It’s as old — and often as overhyped and controversial — as the Super Bowl itself.

Yet what millions upon millions view as that entertaining diversion between the NFL championship’s second and third quarters took years to find its stride.

Since the game’s 1967 inception, the likes of American college marching bands, drill teams, incarnations of motivational singing troupe Up With People and the odd vocal act (Chubby Checker, Carol Channing) typically filled a 15-minute average time slot.

By the 1990s, a directional change and barking orders to “go big-name” led to bringing in more established acts from country music, R&B, pop and rock.

The Super Bowl halftime show also affords a great excuse to go overboard on stage presentation and excessive stars-and-stripes patriotism.

So it might not surprise anyone if this year’s halftime act, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, happens to dole out a rendition of Born in the U.S.A. to get the crowd at Tampa, Fla.’s Raymond James Stadium all fired up.

Springsteen’s appearance also marks a five-year anniversary of the Super Bowl opting to go with safe, guaranteed-not-to-offend veteran rock acts, following 2004’s infamous Nipplegate incident (more on that later).

Ultimately, though, will there be some highlight in Springsteen’s set that can compare to the following list of memorable halftime show moments of Super Bowls past? Guess we’ll find out on Sunday.

Top Super Bowl halftime highlights:

5. Michael Jackson, Super Bowl XXVIII, 1993: Talk about grandeur: The King of Pop singing Heal the World accompanied by a choir of 3,500 Los Angeles-area children. Following this performance the NFL and the Super Bowl broadcaster of the day agreed to bring aboard big-name acts to draw in viewers.

4. Aerosmith, ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Nelly, Super Bowl XXV, 2001: A bridging of two generations: Veteran rockers Aerosmith get down with superstar popsters ‘N Sync (featuring a more innocent Justin Timberlake) and Britney getting their chance to warble the rapid-fire lyrics of the mid-’70s classic, Walk This Way.

3. U2, Super Bowl XXVI, 2002: Bono’s typical frontman showmanship wasn’t the star of this performance. Instead, the sight of a simple banner that scrolled the names of the 3,000 men and women who died during the 9/11 attacks just months before was enough to tug at the collective heartstrings.

2. Prince, Super Bowl XLI, 2007: Even with a controversial silhouette of a revealing pose, His Royal Purpleness let loose a top-notch 12-minute set of his classics — as well as musical shout-outs to Foo Fighters, Queen, Bob Dylan and CCR — all capped by a rain-soaked Purple Rain complete with blistering guitar solos.

1. Jessica Simpson, Nelly, P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, Super Bowl XXXVIII, 2004: A.k.a. Nipplegate. Those final few seconds of J.T. opening a piece of Janet’s clothing to reveal a star-shaped shield over her right nipple was enough to set off a firestorm of complaints, a $500,000 US fine to CBS and worldwide talk of the so-called “wardrobe malfunction.” All of this placed the Super Bowl under the FCC’s watchful eye, prompting a switch to safer, family-approved rock acts for future halftime shows.