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Super Bowl isn't always about the game

By Joe Centers • Feb 6, 2019 at 12:00 PM

Thank God for the halftime show.

For without it, we would have had nothing to talk about Monday morning.

The Super Bowl was a super dud. Only one touchdown. No lead changes. No excitement.

They say offense wins you games but defense wins you championships.

Thank you, Bill Belichick.

Several former Cleveland Browns teamed up with quarterback Tom Brady to win their sixth Super Bowl. The Browns still haven’t been to a Super Bowl, for anybody who is counting.

What did Belichick do? He mucked up the game. He played it on his terms and the New England Patriots topped the Los Angeles Rams 13-3.

You know it is a dull game when much of the excitement early on was a Super Bowl-record punt.

The dull game, along with lackluster commercials, left it all up to the halftime show. As is any halftime show, there were plenty of mixed reviews.

Jon Caramanica of The New York Times wasn’t impressed.

“Maroon 5 — a quasi-soul, quasi-rock, utterly funkless band — was the main attraction at the Super Bowl halftime show at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, likely the third or eighth or maybe 14th choice for a headliner,” he wrote.

“In a year in which the Super Bowl halftime show has become a referendum on political mindfulness, in which the N.F.L. has become a staging ground for conversations about racial justice in America, Maroon 5 was a cynically apt choice. It is neutral, inoffensive, sleek without promising too much. For nearly two decades, it has been wildly popular without leaving much of a musical mark, as easy to forget as mild weather.

“And the band did no better during its 13 1/2 minutes onstage, in a performance that was dynamically flat, mushy at the edges, worthy of something much worse than derision: a shrug. It was an inessential performance from a band that might have lost some moral authority if it had any moral authority to lose.

“Perhaps for the N.F.L., which probably sought to make the halftime performance as anodyne as possible, this was a victory.”

I heard one woman newscaster ask one simple question Monday morning: Why was it all right for Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine to take his shirt off when it wasn’t for Janet Jackson in the infamous nipplegate Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004?

Jessica Simpson, Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake and Jackson were all set to perform during the show centered around the Choose or Lose campaign, which was started by MTV in 1992 to encourage its audience to register to vote.

After doing a solo performance of “Rhythm Nation,” Jackson was joined on stage by Timberlake for a duet of his song “Rock Your Body.” As expected for a song with that title, the duo performed a few suggestive moves, much to the audience’s delight. Then, it was time for the song to end — and no one was ready for what came next. With the final line “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” Timberlake pulled a part of Jackson’s outfit that revealed her right breast which was decorated with a nipple shield. CBS cut away from the stage and the massive fallout began.

In an era before social media was as big as it is today, the story never really got traction until the next morning.

With an 11 a.m. Monday deadline at the Reflector, news editor Matt Roche and I had plenty of time for the story to develop. We had it front and center with a photo on page A-1. To say it made a splash was an understatement. But by that time that was the only thing people were talking about.

All was all quiet in the newsroom until publisher Steve Trosley went home and heard it from his wife, Linda. Needless to say, Roche and I got an earful the next morning.

I still think we made the right decision. That certainly was more memorable than the game, won by New England 32-29 over Carolina.

The Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year and the biggest story isn’t always the game.

Looking back on Sunday and Super Bowl LIII, I don’t think there is one thing people will remember.

That will make it even more special next year when Baker and the Browns give everybody something they will never forget.

Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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