Commentary

Tempest In A D-cup

My 16-year-old son Greg missed it. The Super Bowl halftime show was dragging a bit so by the time Janet Jackson experienced her costume malfunction Greg was focusing on scooping up the very last glistening glob of guacamole rather than on watching my friend's 60-inch HDTV screen. The rest of us-three teenage boys, my middle-aged friend, and I-saw it. There was that instantaneous multi-tracheal 'whoa,' the American male's natural reaction to the wholly unexpected. Kind of like witnessing a minor car collision, or someone slipping and falling on an icy sidewalk. But not for a second did anyone doubt "Justin Grabs Janet" was choreographed. Merely unexpected.

Greg, the one who didn't see it, was the only one upset. But after listening to as detailed a description as one can get for an event that lasted two seconds, he managed to calm right down. The others engaged in a little argument about whether Janet's breast was capped off by a glittering pasty or a silver nipple ring, then we all settled down and returned to watching flatulent horses, kids saying "Holy sh...," limp noodle commercials, and-oh yes, the game, which turned out to be wonderfully exciting.

It has been fascinating to watch what has trailed in the wake of this fantastic non-event. H.L Mencken said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public," and he died a full ten years before the first Super Bowl. Were he alive today, he might have a few words to say about not overestimating the childishness of the same public.

The tabloids have had a field day with it, but you'd expect that. And one would expect a "Saturday Night Live" bit, I guess. But Ted Koppel devoting an episode of "Nightline" to it? We appear to be edging perilously close to the apocalypse.

It's especially fascinating to see all the network higher-ups distancing themselves from the event-protesting too much, methinks. Echoes of Claude Rains in Casablanca: "I'm shocked...SHOCKED to hear that anyone would use an event as tasteful and dignified as the Super Bowl halftime show to stage a self-promoting stunt."

But I do look forward to the federal government's threatened investigation of the event. I suppose any self-respecting $2.4-trillion federal budget must include a few bucks under the heading of "Inquiry and analysis into crude but harmless incidents taking place in Super Bowl halftime shows." Yeah, we've got enough money for that. As someone pointed out during the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, only rich countries can afford scandals. The others are too busy feeding or defending themselves. So let's give this scandal a name: Haltergate. And let's watch for all the networks to simultaneously carry the hearings:

Senator Prolix: Mr. Timberlake, was it your overt, explicit, unambiguous and premeditated intention to dislodge and remove half of Ms. Jackson's brassiere thereby causing the public disengagement, extrication and uncoverage of her right breast, and consequently brazenly exposing what was either a pasty or a nipple ring to over one hundred and thirty million Americans who thought they were merely watching a football game? And may I remind you, sir, you are testifying under oath.

Mr. Cochrane (representing Mr. Timberlake): If the bra don't fit, out pops the [bleep].

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