How I Was Spared the Indecencies of Halftime
How I Was Spared the Indecencies of Halftime
The buzz in the paper this morning was the Super Bowl halftime incident involving Janet and Jason, a tear-away garment, and CBS's insistence that it had no idea indecent exposure had been planned for the show it was producing for 150 million football (or should I say, advertisement) fans around the world.
Through a series of miscalculations Barbara and I were spared the exposure. Without thinking very far ahead I scheduled last November a return trip by train on February 1st at 7 PM from a college reunion weekend in New York City. There weren't that many other choices for a Hartford train, if one wanted to do up the town all day. And we did... want to do up the town all day: church at 11:00 (read all about it under Reviews), lunch at 1:00, and movie at 3:15, leaving just enough time to taxi to the Williams Club, pick up our valise, and, as it turned out but not by design, walk to Penn Station. (My new knees performed admirably!)
Long ago, say late December as the NFL championship games were played, I realized how dumb I had been. But I am resourceful and figured I could still listen to the game on a Walkman. That was the second of my miscalculations.
The 7:00 PM Springfield MA regular train was running late, very late. "Twenty minutes," the signboard read. The PA speakers assured us at half an hour that the train was coming into the station. We finally boarded forty-five minutes late, or a full hour and a quarter after the New England-Carolina showdown was supposed to begin. I had already discovered that the tiny portable radio I held in my hand would pick up only two stations in the heart of Penn Station, one playing rock and the other in Spanish. By the time we reached Sunnyside, Queens, on our three borough tour of rail yards en route to Connecticut, I learned that FM stations weren't broadcasting the big game, at least not on any station available to me.
Like I said, I am resourceful. I whipped out my trusty cell phone and called home. No answer: Betsy was engaged in a long conversation with one of the twin's friend's mom. Not to be denied, I phoned Barbara's sister, whom we knew to be hosting a Super Bowl party. I didn't hesitate to interrupt her festivities because I was fairly certain (later confirmed by Eleanor herself) that the main interest in the football game would be, not the clever post patterns or the violence of the blitzes, but the ads. My dear sister-in-law laughed at the urgency of my request: "What's the score?" "7 to 7," she replied. "Call me again, please, should anything change," I pleaded.
For the next hour and a half, from Pelham to Berlin, I received a half dozen calls, each time the score changed. And it changed often, one of the most keenly contested championships ever, worthy of the name Super, with two quarterbacks performing like veteran generals in a battle to end all battles. Still there we were on the tracks with a useless FM radio, a coach sparsely filled with passengers seemingly uninterested in the news from Houston.
The train crew changed at New Haven. The new conductor assigned to our coach quickly realized I was in instant communication with the outside world and could report the score of the game. He sat in the seat across the aisle from us. He had been summoned from his perch in front of his TV set by an Amtrak administrator who needed immediately someone to replace an ailing (you can guess what I thought made him sick: Super Bowlitis) conductor. My aisle-mate is an ardent Patriot's fan, had a walkie-talkie contact with the engineer, and was trying to get the rapidly changing scores anyway he could. Which meant, mostly me and my dear sister-in-law in point-by-point contact by cell phone. 7 to 7, 14-7, 14-10, 21-10, 21-16, 21-22, 29-29, 32-29: something like that, I'm reporting from memory not The Times, enough back and forth to keep the three of us on seat's edge, waiting for the next vibration of my cell phone.
We detrained in Hartford at 10:25, just as the phone rang once more to tell us that Adam Vinatieri had kicked a field goal with four seconds left in the game, and the Patriots were the champs. Unfortunately, I could not share the news with the conductor, since we were well on our way down the stairs from the train platform to a waiting sedan (Betsy, the twins, and Tappy).
Only one small aside on the cell phone hinted at the scandalous halftime proceedings. Sister-in-law referred to a rock star's penchant for touching a part of his anatomy in a manner reminiscent of Rosanne Barr singing the national anthem. But nothing about Janet and Jason.
In retrospect I am tempted to claim for myself unwitting clairvoyance. I spared us the silly spectacle. Fact is, had we been home in front of the boob tube, I would, as is my annual custom, find my way during the halftime show to the kitchen to prepare a wonderfully non-caloric, cholesterol-less Dagwood of whatever cold cuts and cheese I could find in the refrigerator, plus, of course, a half dozen gherkins.