The man on the phone was Jim Steeg, who had been head of special events for the NFL since the late 1970s, overseeing the evolution of the halftime show from a small-scale production featuring marching bands and dancing snowflakes and local heritage celebrations to full-scale rock extravaganzas starring the likes of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Aerosmith. When Nipplegate happened, Steeg was sitting next to the league's head of officiating, who was TiVo-ing the event. "He rewound it for me, and then I immediately called Salli," he says. "You could hear everyone screaming and hollering because what they pulled off and accomplished was over. I said to Salli, 'Did you see what just happened?'"
"We were like, 'Uh, we're playing that back right now,'" Frattini says. "There was lots of chaos in the truck, and we played it back and we were like, 'Oh, s -- . What just happened?'"
Frattini stepped out of the truck and immediately ran into then-CBS Sports president Sean McManus. He looked her in the eye and asked gravely, "Did you guys know?" Frattini promised she had no idea that Jackson was going to be exposed. "Okay. That's what I needed to know," she remembers him saying.
Whether Frattini or the higher-ups at MTV, CBS and/or the NFL knew what was coming remains one of the enduring mysteries of the event -- at least that's the generous explanation for why millions of people watched the clip with the same intensity as that of JFK conspiracy theorists poring over the Zapruder footage. To this day it remains the most watched video in the history of TiVo, becoming such a touchstone that "wardrobe malfunction" soon earned a dictionary definition and Nipplegate became a household word. (For the record, not much areola was even visible underneath Jackson's large starburst nipple shield.)