Halftime rockers just too geezerly

The Baltimore Sun

Let's pretend Sunday is already here.

You're watching the big game on the requisite giant flat-screen TV. You're sitting in the requisite Starship Enterprise recliner with dual cup-holders. You're gorging on enough food to nauseate even the contestants on The Biggest Loser.

Suddenly you hear those magical words: "Up next, the Super Bowl halftime show."

OK, how do you react?

If you're a baby boomer, you're thinking: "Great, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band!"

If you're a Gen-Xer or Gen-Nexter or whatever the young call themselves these days, you roll your eyes, mutter, "Great, another geeze-fest" and go off to Twitter your friends about how lame the show is.

This, friends, is the vast cultural divide that confronts us with these halftime shows.

Look, I bow to no one in my veneration of the great Springsteen and his band, whom I have seen in concert many times and consider the best show on the planet. But would it kill the NFL to book a Super Bowl halftime act that wasn't around when Nixon was impeached?

Would it be so awful to see performers who don't have hip replacements, bladder issues and back-orders of Viagra on their credit cards? Performers who (here's a radical concept) young people might like, too?

Instead, the league keeps trotting out these dinosaurs of rock, making the halftime show feel like some sanitized Woodstock for AARP members.

Let's take a look at the halftime performers at the last five Super Bowls, shall we? They are: Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Prince, the Rolling Stones and Sir Paul McCartney.

Some of these acts are so old, they should be embalmed. The Stones have an average age of, what, 117? Sir Paul is 97. Bruce is 88. Tom Petty and Prince, well into their 70s, have been seen lining up for the early-bird special at South Florida restaurants for years now.

OK, maybe none of those artists are really that old.

But you get my point here. The NFL is not exactly showing off exciting new talent at these halftime shows, which drives young people from the room like someone sprayed tear gas.

Most of the problem, of course, stems from what happened at the halftime show five years ago during Super Bowl 38. (Sorry, we're not using those pretentious Roman numerals here. It's a football game, not the reign of a French monarch.)

You remember that night of quality entertainment, of course.

That was the night Justin Timberlake tore off part of Janet Jackson's costume during their performance, exposing - gasp - Jackson's breast.

Which was exposed for about a tenth of a second and which you could barely see. But, no matter.

The incident, which was initially blamed on a "wardrobe malfunction" and came to be called Nipplegate by some, created a huge uproar.

And to think the halftime entertainment at the first few Super Bowls consisted of marching bands and the gooey performance troupe Up With People. That feels like it was 200 years ago.

Naturally, the Timberlake-Jackson flashing incident was widely decried as a sign of increasing moral decadence and the imminent collapse of civilization.

David Letterman even joked that President George W. Bush would form a "Department of Wardrobe Security" to prevent any further such depravity from taking place.

And the satirical newspaper The Onion ran a headline before the next Super Bowl that blared: "U.S. Children Still Traumatized One Year After Seeing Partially Exposed Breast on TV."

But the whole thing led the NFL to shy away from young, edgy, halftime acts in favor of a string of "safe" acts, beginning with the Stones.

(Ever think you'd live long enough for the Stones to be considered "safe"? Are you kidding? The Stones did more depraved things before breakfast than Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson will do their whole lives.)

The point is, how long will the NFL let Nipplegate haunt the Super Bowl halftime show?

Can't the league throw a bone to young viewers and book a Lil Wayne or Coldplay or Amy Winehouse, just to mix it up a little?

Oh, well, being on the cusp of geezerhood myself, I'm looking forward to seeing Bruce and the E Streeters do their 12-minute set this Sunday.

Sure, I'll cringe when they bring out the obligatory 2,000 screaming and dancing teens to surround the stage and act like they're rocking out, teens who will probably be thinking: Who are these old guys, anyway?

And if the corporate audience at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa does some kind of goofy flash-card show in the middle of the Boss' act, that'll be mortifying, too.

I'll keep watching no matter what, though.

But I doubt many young people will.

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