OVER THE EDGE:
Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson perform during halftime show last night at Super Bowl. Phil Mushnick questions whether Timberlake's tearing away of Jackson's right breastplate should be considered sexual assault.
February 2, 2004 -- FORGET it. This is where we've been headed, this is where we're at. And it's depressing.
The Super Bowl halftime show, a national stage now regularly handed over to pre-established performers given to vulgar lyrics and grabbing their crotches, yesterday included plenty of that and then some.
Janet Jackson, dressed like a dominatrix and surrounded by dancers in S & M outfits the theme was, no kidding, self-esteem ("Say no to illiteracy!") finished her bump-and-grind act by having her right breastplate torn away by Justin Timberlake to fully reveal Ms. Jackson's right breast.
Was Timberlake guilty of sexual assault? Was Jackson in violation of public decency statutes?
And why are we asking these questions in conjunction with the Super Bowl halftime show?
But that's football for ya. That's family TV viewing for ya. That's new-age corporate synergy for ya. As if it didn't already know what MTV has become, the NFL again selected MTV to produce its halftime. MTV and CBS, which owned yesterday's Super Bowl rights, are owned by Viacom.
And, once again, we can only write that if you hip-hopped into NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's home and began grabbing your crotch, he'd call the cops. But on the occasion of the Super Bowl, the NFL is more than happy to invite such acts and now, worse into your home.
What a shame, especially because CBS's football side, yesterday, went old school, sticking to the game staying on the field as if the NFL championship is a game of some significance, as opposed to a prop through which to annually show how far and how fast we've fallen.
It seems so easy, a network deciding to pay strict attention to the football games it pays billions to televise. All you have to do is decide to do it. Yet any fool in the stands wearing a pig nose and a hula skirt is all it takes for most productions to lose focus.
Early in the first quarter, producer Mark Wolff and director Larry Cavolina made themselves clear. In the Pats' first possession, WR Troy Brown was seen, post-whistle, tending to his nose. A play later, a CBS camera found Brown on the sidelines having a nostril stuffed with gauze. That's good, pay-attention TV; no sideline reporter needed.
The replays came quickly and were of the relevant-angle variety. Football fans seemed to count for something. CBS lost track of down and distance on the Pats' winning drive, but all in all, CBS Sports, for what it's worth, did a good job showing a great game.
But what does it matter? The big story was the designed-to-shock halftime show. This was what the NFL, its networks and its advertisers bargained for, this was what they got, this was what we got. We can no longer be surprised, let alone shocked. The systemic, commercialized desensitization of America is relentless; it takes no days off. Woe is us.
Even above two weeks of droning Super Bowl hype, Mike Francesa has the ability to stand out as a bad guy.
Friday on WFAN/YES, as he and Chris Russo were wrapping up their week's stay in Houston, Francesa went through a list of on-air guests they'd hosted in conjunction with Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Upon mentioning that NFL great Tony Dorsett and his son, Raiders' DB Anthony Dorsett, had been on, Francesa was driven to parenthetical comment, noting that the father was a fabulous player while, "his son can't play at all."
Talk about gratuitous cheap-shots. If that was worth saying, why didn't he say it to Anthony Dorsett? This was another one of those moments when Francesa said more about himself than the person he was stabbing . . . from behind.
Yes, Anthony Dorsett is not as talented as was his dad. But he has been good enough to play seven years in the NFL. Friday, Francesa might've thanked the Dorsetts for their time and presence. Instead, he drew an extra breath to knock a guy for no good reason. What a champ.
The next time the NFL portrays itself as fan-friendly, just remember this: Tickets to yesterday's Supe carried a face-value of $600. That's 50 times more than Supe I's costliest ticket, $12.
By that same multiple, a Chevy in 1967 that listed for $4,000 would now list for $200,000. The only fan-friendly thing about the cost of Super Bowl tickets is that the league's distribution formula long ago made it difficult for regular fans of either participating team to buy them at any cost.