The numbers don’t lie: The Tremendous Bowl is our most cherished TV present.
No matter location, matchup or storylines … no matter protests or presidents … no matter crimes and different off-field drama … this one sport is persistently the yr’s most considered occasion.
Which is why it’s so vital that the NFL invitations Janet Jackson again.
It’s now been 20 years since our tradition determined a half-second glimpse of considered one of Jackson’s breasts — the notorious “wardrobe malfunction” through the halftime present with Justin Timberlake — threatened the foundations of society.
Sounds ridiculous now, given the modeling profession of former First Girl Melania Trump, however again once we had been nonetheless pretending to be treasured about intercourse, we wrung our palms about this scandal for weeks, solely half-jokingly nicknaming the saga “Nipplegate,” as if it had been on par with the crimes and coverup that pressured Richard Nixon to resign. Speaking heads condemned Jackson 24/7.
In brief, we overreacted.
It was an election yr, and the U.S. was engaged in two spiritual wars: one overseas in response to 9/11 and one at dwelling as President George W. Bush used the specter of same-sex marriage to gasoline his tradition struggle and drum up votes.
Everyone needed to look patriotic whereas the definition of patriotism bought blurry. Islamophobia appeared to exchange freedom of faith. Sen. John F. Kerry, a embellished struggle hero, was mocked for his service in Vietnam. This was the period when the Dixie Chicks (as they had been then recognized) spoke out in opposition to Bush beginning a struggle in 2003, and for that they had been threatened and almost misplaced their careers.
Lower than a yr later, it was Jackson’s flip.
She’s moved on and we’ve moved on, however nobody ever made amends for mistreating her. The Tremendous Bowl could be the place to do it. We have to apologize for the way we handled Jackson within the aftermath of Nipplegate as a result of we had been by no means as pious as we pretended to be in 2004.
After we came upon gamers for the Dallas Cowboys ran a brothel during the 1990s, we didn’t forged them out. We stored calling them “America’s Staff.”
After studying that faculty soccer star Lawrence Phillips dragged his ex-girlfriend down three flights of stairs earlier than smashing her head right into a mailbox in 1995, the Nationwide Soccer League made him the sixth general choose in 1996. The nation responded by making the Tremendous Bowl the most-watched present as soon as once more, as if nothing unsavory had occurred. Companies paid greater than $1 million for a 30-second industrial again then.
At the moment we’re the nation with elected officers who speak about secret intercourse events in Washington and show sexting images on the Home ground. We’re the nation the place celebrities with intercourse tapes go to the White Home and a high candidate for president can be found liable for sexual abuse with out shedding help.
What occurred in 2004 was nasty. Not due to Jackson however due to us.
Each different performer at Tremendous Bowl halftime reveals ends the night time feeling on high of the world. Jackson ended hers hiding and in tears. She woke as much as threats, the Federal Communications Fee getting concerned and the sudden want to avoid wasting her profession. Not as a result of she crossed a line, thoughts you, however as a result of we overreacted.
Jackson has rebuilt her life from that low level. She doesn’t want the Tremendous Bowl gig. Her 2023 tour was the very best grossing of her profession, and she or he’s again on the highway once more this yr. However the coronation that comes with the Tremendous Bowl halftime present was stolen from her. There’s a easy approach to make it proper.
Soccer is greater than a sport to us. Even those that don’t care concerning the sport are affected by its tradition and affect.
Taylor Swift couldn’t have had her six-night mini residency at SoFi Stadium final summer time — a run that introduced in an estimated $320 million to Los Angeles County — however for the NFL. Stan Kroenke, owner of the Rams, bought the land in 2014. The league’s exploration of the realm goes again to the mid-Nineteen Nineties. No different trade swooped in to develop that land over these years.
The Tremendous Bowl venue this yr exists solely as a result of the Raiders moved to Las Vegas and helped develop Allegiant Stadium, which not solely constructed up town’s sports activities tradition but in addition brings in income from different occasions on the stadium that wouldn’t have been attainable a decade in the past.
In my hometown of Detroit, Ford Area anchors a revitalized downtown. The 2 playoff video games the Lions hosted this season brought $40 million to the city.
Soccer’s attain holds many communities collectively.
And in 2004 we took all that togetherness, all that cultural and financial inertia and vilified one of the crucial profitable recording artists of all time.
In 2001, Jackson’s album “All for You” was her fifth consecutive to succeed in No. 1 on the Billboard chart. She gained a Grammy in 2002. When the NFL approached her concerning the Tremendous Bowl, Jackson held the report for essentially the most consecutive High 10 hits. More than Madonna, the primary feminine solo act for halftime; greater than Beyoncé, who was second; greater than Girl Gaga, who got here after that.
What higher approach to atone for the foolishness of 2004 than to offer Jackson her flowers in 2025? It might be a approach to not solely assure a terrific present but in addition acknowledge Jackson’s most vital attribute: resiliency.