- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Britney Spears has agreed to lend her celebrated bellybutton to the NFL’s season-opening festivities on the National Mall tomorrow night.

The air of anticipation surrounding the arrival of this bellybutton leads to an obvious question:

Are you ready for some stuff that has nothing to do with football?

Spears is hardly the only entertainer looking to increase the nature of the NFL Experience, although she is certainly the cheesiest.

The latter superlative appears to be by design.

Spears, of course, became an American icon with the teenybopper crowd after discovering the incredible power of the human bellybutton.

Hers is now the leading bellybutton in America. There really is no debate in this area.

Spears wears her bellybutton as a badge of honor, if not as an artifact of history. She undoubtedly regrets that she has but one bellybutton to give to the NFL. Her singing ability is incidental, if it is that. She steps into public view, flashes her bellybutton, and then hands out smelling salts to the masses fainting in the presence of the bellybutton.

If America could clone this bellybutton, planting it in all the hot spots across the globe, it seems the world would be a safer place.

The combination of a provocative bellybutton, more than 20,000 military personnel and a football game is a uniquely American concept that resists an easy definition.

The NFL might as well have extended an invitation to the United Nations, given the Hollywood obsession with U.N. support.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who secured the backing of the Department of Defense for the gala on the National Mall, is attempting to honor our soldiers. A sideshow featuring a bellybutton is a curious honor for the military men and women protecting our interests.

Just guessing, but the women probably are not as fascinated with the bellybutton as the men.

Even so, the first 5,000 soldiers who show up on the National Mall in their uniforms will land the positions closest to the stage and the bellybutton. This is expected to cut down on the need of the soldiers to pack their night-vision goggles.

The prospect of the bellybutton has resulted in the further planting of the unofficial city flower, the concrete barrier, in the areas around the National Mall this week. Certain thoroughfares have been closed, security is tight, and traffic is apt to be an intensely competitive endeavor, depending on the time of the day.

“What you’re seeing is what you’re going to see in the future at major events,” the U.S. Park Police assistant chief says, no ifs, ands or bellybuttons about it.

This is the threat to the threat in the post-September 11 world.

The outcome of the concert is possibly in as much doubt as the game between the Redskins and Jets.

Spears is coming off an open-mouth kiss with Madonna, who is almost old enough to be her grandmother.

The high-profile kiss was completed without mouthwash, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the exchange after considering the busy past of the matronly stalker.

A go-around on the National Mall qualifies as an encore to the kiss, if the owner of the bellybutton is up to it.

To be fair, football players also have bellybuttons, some lost in the rolls of skin that allow men to be linemen on either side of the ball.

To make room for the bellybutton, the start of the game is a sleep-challenging 9 p.m. By the middle of the third quarter, the nodding-off process should be in full swing along the East Coast.

The thrust to minimize the entree is a convenient response to the re-emergence of Vinny Testaverde, who is forever color-blind. His unexpected relevance has come about following an injury to Chad Pennington, one of the two best developments of the preseason for the Redskins. The injury to Michael Vick was the other.

The Redskins may not be playoff material, but they accept the challenge of playing against a backup quarterback in the first two weeks of the season.

As it is, the Redskins have their own loss at quarterback to work through following the departure of Danny Wuerffel, who was believed to be one of the few members of the team on a first-name basis with coach Steve Spurrier. Names, first or last, are not one of the coach’s strengths.

That is a distant note in the week of the NFL Experience.

You never know. The experience could lead to an entertaining football game, assuming you have the physical wherewithal to stick with the game.

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