Monday, February 2, 2004

Patriots, Panthers, and Pasties

You might ordinarily think that a highbrowed literateur and drag-queen such as myself would not be much of a sports fan. And you would be right to think that. In fact, I absolutely loathe nearly all forms of sports (though I love athletes). Nevertheless, there I was, Sunday afternoon, watching the Superbowl for the second time in my life. And not to put too fine a point on it, the only football games I've ever watched in my whole life were these two Superbowls.

The last time I watched, it was a local team playing locally, with good-looking and charismatic quarterbacks on both sides — Superbowl XIX with the 49ers and the Dolphins (or more precisely Joe Montana and Dan Marino) playing at Stanford; this time, Superbowl XXXVIII just happened to coincide with my little cousin Jessie's birthday, and so we were gathered at Kellie's place with her big TV and a lot of people, watching the Patriots and the Panthers playing in Houston while noshing on birthday cake and singing "Happy Birthday" to the new eleven-year-old in our midst.

Something I managed to forget in the nineteen years between Superbowl games: I don't understand football. I mean, I get the general premise, the bent-over guy "hikes" the ball to the quarterback (who is usually the cutest guy on the team), who either throws the ball across the field to the catcher-type-guy (running-back?) to deliver into the goal area or else tries to run for the goal himself; the opposing team does everything they can to stop this or any other advance from happening; you get closer and closer to the goal depending on how far you managed to legitimately transport the ball in each scrimmage; if you drop the ball, it's a fumble; if you throw the ball and nobody catches it, it's an incomplete. I grasp the concepts of bounds and fouls, quarters and time-outs, and the difference between offense and defense. We covered all of this in Junior-High PE.

But that's about it. Point conversions escaped me. Fifth and ten, or fourth and inches, these baffled me. I had no idea under what conditions a field-goal is kicked, nor why some goals are a certain number of points and other goals an entirely different number. I never knew where on the field each scrimmage was taking place, unless they happened to be standing on top of the central logo. And to make it all the more confusing, everything happens so terribly fast that I can't tell what just occurred until the person sitting next to me explains it while the multidirectional replays repeat themselves (the announcers are less than useless, they speak in such dense jargon).

But what I did grasp certainly gave me plenty to talk about. Like the guy who dropped the ball when he was tackled... even I knew you aren't supposed to carry the ball that way: "You're supposed to carry it like a purse, not like a cocktail," I yelled at the screen, demonstrating my meagre expertise... even if you can't decipher why a man is doing something, you can certainly critique how he is doing it.

The girls and I also debated on which organization had the cuter guys, and chose our teams by which quarterback we found more attractive (I rooted for Carolina because I felt they had the greater number of hottentots overall, and because Jake Delhomme was cuter and cuddlier than the handsome but slightly wall-eyed Tom Brady, for whose sake Kellie cheered New England). To my surprise, I also found the head umpire pretty cute... he was in fabulous shape, at any rate, which one doesn't really expect from umpires.

No non-fan's Superbowl would be complete without the delicious multi-million-dollar commercials, many of which were entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the ads (I love watching people get dressed and go to work) and the various silly Budweiser bits ("Cedric's Bikini Wax" almost made me cry), not to mention Pepsi's renewal of the Cola Wars with their very funny jab at Coke in "Purple Haze"; I was irritated, though, by the prevalence of SUV advertisements and the rather long Cialis epics (instead of wasting so much time and money making pills to give old men hard-ons, why doesn't somebody develop a pill that makes people feel like they've already had sex? It would save so much time).

The opening bit was nice, too, with Josh Groban (oy, he's cute, too bad I find his music so debilitatingly dull) and that peculiar choir paying tribute to the late crew of the space shuttle Columbia (which went down a year ago yesterday), and then Beyoncé Knowles singing the National Anthem so nicely in that gorgeous suit. Apparently I missed the Aerosmith Pre-Game show... I'm all broken up about it, too.

And of course there was the "Janet Jackson's Hooter" moment, which engendered a lively debate in our family circle and completely eclipsed our horrified disdain of P. Diddy, Nelly, and Kid Rock: was it an accident, or was it done on purpose? We also debated on whether that glint of silver was a nipple-piercing or a pastie. I believed it was a pastie, akin to the one worn by Lil' Kim and groped by Diana Ross at the MTV Music Awards, and that the cup-removal was part of the choreography; bustiers don't come apart like that by accident, and you don't wear pasties unless you plan to display your breast in some public place... so it had to have been staged.

But I guess CBS wasn't aware that it was going to happen, and so the director cut to commercials immediately upon release of the aforementioned mammary. I'm sure that the appearance of Justin Timberlake was not the intended climax of the halftime entertainment... though not a big fan of the Superbowl, I do often make a point to see the halftime show, where all of the performers usually get together and murder some song before the final fireworks go off; there were runways connecting all five stages, I'm sure there was a purpose for them, and then all the balloons upon which words and names had been projected should have been released. Two performers and one tit do not a spectacular finale make.

I see now from doing a websearch that a huge furore has been sparked by this silly little spectacle, with threatened FCC probes and stern comments from funny-named football officials and abject apologies from Timberlake and horrible puns from all the news wires. It's just a boob, people, why is everyone getting so worked up about it? "A classless, crass and deplorable stunt," says FCC Chairman Michael Powell. Are you saying that P. Diddy or Nelly or Kid Rock weren't classless, crass and deplorable? Honestly!

But I also see from the pictures at Reuters that it apparently was a pastie, a sculptured silver star or Maltese cross of some kind, and that the cup was built to come off... and you simply don't put an uncomfortable-looking metal star on your nipple unless you expect your snap-on bustier cup to come unsnapped. Furthermore, Jessica Simpson was slated to appear, too, and I didn't catch so much as a glimpse of the little blonde doltette (though maybe I missed her while ogling Miss Jackson's hot backup dancers). And now I see footage of the moment, Mr. Timberlake definitely grabbed onto that cup and ripped it off on purpose.

So, I was right! I just hope it all does Miss Jackson's career some good... it certainly didn't hurt Lil' Kim, but then she did it first.

Anyway, the whole Superbowl thing was terribly entertaining in parts, but I certainly don't intend to make a habit of it. I mean, why should any sport be so difficult to understand? All the rules, all the confusing jargon, all the crazy ifs and ands. It's more bizarre than bridge and pinochle put together. Polo is more readily accessible, fer chrissakes. Maybe I'd have enjoyed it more if they played like this (though it would be more difficult to tell the teams apart):


I just followed a link from Flutterby to find some closeups of Miss Jackson's breast captured on digital TV: it was not a pastie, it was body-jewelry! An eight-point silver star held in place with a rod pierced through the nipple! I'm not sure what that does to my pastie-on-purpose theory (maybe there was supposed to be some bit of costume under the cup), but I do know I won't be able to close my eyes without seeing that star for quite some time... Oh, the humanity!

Meanwhile, I can't believe I spent so much time researching and commenting on this completely idiotic shredlet of pop culture. This is what happens when you allow friends and family to peer-pressure you into watching overhyped pseudotraditional sporting events. But at least I'm not alone... so many of my daily reads wrote about this today.

Still, I'm going to go crack open some Proust.

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