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|CBS Fumbles the Superbowl Show||02/05/2004|
As 100 million people worldwide tuned in on Feb. 1 to watch the New England Patriots kick a last-minute field goal to win the Superbowl, CBS committed a blunder that cost our country more than a game.
The Superbowl has grown into a global display of America's best football teams competing for the top prize. New audiences, including millions of people in China, witnessed the game for the first time this year. The sheer size of the spectacle reveals the blessing that our country enjoys -- one that allows such a trivial event, in the scheme of global occurrences, to become a worldwide phenomenon. For four hours on a given Sunday (or Monday, depending on where you are), the world watches the gridiron heroes of American culture in the most intense, yet friendly, competition of the year. It is recreational America at her best.
This past Superbowl Sunday, however, CBS and its corporate cousin MTV fumbled a great scoring opportunity.
Many people across the world already view America as depraved and immoral. Indeed, many Americans themselves see a disturbing downward spiral in the television fare now served. But millions of people were literally shocked on Sunday as the degeneration gyrated out of control.
It is difficult enough for parents and grandparents, like me, to sit through an ordinary football game, littered with beer commercials featuring underwear-clad models wrestling in water fountains, especially with young children in the room. Parents are already put on the spot when one of the main sponsors is a pill for erectile dysfunction. An outsider might think that American culture is imprisoned by sex and lust.
But any question about the message being conveyed between the snaps was answered loud and clear during the "AOL Top Speed Halftime Show." There was more offense at halftime than in all four quarters of play.
You may have missed the show, but you've probably heard the uproar over the last week. After Josh Grobin moved the audience, including the toughest football players, to tears through his tribute to the Columbia astronauts, the stage was set for a positivehalftime performance. But the NASA theme was quickly overshadowed by a nastypresentation. MTV had promised the NFL "family-friendly" fare, but the family they apparently had in mind was the Osbournes.
Kid Rock's songs referred to hookers, methadone clinics and alcohol. Other parts of the 12-minute halftime show were overtly sexually provocative. During Janet Jackson's number, scantily clad Cabaret dancers flanked the stage while she engaged in suggestive bumps, grinds and crotch grabbing. Justin Timberlake's song ended with the line, "I'll have you naked by the end of this song." Apparently making good on his promise, he grabbed Janet's leather gladiator costume and ripped a portion of it off. Whether or not this one act was truly a "costume malfunction" (as Timberlake's official statement claims), the entire presentation thrust an R-rated spectacle upon an unsuspecting, innocent audience around the globe.
Can we not present a better picture of America? Cannot the entertainment community uplift the world, as Grobin did, without dragging it down into the mire of depravity? The groundswell of public outcry has had some positive effect, but whether there will be long-term effects has yet to be determined. Perhaps families will simply refuse to watch CBS until the apologetic statements transpire into real change. Perhaps the youth targeted by MTV will stand up against the onslaught of debased sexual imagery. Perhaps the consumers will start using their purchasing power to patronize those products and outlets that choose to avoid such debauchery as a sales pitch.
The entertainment industry has the capability to inspire us -- as Grobin demonstrated so well -- yet too many of them resort to tabloid titillation. Society must demand a change. We must stand against the negative trends and applaud the positive movements.
As for the future of football entertainment, one would hope that the NFL's outrage at the mishandling of their image should be enough to curtail this trend in professional sports. We should be able to watch a rated-G football championship without the rated-R interruptions. Hopefully response from the national population, both young and old, will demand a return to wholesome entertainment, and the rest of the world can see qualities that make us a bright, shining beacon revealing freedom's blessing.