Yes, Janet Jackson's breast remains the talk of the town. We didn't want to go down this road. but, try as we might, the Writers' Bloc couldn't avoid it. We had to talk about "the incident from the Super Bowl."

Heck, as one person e-mailed us: I rather like Michael Wilbon's response. He said (and here I'm paraphrasing): "What would I tell the kids? I'd tell them, 'Kids, that was a breast. If you are lucky enough to live to be 17 or 18, you may get to see a few more, and maybe even from closer.'"

Ralph Wiley
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The incident

Ahh, the hypocrisy and absurdity about the Great Breastases Caper. Talk about playmakers taking the play away! Did not everyone weigh in on this one? Was it not Page 1 everywhere? Is it not sex on top of violence? This became the veritable chainsaw of buzz. And it ain't Janet Jackson who's doing the buzzing. I won't even go for the jokes. I mean, who is kidding whom? No question it was chereographed, and no question there are some suits who know something was being choreographed, and no question who's going to take the hit for it. Janet, the Jacksons, MTV, the man they're calling Justin Trousersnake, come on down!

As for Mike "Mack" Wilbon's funny, I'd like to add that the kids are already quite experienced with breasts, for the most part. It used to be how they got fed. They might seem strangely out-of-place now, but believe me, once in use your body will remember. I'd want to know what to tell the kids about the governor of California in repeat cycle on several cable network channels in the Terminator pictures, shooting everybody, from innocent housewives to an entire police precinct. Kids, this is all how you get ahead? Guess so.

Gerri Hirshey
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The incident

This Janet Ta-Tah HooHah is old. It goes back to Salome's 7-Veil boogie. And it has live TV precedent dating to July 13, 1985, when Mick Jagger, in one of those "show me yours and I'll show you mine" backstage moments, thoughtfully appraised the leather corset Tina Turner was wearing beneath her skirt for their upcoming duet. The event was LiveAid, seen by gazillions. Tina told me he warned her "that skirt is coming off." So she was not surprised -- nor did she lose a step -- when he yanked it off onstage. It was two canny pros who knew exactly what they were doing. And even without the skirt, La Tina had it covered in fishnet and cowhide.

Despite these ancient histories, CBS and the NFL are now crying "rape" -- fleshly knowledge without network consent, corruption of the innocents -- when they arranged for the lapdance themselves. Their alleged victimization won't hold up in any FCC "decency" court -- especially with the smoking-gun "there will be a shocking moment" promos on the MTV Web site that predated the Krakatoa Moment. Somewhere, Les Moonves is high-fiving Viacom's goaty, Strom Thurmondesque head honcho Sumner Redstone and the NFL braintrust. All these good ole boys signed off on a halftime producer whose idea of High Art is "The Thong Song." Despite the harumphing public statements, these Suits be pimpin. And that's the real name of the game.

Robert Lipsyte
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The incident

Janet & Justin
The horror! The horror! Justin stares dumbfounded at seeing Janet's bag of jelly.
Whoever asked the question, "Was the breast black or white?" summed up the story for me. Just another Jackson who needs your undivided. Sure, it was a set-up, to preserve, among other things and people, the future sanctity of the halftime shows and the $2.3 million and rising 30-second spots.

But RDub, shrewdly dragging in the Governator, nailed it in making the connection between sex and violence. Consider the apologies over the Great Baring as copping a plea (not a feel.) We didn't do it purposely and if we did we are sooo sorry for this mischievous teasing, and please can we keep talking about it and not focus on the real physical exploitation going on -- the rising injury rate and long-term effects of these larger, faster cans of steroids smashing into each other.

Actually, the shots that made me most uncomfortable were of the two owners, the porky old white guys, two versions of the plantation masters, one sitting by himself, the glum king, the other constantly looking for someone to high-five -- they were representatives of the fan, only they were rich and powerful. Janet and Justin did it for them.

Steve Wulf
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The incident

Now that the powers-that-be are lauching an inquiry into the halftime show, these are some of the questions investigators should be asking:

Where have all the frisbee dogs gone?
When exactly did Up With People change its name to Up Yours People?
What was bedtime at the Jackson home really like?
Can Joe Horn get his money back now?
Are you sure P Diddy is ready for Raisin In The Sun?
How much weight do you think Kid Rock can press?
How will the PAX-TV halftime show (Josh Groban, Charlotte Church, Enya and Yo-Yo Ma) do against Lingerie Bowl II next year?

Pretty hard to stand up for morality when you greenlight Gomorrah, isn't it, commissioner Tagliabue?

Patrick Hruby
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The incident

Um, what's the big deal? Is the FCC trying to argue that kids have never seen a water balloon before? 'Cause essentially, that's what popped out -- the silicone implant seen 'round the world, albeit one swaddled in a very fancy pastie.

Janet & Justin
And to think that it started off so innocently.

If CBS and the NFL want to keep disturbing sights off the airwaves, they should start with Miss Janet's surgically deconstructed-and-reconstructed face. Her Wacko brother, too, who's starting to look like Helena Bonham Carter in "Planet of the Apes."

You know that scene in the "Star Wars" movies, when Obi-Wan laments that Darth Vader is "more machine than man?" That's the Jacksons (Demi Moore and Lil' Kim, also, but those are targets for another time). Why doesn't the FCC probe repeated showings of Michael's horrifying mug shot? Or the much-watched "60 Minutes" interview? If I'm a 5-year-old, I know what's going to give me nightmares. And it isn't a few millimeters of bionic nipple.

Look, the Super Bowl is a celebration of ritualized violence. The ballyhooed commercials peddle beer that kills your liver, sugar-water cola that makes you fat, CGI-laden cinematic bloodbaths that drive a stake through your remaining brain cells and pills that can give you a potentially damaging four-hour erection. Four hours! Plus, Aerosmith is leading our triumphant return to space. But never mind that: If a skin-encased bag of jelly pops out on national television, then the terrorists have already won.

No offense to the defenders of national morality, but the kids-are-getting-the-wrong-message horse has already left the barn. In fact, it's flamethrower-farting all the way to the bank. Which makes Tags and his hand-wringing colleagues look like asses. Not the kind in the Clydesdale ad.

Luke Cyphers
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The incident

I'm glad Janet and Justin took people's minds off what could have become a silly flap over the Boston kid being run over and killed by an SUV during the kind of sports-centered community celebration that brings people together, and is the reason we need to give tax money to owners like Bob Kraft. I'm sure some media cynic would then point out that Tom Brady's MVP award was a new Escalade. So thank goodness that "story" got buried.

P.S.: For Hirshberg, or some other medical maven, is it true Cialis can cause erections that last longer than four hours? I thought that's what I heard on television during the Super Bowl. Anyway, I'm just curious.

Chuck Hirshberg
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The incident

Never fails: Guys wonder what it's like to have a four-hour erection, and who "pops up" in their minds? Me.

"Just curious," eh, Luke? If I say "yes," will that make you more likely, or less likely, to give this medication a try? Before turning to pharmaceuticals, I'd recommend sprinkling a little vitamin E on your morning bran flakes (also, some Saw Palmetto, which is good for the prostate) and then taking the wife on a week-long cruise, without the kids. If that doesn't work, send me a PRIVATE e-mail, and we'll discuss your options. Good luck, brother!!!

Anyhoo, what I can't help thinking about is this: If the breathtaking stupidity of the ads was entertaining, can you imagine how much fun it would have been to attend the MEETINGS that green-lighted 'em?

Kid Rock
And to top off the halftime disaster, Kid Rock took the stage ...

Seriously, think about it: A week or two ago, somewhere on Madison Avenue, a group of ad execs gathered 'round a conference room table to watch that farting horse spot. A serious presentation was then delivered on the theoretical basis for a campaign based on equine flatulence. Which demographic subsets would find it most appealling? How much was it likley to contribute to long-range brand loyalty? Etc, etc. Said presentation was, pardon the expression, digested by the marketing experts. The pros & cons were duly weighed. And ultimately, a Decision Maker, who pulls in more dough in five minutes than you or I do in a year, announced: "Alright then, it's a go. I want to thank each and every one of you who put in so many late nights to make this project a success. The Gassy Stallion Campaign is something we can ALL be proud of."

On the other hand, here's what's not funny. Even as our Moral Guardians at CBS were signing off on that one, they made a point of protecting the viewing public from a political advertisement, sponsored by, that was critical of our government's mounting budget deficits. "We do not accept advertising on one side or the other of controversial public issues, partly because we don't think the debate ought to be controlled by people with deep pockets," said Martin Franks, CBS executive vice president. Of course, by refusing to air such ads, the deep-pocketed robber barons of CBS forestall political debate altogether. CBS scored the hat trick: Censorship, hypocrisy, and bad taste. No wonder Kid Rock is so proud to be an American.

Alan Grant
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The incident

It ain't the kids who need an explanation, nor an apology. I think every thinking human in the entire nation deserves one.

I'm sorry, America, but the corporate suits think you're stupid. They think that without visuals you can't possibly understand the most basic of principles. To wit: That pregame tribute to the space-shuttle victims. They don't think you can identify that specific tragedy, let alone NASA, without providing that painfully corny image of the man traipsing around in an astronaut suit on what looked to be a plastic moon.

But this kind of tactic is pretty common these days. That clip of Howard Dean? Just another helpful reminder. The continuous replaying of the clip is meant to show you one irrefutable truth: Sure, it just might be the portrait of a man trying to rally the troops after an unexpected defeat. But you people can't possibly draw your own conclusions. So roll the tape with the subliminal message scrolling beneath it: "So what if he's the only candidate who's intelligent, well-informed, and who has clearly detailed ideas for the office he seeks Howard Dean must a nut bag!"

And finally there's my man Justin. I'm sure a gaggle of corporate folks pulled him aside and gently reminded him that the good folks of the USA tend to get confused when the word naked isn't pronounced with the traditionally pedestrian long "a." Therefore the use of the word "nekkid," as in the legitimately street-credible lyric,"I'm gonna have you nekkid by the end of this song," cannot possibly be comprehended by the stupid masses, and thus requires the appropriate prop.

See ... what I mean is she's naked ... this is a, you know, boob. See, naked.

Robert Lipsyte
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The incident

OK, I get it, we're the boobs and that's the boob tube, but we're already squabbling about whether the Pats are a dynasty and will we see them again next year (with Janet's other one?) We sit in our own flatulence mocking the horses'. Anybody got a plan? A little trick play? Shut off the Pro Bowl and then go next door and shut off your neighbor's set? Is there a candidate, a coach, a quarterback, a nutkin out there?

Peter Keating
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: The incident

Now, this is good, old-fashioned nudity ... streaking at halftime!
Agreed on the stupefying condescension involved in having a guy dressed up as an astronaut jump around on a fake lunar surface to commemorate a space shuttle mission that didn't even go to the moon.

But I'm amazed at how many runs at halftime-show records are being overlooked as everyone fixates on Ms. Jackson's mammary. For example:

  • Shortest participation: Jessica Simpson spoke all of two words. Unfortunately, several past performers, including Shania Twain last year, got zero, as they lip-synched their whole acts.

  • Oldest song performed: I just carbon-dated my vinyl version, and it turns out Janet's "Rhythm Nation" was the title track of an album she released back in 1989. But this too is a near-miss: Aerosmith opened this season with a couple of songs they first recorded 67 years ago.

  • Least talent, performer: Super Bowl V had Anita Bryant, a disgrace I could not imagine being eclipsed until Kid Rock staggered his way across the stage Sunday night. Some people think wearing the flag is offensive; when the best lyrics you can come up with are "Kid Rock ... Super Bowl ... halftime," and all you've got to put them across is an atonal, beer-burned screech, I agree.

    The funny thing is, the organizers could have put on a simple, thematic, traditional, funky, fun show and saved millions of dollars while they were at it. All they needed to do was show the Texas Southern marching band dancing around while they were playing "I Like the Way You Move" for the whole song, instead of giving us 15 seconds' worth.

    Or let Beyonce come back out after the national anthem.

  • Steve Wulf
    To: Writers' Bloc
    Subject: The incident

    By the way, did you guys see the list of Super Bowl halftime performers in USA Today? They've had Up With People four times (X, XIV, XVI and XX), Carol Channing twice (IV and VI), Al Hirt twice (VI and XII), Pete Fountain twice (XXII and XXIV) and Michael Jackson with 3,500 local children (XXVII). In other words, this was not the first time the NFL made a mistake.


    Writers' Bloc: Super Bowl postscript

    Wiley: Uncensored NFL thought balloons

    Hruby: A bust of a Lingerie Bowl

    Page 2's 100 Greatest Super Bowl Moments

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