Why cant we get the same respect from the Tallahassee Democrat?Band-Aid the perfect fix for halftime at Super Bowl

Seattle Times staff columnist

Les Carpenter / Times staff columnist


Janet Jackson, left, shown with Justin Timberlake, caused a furor after her nipple hit the air during Super Bowl XXXVIII.

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RSS feeds The best part is the hand-wringing. From the moment Janet Jackson’s nipple popped onto everyone’s Trinitrons, the NFL has fretted, pointed fingers and thrown its arms in the air over the bosom that slipped its moorings.

It’s always fun when something like this happens. Congress convenes committees, television executives call for heads and the NFL wonders how it was duped by a desperate publicity-seeking ex-star who hadn’t recorded a song worth remembering in more than a decade.

Then the NFL goes back and looks for another forgotten star from a lost generation hoping for that last ticket to relevance. This time they’ve pulled out Paul McCartney, who came to the Louisiana Superdome two Super Bowls ago and performed a dreadful song called “Freedom.”

But at least he didn’t bare his breast, which is why he is back again to perform yet another halftime show that has little chance of being any good.

Somewhere in the gloss of overproduction, the NFL lost sight of the simplicity that made the league great. The Super Bowl isn’t a place for lip-synched medleys from has-been singers or sizzling volcanoes and grumbling motorcycles and whatever else they can drag across the field. It’s still supposed to be about football.

And what says football better than a marching band?

At least the league did something right when it invited the Florida A&M Marching 100 to make the two-hour drive from Tallahassee to Jacksonville this year. But not many will know this. Because the Marching 100, a sea of swirling, twirling orange that might be the best show in college sports, won’t make national television when it arrives at the Super Bowl.

It will only be on the field for six minutes during the pregame show before being hurried off so Alicia Keys can sing a tribute to Ray Charles.

Maybe the NFL doesn’t realize what it has, which is undoubtedly true given the way it has paraded one wretched halftime show after another. But the Marching 100 is a part of NFL history, having played at the 1970 Super Bowl in New Orleans. The Marching 100 is a part of a lot of histories, strolling triumphantly down the Champs Elysees during France’s bicentennial, marching through two presidential inaugurations and performing at the 1984 Summer Olympics.

The Marching 100 would be perfect for a Super Bowl halftime show. Only the NFL doesn’t do marching bands for halftime shows anymore. It’s too quaint.

“If they were selected to do a command performance, I don’t think there’s any doubt they’d be up to the task,” said Alvin Hollins, FAMU’s assistant athletic director. “One thing about our band, they can do a lot. They will do a John Philip Sousa theme, then mix in a song from Beyoncé or James Brown.”

The FAMU band would be fantastic. It would shake, it would move, it would fill everybody’s living room with a brassy boom. Half of America would probably be dancing by the end.

“With bands, that’s what they live for, is halftime,” Hollins said. “They live for that chance to have a captive audience. If the NFL wanted to rein that other stuff in, they should bring back the bands. I don’t know if anyone watches the halftime anyway. Usually you go into the kitchen or out to check the grill.

“A little retro is in order.”

During football season, it is not uncommon for the predominately African-American colleges of the South to extend halftime from 15 to 30 minutes to give the bands a chance to perform. The players, the fans and the administrators don’t mind. In fact, the 70,000 people who fill the stands for these Division I football games are there only for the music. They call it the “Battle of the Bands,” and each school plays to blast the other off the turf.

A few years ago FAMU played Grambling at Miami’s Pro Player Stadium. It rained that night, filling the field with giant puddles. Stadium officials, worried about the playing conditions for a Dolphins game scheduled for the next day, canceled the halftime show. The fans stormed the ticket offices, demanding their money back.

Imagine what the FAMU band could do if it was allowed out of its safe, six-minute spot in the pregame show that America will never see?

Sadly, the NFL does not want to know. Rather it will parade the usual suspects: a singer from a defunct band mixed in with someone named Ashlee or Brandi mouthing the words to something recorded months ago. There will be some dancers and a lot of fireworks. But it will be stale and contrived.

And America will be in the kitchen or outside checking the grill.

Les Carpenter: 206-464-2280 or