Where’s the fun? Where’s the controversy? Where’s Diana Ross?

By the time Super Bowl Sunday rolls around each year, the air has already chilled beyond understanding, Mardi Gras celebrations have begun and I begin to expect a few things: funny commercials, tasty snacks, big parties and a good halftime show.

I remember in 1996, Diana Ross was clumsily yet magically flown off the field and into the night riding a helicopter. Was it a dream? Or, more recently, the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction facilitated by your-friend-and-mine Justin Timberlake. People really responded then. Broadcaster ABC and the NFL reacted accordingly and, for thenext year, imposed a five-second delay on the show and censored performer Mick Jagger’s sexually explicit lyrics.

Despite the precautions taken each year, the Super Bowl continues to boast its fair share of controversy. In the grand scheme of the life of the Bowl, Janet Jackson won’t seem so rough and ready; she’ll simply become part of a larger statistic. This year, for instance, a shamefully nameless and faceless, bet-you-went-to-Harvard-with-dumb-rules-like-this NFL team owner asked Dolphins Stadium to issue a ban on tailgating. They did, and that’s only the half of it. The ban extended beyond parking lot ritual, forbidding the presence of non-ticketed fans within a two-block radius of the field. People went nuts. (I wasn’t actually there, and therefore don’t technically know what happened, but I can assume what I like.)

The NFL must have been in a banning sort of mood this winter — new commissioner Roger Goodell getting us down — because they didn’t stop with on-site tailgating: Local churches were also forbidden from throwing Super Bowl parties. Rachel L. Margolies, assistant counsel of the NFL, sent a letter demanding that Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis cancel its planned party and remove the term “Super Bowl” from the description of the event on the church’s Web site. I almost forgot that in America, the union of football and church violates that whole separation of church and state we sometimes enforce. So I sort of understand.

But it wasn’t just the bans that drained the air of out my Super Bowl tires. The entire event was sort of dull. Despite the novelty of the rain, the six turnovers in the first half, Devin Hester’s touchdown on the opening kick-off return and the first African-American head coaches, I just wasn’t feeling Super Bowl ’07. I blame it on the halftime show. I’m just saying that I’ve had better.

CBS took over broadcasting the game for the first time since the Janet incident. Maybe that’s why the whole event was so lackluster. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t want scandal. At the end of the game, we all want scandal. While some might take offense at a renegade celebrity breast, we all secretly want conversation topics for the water cooler. I may be wrong, but the artist formerly known as Prince doesn’t really scream scandal so much as he does, well, purple.

After getting over the shock of finding that Prince was, in fact, still alive, I was startled more by the novelty of his entire presence. Brad Kava of the San Jose Mercury News called the show one of the best he’d ever seen. I scoff. The only “best” thing I saw was that clever white sheet trick he pulled. It was a fine show, I suppose: fireworks, a glow in the dark band and a lighted stage shaped like the artist’s symbol. But with Cirque du Soleil, Romero Britto and Louie Vega for the pre-game show — an obvious product of budget cuts — I expect serious attention be paid to halftime. And by “serious attention” I don’t mean Prince, The Twins (the official name of his spunky back-up dancers) and dumb macrame doves that were inexpertly waved about the stage. I wanted to care when Prince dramatically ripped off his rain-wetted head scarf and tossed it importantly into the crowd, but I just didn’t. Even if I had liked what I saw pre-game, I quite frankly feel that it was as if I was promised flying monkeys and talking dogs as an opening act, only to discover that the star of the show was the Osmond family. What starts as pure magic can instantly devolve into a sour reminder of those dark parts of the past we would all like to forget.

And so it was with Superbowl XLI. Millions of dollars were wasted on a pale imitation of what could have been. So, in order to rectify the wrong done to us, the millions of disappointed Super Bowl viewers out there, I want to propose some changes for next year’s event:

1. Whitney Houston is the only American EVER again allowed to sing the national anthem. Billy Joel was great, but let’s face it. Newly divorced from Bobby, free of that nasty coke habit, next year’s Bowl will be the perfect arena for her comeback.

2. More animals! If you ask me, Charles L. Gariepy, animals make the whole show much funnier. They just do. Funny animals are the solution to most world problems, in my opinion. Who’s not going to laugh at a pair of dancing elephants?

3. Souvenirs should be tossed into the crowd. I didn’t get to go this year, but next time I walk into a Super Bowl stadium I want to leave home with a silly hat, some doubloons, or beads or something! Glow sticks don’t count. In a couple hours, they’re dead anyway.

The Super Bowl should be outrageous. Right? It should be fantastic! It should be the spectacle of the year and for a while, when the economy was riding high, when kids were kids, and things just somehow seemed to work out, it was. Let’s not give up, NFL. People are talking. They’re losing interest. The commercials weren’t even that good. Don’t become the “No Fun League.” I recently received an e-mail from a friend of mine, and before the salutation it read: “Hope the Super Bowl was fun, if you’re into that type of thing.” Of course, I’m into that type of thing! We all should be, NFL! If not for the teams, for the halftime show. Bring Fergie out there, perhaps. Or Britney. Do something! Just don’t mock us with triviality. America’s an easy audience, NFL. Ask us to care and we will.

Charles Gariepy is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. His column typically appears on Tuesdays.

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