However, the game was largely overshadowed by events that occurred during the half-time show.
The Super Bowl half-time show has over the years, become something of an institution of its own. For the 2004 edition, the show’s producers Viacom’s MTV and CBS Sports, chose superstar Janet Jackson to headline. She started off the show with her hit “All for you”, and was followed by rappers P. Diddy, Nelly, and Kid Rock respectively, singing medleys of their own works.
Jackson then reappeared to perform her 1989 hit “Rhythm nation”. The show ended with a duet between Jackson and former boyband member Justin Timberlake (of N*SYNC). The two performed his hit “Rock your body”. The controversy occurred when, at the point where Timberlake sang the last line of the chorus “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song”, he grabbed a piece of her clothing and inadvertently ended up flashing Ms. Jackson’s right breast to the world.
Television cameras caught possibly less than 30 seconds of the incident, but it was enough to have people phoning the broadcasting commission to complain, making “Janet Jackson” the “most searched-for” person and term for 2004 and 2005 and “most searched event over one day”. In 2007, she also entered the Guinness World Records for “Most Searched in Internet History” and “Most Searched for News Item”.
The term that her team coined for the incident, wardrobe malfunction, was also entered into the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. The incident became the most watched, recorded and replayed television moment in TiVo history, garnering about 35 000 new subscribers for the company.
The incident however, gained Jackson more negative publicity than her on-stage partner, who, if all things were fair, should have received as much criticism for his role as she did.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined CBS $550 000. In the wake of the incident, media corporations involved with the broadcast, such as Viacom and CBS, their co-owned subsidiaries MTV and Infinity Broadcasting, and Clear Channel Communications, issued a blanket ban on playing Jackson’s music via their channels globally.
In 2014, the former FCC chairman Michael Powell publicly acknowledged that reaction to the incident had been overblown and that Jackson had not deserved the harsh treatment she received. He even stated as “unfair” that Timberlake did not receive the same backlash.
The fine was eventually voided by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2011.
This was incidentally the last Super Bowl to be played in Houston, Texas. And fyi, the Panthers lost to the New England Patriots by three points.
But for Super Bowl XXXVIII, the football was the sideshow in popular memory to the infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’.