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pop punk + alt-rock
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A Petty Heartbreaker of a Halftime Show

They might not know much about running the ball at fourth and goal, but they’ve got it covered when it comes to runnin’ down a dream. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been tapped to headline the Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show Feb. 3 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

The “Free Fallin’ ” rockers join an illustrious lineup that, in the last five years, has included Prince, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Diddy, Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson and Shania Twain. (Some shows being more memorable than others, of course.)

Petty’s last album with the Heartbreakers was 2002’s The Last DJ, the same year the lot of them were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The singer-songwriter’s 2006 solo album, Highway Companion, reached number four on the Billboard charts.

While Petty and his indie-rock sensibilities may seem like an interesting choice to preside over one of the most corporate, dollar-driven media events in the world, the 57-year-old Grammy winner seems to have a soft spot when it comes to sports and leisure.

The 1989 tune “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is featured in the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, he has lent his voice to The Simpsons and King of the Hill, and last year ABC tapped Petty to provide the music for the network’s NBA Playoffs coverage.

Petty and the Heartbreakers took a break from touring after a busy 2006 that included top billing at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, but they were busy over the summer cutting a new album–reportedly due out early next year–that will feature a combination of old and new tracks.

Their nearly 40-year journey is the subject of Peter Bogdanovich’s new documentary Running Down a Dream, which aired last month on the Sundance Channel.

Petty also currently hosts his own show, Buried Treasure, on XM satellite radio, during which he spins tunes from his personal collection.

Reaching close to 1 billion people worldwide, the Super Bowl is the biggest TV event of the year, with viewership fueled not only by football, but by the A-list entertainment, multimillion-dollar ad campaigns (the average going rate is $2.7 million for 30 seconds) and the promise of all that good Super Bowl-party eating.

And although the advertising lineup hasn’t been announced yet, it’s never too soon to speculate about who’s going to actually play some ball that day. While the 11-0 New England Patriots, headed up by quarterback (and Bridget Moynahan baby daddy) Tom Brady, seem to be a lock to represent the AFC in the championship game, the NFL’s one-and-done postseason system means the dynastic team isn’t allowed to have a bad day once the playoffs begin.

Super Bowl XLII airs Feb. 3, 2008, on Fox. During the pregame telecast, Ryan Seacrest will hold court in a red-carpet arrival area for the celebrities in attendance, among whom will be stars of the films whose studios bought up some of the day’s ultra-expensive ad time.

Advertisers will also have the option to post their spots and supplementary features on a Super Bowl MySpace page, which will also feature extended movie trailers and interactive content. (Fox parent News Corp. also owns the social networking site. Think American Idol tie-ins, lots of American Idol tie-ins.)

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