In the wake of SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg's death on Nov. 26, fans of the Nickelodeon cartoon are rallying to honor the legendary animator. SpongeBob fans want a Super Bowl tribute to Hillenburg, and they've started a Change.org petition in hopes of making it happen. While it may seem like a strange request, there's a meaningful reason behind their mission to have the song "Sweet Victory" played in honor of the man who made the iconic animated character a reality.
"Sweet Victory" comes from the SpongeBob Squarepants episode "Band Geeks." And it's the perfect song to play during the Super Bowl, because of the sweet moment it accompanied on the show. In the episode, SpongeBob sings the song in front of an arena during the halftime show at a sporting event that's basically the Super Bowl, so it would only make sense.
The petition, started by Isreal Colunga, is addressed to Nickelodeon and the NFL. The original goal of the petition was to hit 200,000 signatures, and it's already garnered more than 230,000. That doesn't necessarily mean that the Hillenburg tribute will happen, but it does illustrate just how many people have been touched by the beloved cartoon's sweet messages over the years.
One fan, Jonathan Hersey, might have summed it up best when leaving a Change.org note about why he signed the petition. He wrote,
"I want it played at the Super Bowl to honor the man who gave us one of the greatest and most quotable cartoons of all time. His legacy should be honored for all the laughs and smiles his precious creation gave us both as children and as adults."
SpongeBob SquarePants may be a children's cartoon, but it's brought plenty of joy to fans of all ages over the course of its 11 seasons. In addition to the fans who've shared how the show affected them, plenty of celebrities, including Busy Philipps and David Hasselhoff, also chimed in this week to honor Hillenburg. "It was my pleasure and honor to be in SpongeBob The Movie and to share some great laughs with this gentleman, Shocking Loss," Hasselhoff wrote in his tweet about the show's creator.
Nickelodeon confirmed Hillenburg's death with a statement on Tuesday, Nov. 27. In the tweet, they revealed that the company would be "observing a moment of silence" in his honor. The animator died at the age of 57, just one year after he revealed that he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. The condition affects muscle control and the body's nervous system. Stephen Hawking also suffered from the condition.
It would be a little unusual for an original song from a cartoon series to be played at the Super Bowl LIII halftime show, but SpongeBob wasn't your average cartoon. The Super Bowl's halftime show is a huge platform, and it's one that attracts the attention of more than just football fans. Since the show has touched the lives of so many people around the world, having "Sweet Victory" performed would be a sweet way to honor Hillenburg's legacy. Whether it happens or not, the petition has already shown that the legacy of SpongeBob SquarePants will live on.