Reflecting on the 10th Anniversary of Most Famous Super Bowl Halftime Show

Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commission

(East Rutherford, NJ) – Hard as it is to believe, it has been 10 years since the most controversial – and famous – halftime show at any of the Super Bowls. One can only hope that this year’s halftime performers at Super Bowl XLVIII won’t try to top it.

On February 1, 2004, Super Bowl XXXVIII was played at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX, and broadcast on CBS. The game was between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots. And while the Patriots won 32-29, most don’t even remember who played in the game. They remember the halftime show.

At the end of a performance with Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, Timberlake ripped part of Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast to at least 143 million viewers’ televisions. Despite attempts by CBS to pan away from the entertainment, it was too late, and the term “wardrobe malfunction” was born.

Reaction was swift and mostly furious. A mother, agreeing to speak on condition of anonymity, recalled she was watching the halftime show with her family, including her eight-year-old son. When the incident occurred, she “shrieked like a little girl” and tried to cover her young son’s eyes, but it was too late.

“He couldn’t take his eyes off of the television,” said the mother, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He stared at the television and drooled for the entire second half of the game. I think it scarred him for life. He’s still in therapy today.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wasn’t amused, either. It levied a record $550,000 fine against CBS, which fought the fine for eight years through the legal system. And, due to the incident, all Super Bowl performances are now subject to a five-second delay.

“We had no choice,” said a spokesman for the FCC, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Once it went out over the air, it just seemed like everyone wanted to google Janet Jackson.”

After issuing days of denials that the incident was an accident, Janet Jackson finally videotaped a half-hearted mea culpa. It, too, was delivered with a five-second delay.

To this day, the NFL acknowledges one of its most embarrassing moments in history. “Clearly, this was a major embarrassment for the league, and we take it, as well as the subsequent consequences, very, very seriously,” said a spokesman for the NFL, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I mean, even more embarrassing than having NFL players accused of drug use, murder, rape, being psychopaths, being animal torturers, and shooting themselves. And more embarrassing than the NFL’s lame attempt to address the lingering after-effects of playing football.”

“The American public should know that both Timberlake and Jackson are banned for life from attending a Super Bowl,” continued the spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And the NFL agrees with the FCC on the fine and on the five-second delay.”

“But,” the spokesman chuckled on condition of anonymity, “you have to admit, it definitely was the breast Super Bowl ever.”

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