Super Bored

How the world's biggest game spawned the world's worst halftime show

Yet again, the honchos at NFL HQ changed tacks. No more vulgar displays would be allowed! The organizers of Up with People were contacted, but proved unavailable, having come out of the closet as homosexual deviants. Thus a new direction was settled upon.

The era of the rock dinosaurs commenced with a performance by Sir Paul McCartney, and proceeded directly to last year's special guests, the Rolling Stones, who are well versed in the art of playing to giant stadiums in which everyone is drunk.

But it wasn't just the folks in the stands, of course. The Super Bowl is television's highest-rated show. An estimated 141,843,662 people watched the game between Pittsburgh and Seattle. No figures are available to indicate how many of those tuned in to see if Keith Richards could play guitar while attached to a dialysis machine, but we're sure it was at least a mil.

In an abundance of caution, the NFL has also of late instituted a tape delay for halftime shows. Mick Jagger's mike, for instance, was squelched several times during the suggestive lyrics of "Start Me Up" and "Rough Justice." (Suggestive? Of what, stupid lyrics?)

Cultural historians will want it noted that this bout of censorship was a repeat of what went down 40 years ago on Ed Sullivan's variety show, when Sullivan insisted Jagger amend "Let's spend the night together" to "Let's spend some time together."

On the plus side for Jagger, Viagra has expressed interest in acquiring the rights to "Start Me Up."

Still, the saddest aspect of the current rock dinosaur era, for us, is watching once-virile symbols of rebellion and free love reduced to family-friendly fare.

And what could be sadder than this year's VIP? Prince (or the Artist Formerly Known As, or whatever it is we're supposed to call him) was once pop music's most provocative auteur, a gender-bent minisatyr who teased fans with lyrics like "And when I touch it, race cars burn rubber in my pants" and "I want 2 get hot with U/I wanna get U underneath the cream/And do the marshmallow."

It wasn't just his words. The guy dressed and moved in a manner that left no doubt as to his favorite halftime snack.

So, we might ask, what is Prince going to show us this Sunday? "Raspberry Beret" is a likely choice. "When Doves Cry." Sure. But we're banking on the big closer being "(Tonight We Gonna Party Like It's) 1999." Given the overall turpitude of the Bush administration, who can really argue?

Our own advice to the overlords of the NFL is to use the halftime show to draw in the fringe element. You've got everyone else locked in, so why not try something inventive? "O Say Can You See" starring José Feliciano, Stevie Wonder, and Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles? A salute to musical miscegenation with George Jones, Grace Slick, and Jamie Foxx as Kid Rock? A tribute to Janet Jackson featuring eager beavers like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Jamie Foxx as Ms. Jackson herself? College marching bands, with or without Jamie Foxx? A Jim Morrison-less Doors? Hell, at this point we'd take the Brian Boitano/Dorothy Hamill thing.

There is a Website — man, do we wish we had the imagination to make this up — that offers an alternative to horrors of the halftime show. Visit www.arrl.org/news/features/2003/01/24/1/, which suggests, with a straight face, that you spend the break measuring the RF output of your antennae system. Hmmm. Couldn't be much worse than McCartney.

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