Super Bowl outrage: flash in the pan

February 05, 2004|By Kevin Cowherd

IF YOU WERE offended by Janet Jackson's Super Bowl mini-striptease - or Nelly's crotch-grabbing or Kid Rock's flag-wearing or the Jackson-Justin Timberlake bump-and-grind that preceded her exposure - here's a little suggestion: Don't buy their albums. Don't go to their concerts.

If those classy Bud Light commercials where the dog bites the guy's crotch upset you, don't buy Bud Light.

If you were outraged by the Cialis commercial - in the middle of a football game, I'm fielding questions on erectile dysfunction from my 12-year-old, when I can barely explain what a screen pass is - don't buy Cialis.

There, it's really that simple.

But here we are again, in the midst of one our periodic national debates about the coarsening of American culture.

The only problem with these outbreaks of righteous indignation is, they tend to last about five minutes.

Then everyone goes back to shrugging their shoulders and thinking: Oh, well, what can you do? The whole country's going to hell in a handbasket.

But if enough people stay ticked off at what happened Sunday - when 90 million viewers watched the Super Bowl turn into a Howard Stern barbecue - they should channel their anger in the right direction.

Let the performers know you're shocked by their acts.

Let the sponsors know you're disgusted with their commercials.

And the best way to let them know is: Hit them in their wallets.

If Janet Jackson takes the stage at her next concert and there are so many empty seats it looks like a Dennis Kucinich rally, she'll get the message.

If the Anheuser-Busch honchos get their latest sales report and Bud Light is suddenly selling like Amish keychains, they'll know they blew it with these commercials.

Of course, nobody in their right mind expects this to happen.

First of all, Janet Jackson fans are used to all sorts of, um, salacious behavior from their idol.

Let's face it: She's not exactly Marie Osmond on stage. In fact, Janet Jackson fans get shocked when her act doesn't include lots of cleavage, pelvic grinding and outfits from an S&M catalog.

And the target market for Bud Light is young men in their early 20s, who, especially when they're beered-up, tend to view a commercial featuring a crotch-biting dog as the very height of sophisticated humor.

To them, it's like something from Russell Baker.

So don't expect any Super Bowl controversy to hurt Janet Jackson or Bud Light.

Actually, with all the attention she's gotten, I figure Jackson's next CD sells out in about 10 minutes.

And Bud Light sales will probably go through the roof, too. In fact, they'll probably spin off a whole series of crotch-biting-dog commercials.

But since it's mainly viewers 35 and older expressing disgust at the Super Bowl halftime show and commercials, maybe a boycott would work best against Cialis, newest love potion of the geezers.

Yesterday, I called the Indianapolis corporate headquarters of Eli Lilly and Co., the makers of Cialis.

When one of their media reps, a pleasant-sounding woman named Carole Copeland, called back, I told her I had just one question for company officials.

And the one question was this: How does Eli Lilly justify running a commercial for an erectile dysfunction aid during a football game being watched by millions of little kids?

Copeland called back a second time and said - surprise! - there were no Cialis execs available to comment.

"But maybe I can answer your question," she said.

With that, she lapsed into Cialis party-line flack-speak.

"Our objective," she began, "was to convey an important message to men who have E.D ..."

Right, right, I said. I understand all that. And it's terrific that you're looking out for all these poor middle-aged guys in their hot tubs looking for some action.

But that's not the issue, I continued.

The issue is: Is the Super Bowl, with millions of kids in the viewing audience, an appropriate place for this sort of commercial?

Especially when you're running a disclaimer about the, um, effects of Cialis possibly lasting for four hours.

(By the way, if I took Cialis and that happened, I'd need more than medical attention. I'd need psychiatric attention, too.)

"We think it was an appropriate place," said Copeland. "We believe our ad is very tasteful. ... Our ad was no more shocking than what people saw on other [Super Bowl] ads, and you know the ones I mean."

So we didn't get very far in our discussion, Ms. Copeland and me. Not that it really matters.

All I know is, I won't be catching Janet Jackson in concert any time soon. I won't be drinking Bud Light. And I won't be buying Cialis.

Not that, you know, there's a problem in that regard.

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