I'm not sure what threshold we've crossed, but it would appear that one of the great games in Super Bowl history might be upstaged by a staged event of the NFL's own making.
The NFL is outraged, CBS is embarrassed, the Federal Communications Commission is investigating, and we'll probably soon learn that the Fourth Infantry is massing outside MTV headquarters.
The object of controversy is, of course, what everyone is talking about -- lighting a horse fart into a woman's face.
Oops. I meant Janet Jackson's exposed breast.
Maybe it's a guy thing, but I don't have much problem with what Janet Jackson did at halftime of the Super Bowl. Unlike her brother, at least she didn't jeopardize something important by hanging it out over a balcony several floors above the street.
Nor was she involved in the celebration of equine flatulence -- that was Budweiser, one of the NFL's premier subsidizers who will never be subject to the feared scowl from the morality police of the NFL, the Aunt Bea of pro sports.
Can anyone be surprised by another of the wacko Jackos coming up with a stunt to cardio-paddle a fading career? Is surprise still an option when many of the bad boys and girls of rock and hip-hop are invited to the party, then discover the hotel room has been trashed?
Before the game, the Web site of MTV, producer of the halftime show, quoted Jackson's choreographer, Gil Duldulao, alerting viewers to be ready for some "shocking moments." The Drudge Report yesterday wrote that MTV has since pulled the comment from its Web site, while, according to an anonymous source, the skit was approved at the highest levels of CBS.
Given that Justin Timberlake's rehearsed lyrics included the line, "I'll get you naked by the end of this song," the stunt was set up and rehearsed better than New England's trick two-point conversion play in the fourth quarter.
So all of the subsequent dithering by the corporate suits and apologies by the singers floats somewhere between dreck and piffle. As for the audience, if CBS had offered up one of the grievously overdone online insta-polls, Timberlake probably would have won the public's most valuable player award.
The only thing remarkable about the episode is that the NFL, always the savviest of sports leagues in terms of public relations, has allowed it to become Hootergate.
Statements from commissioner Paul Tagliabue and vice president Joe Browne were so painfully indignant that both appeared to have been attacked by another new Budweiser contribution to the culture -- a crotch-biting dog. (And what is the FCC investigating? Whether Jackson's other breast deserves equal time?)
The outrage comes from a league that has made cheerleader cleavage a Fortune 500 industry. The booty-grinding of the sideline provocateurs is as much a TV staple as idiot happy talk between news anchors.
The guess here is that the source of the fury is not fear of mammarian splendor, but lack of regulation over it.
As we have learned over the years, the NFL likes control as wolves like reindeer haunch. The worst thing that can be done to the pro football hegemonists is surprise them with unauthorized behavior.
So forget about Janet Jackson.
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