Super antics

Posted: Feb 03, 2004 12:00 AM

Let's take a well-deserved break from presidential politics and instead look at the early public reaction to Sunday's Super Bowl halftime antics. The show culminated in the supposedly unintentional exposure of singer Janet Jackson's breast, which in turn initiated a national uproar against just about anyone remotely connected to the halftime production or the Super Bowl's broadcast.

To me, Jackson's inappropriate gimmick was only a symptom of the disease -- the whole production's misplaced approach to entertaining the American people during their yearly rite of televised winter fun.

Personally, I knew I would have to view the Super Bowl in between crunching political polling numbers and giving satellite interviews as the game progressed. But I looked forward to it, and my curiosity was piqued by the advertised promise that the halftime show would feature a special, "surprise" guest. This was teased as someone or something so big that it couldn't be revealed ahead of time.

Several of us working the coverage of the Democratic presidential primaries found ourselves playfully guessing who the mystery superstar might be. Since the game was in Houston, my guess was President George W. Bush. That would certainly justify all the secrecy, given the threat of terrorism that a Bush cameo visit might invite. I pictured a grandiose salute to the hundreds of Americans who have given their lives in the Iraq war. A succession of promotional teases by CBS only heightened my curiosity and anticipation.

But the only thing about the halftime show that could be described as sensational was the letdown. It wasn't just that Janet Jackson -- looking and sounding too much like her brother Michael for my comfort -- gave the world a bawdy now-you-see it, now-you-don't peek at her breast. I was even more disappointed that the whole show demonstrated a haughty and self-indulgent lack of respect for the many families and children watching it.

I'm no prude. Nor do I enjoy cantering atop the moral high horse. But did anyone listen to the lyrics of some of these songs? I thought the Super Bowl was supposed to appeal to the best in us -- to American talent, skill, hard work and competitiveness. Instead, on Sunday we got an in-your-face salute to everything you know your kids hear on the radio but hope they don't understand. The customary innuendo of popular music became a defiant collage of risque visuals.

My disappointment doubled when I realized the halftime extravaganza would include no tribute to U.S. troops at war; in fact, no patriotic or inspirational message at all. And certainly no surprise at the magnitude of, "Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States!" Instead, my Super Bowl surprise was an exposed breast, followed by a litany of ridiculously contrived excuses about how it "accidentally" happened.

Most adults are open-minded enough to tolerate much of today's culture, even if it's not their personal cup of tea. And in another venue, with an adults-only audience, Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show would have been OK with me. But with our nation at a critical point in its history, and at that early hour of the evening's televised fare, Jackson & company's choreography simply went too far.

Don't these Hollywood idiots realize that real live men and women in our military have gone through hell this past year? Have they no concept of how these servicemen and women cling to radios and televisions in these far-off centers of fear and violence, hoping for one small gesture of hope and respect directed toward them? Couldn't the halftime show have found a minute or two to salute them?

Sadly, it was left to two great football teams, playing with grit and fire, to stage their own salute. They did so by playing a memorable game that would have been more so had it been dedicated to those playing a deadly "game" overseas.

Now comes the finger-pointing -- and the excuses. Of course, everything has a way of coming out clean in the wash. Just think how Michael Jackson's lawyers feel about having to deal with the repercussions that Janet's most recent escapade could have on brother Michael's criminal defense. Then again, does she even care?