underdogs for me and others in the deaf community. We wanted to see ASL used in a highly televised performance.
We thought they were, in a way, giving us, the deaf, a turn in the spotlight.
We waited and we watched. We saw Snoop, Dre, Eminem and some others, and hundreds of dancers. But we did not see anyone performing with sign language.
I kept watching, thinking that maybe they were building up to something exciting, kind of like when Red Hot Chili Peppers suddenly appeared onstage a few Super Bowls back. I thought that maybe Forbes and Snipe were going to explode out of a mist or something and thrill viewers with some great awesomeness that included American Sign Language.
When the halftime show ended, I found myself staring at the TV in disbelief. Where were they? They weren’t even in the background.
Maybe Sean Forbes and Warren Snipe were there, somewhere, but they were not a big part of the show. They were not performing alongside Snoop, Dre, and Eminem. They did not receive any time on national TV.
My heart did not exactly break. It felt more like a hole was slowly being drilled through it. I felt let down.
What happened? Did the people directing the halftime show decide the deaf performers didn’t look good and moved them to an out-of-the-way position? Or did they just think the millions of viewers weren’t ready for a Super Bowl halftime show that included deaf performers using sign language?
What was the point of all the hype about Forbes and Snipe in the halftime show if they were not going to be on TV? Why were we told they would be performing alongside Snoop, Dre and Eminem when they did not?
As it turns out, Forbes and Snipe were off to the side of the field, behind the goalpost, far from the stage. They were in a poorly lit area and they had only one camera on them. To see them, you had to visit the NBC Sports website and watch them on a split screen.
Most people didn’t know that. When I saw mention of the NBC Sports website, I thought it just meant cameras would be specially focused on Forbes and Snipe so we could see their signs more clearly while they performed onstage “alongside Snoop, Dre and Eminem”.
Instead, Forbes and Snipe weren’t really part of the halftime show at all. If they had been, I think the millions of viewers would have felt something powerful, learned something, and benefitted by watching the deaf rappers perform with American Sign Language.
To see the performance that very few saw, go here.
Rob Darnell is deaf. He attended Michigan School for the Deaf during the school years of 1993-94 and 1995-96. He has cerebral palsy, the result of a childhood illness. He is visually impaired and struggles to read just about anything. Growing up in a family of musicians, Rob developed a strong love for music of all kinds. He is also a major sports fan and loves the Detroit Tigers, Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and the Michigan Wolverines. His work has been published in various magazines and anthologies, including Strange Horizons, Four Star Stories and Page & Spine. His website is RobDarnell.com.