- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2004

It’s November, so the networks must be in search of ratings. “Monday Night Football” played along this week with a sexed-up skit — a punt straight out of the old-school send ups of sports stereotyping. Monday’s skit was at once funny and sexy. But some viewers failed to see the humor, and others went so far as to compare it the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake Super Bowl incident. Now, unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission is reviewing the pregame spot for a possible spanking not unlike the one Chairman Michael Powell gave CBS.

There is no comparison between the two spots other than the fact that both occurred during popular football broadcasts and both involved interracial couples.

A synopsis of what happened Monday:

The set up: An athlete is suited up to hit the field, when a blonde vixen sidles up for attention.

The backdrop: A locker room, where disrobing is the norm.

The cast: NFL bad boy extraordinaire Terrell Owens and desperate divorcee Edie, played by B-cup (and B-movie) actress Nicollette Sheridan.

Edie: Toying with a comb and dressed only in a stark-white towel, she purrs, “You and your little games.”

Owens: Matter-of-factly apologizes, “Donovan needs me.”

Edie: Retorts, “What about my needs? What about Edie?”

Then, in a perfect display of desperation, Edie doffs her towel and leaps into Owens’ arms, while he does what he has done with dead-on balls from Quarterback Donovan McNabb: Owens catches the pass.

Mr. Monday Night meets Ms. Saturday Night.

Risque for family viewing time? Certainly.

Obscene and offensive? No way.

Comparable to Janet-Justin incident? Hardly.

To be sure, ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” just like ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” is family time. One’s a sports show, while the other’s a soapy opera. Both ABC shows have high entertainment value.

In “Desperate Housewives,” Nicollette Sheridan plays who ABC calls “serial divorcee” Edie Britt, whose sexcapades are the buzz of fictitious Wisteria Lane, along with the behind-closed-doors drama and desperations of a handful of other wives. Think “Dallas” or its spinoffs, “Knots Landing” and “Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac,” in which a younger Nicollette co-starred.

Nighttime soaps, with their steamy sex scenes and manipulating characters, haven’t changed much since then — nor has Nicollette’s Coke-bottle figure.

What has changed, though, is women’s interest in sports. Indeed, there still are legions of so-called football widows (thanks to wives and girlfriends beingaggrieved by the proliferationof professional and college football games on all weekend long but the term couch potato no longer applies to men only. “Monday Night Football,” whichfirst aired 35 seasonsago, helpedspur those cultural changes.

The irony incritics’ comparisons of the Timberlake-Jackson Super Bowl fiasco to the Owens-Sheridan fumble is that, while the key players in both scenarios involved interracial couples, there was no violent undertow to the “Monday Night Football” scene.

Recall that Janet and Justin toyed with another in their musical duet that aired during halftime of the Super Bowl. After their performance, came the zinger: Justin ripped at Janet’s clothes. That’s what rapists and sexual predators do. Theirs was the darkest of several disgusting and raunchy moments during the Super Bowl’s other questionable “entertaining” moments. The FCC did the right thing by levying fines.

Miss Sheridan might have taken it all off on the set — though I seriously doubt she did. And young boys see bare backs, cleavages and more when you take them to be beach each summer.

The deal is that sex sells. It sells beer during sports games by using beautiful twins and other sex kittens.

It sells on the sidelines when cheerleaders strut their scantily clad stuff at every well-staged opportunity. The Laker Girls have always wowed the guys, and the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders are perhaps the most popular in the NFL. At the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field, it is the male fans who express the most appreciation when the cheerleaders jaunt off the field — and I am certain the same cultural reaction occurs in other stadiums.

Sex sells tobacco, too. Remember Tom Selleck’s rugged handsomeness as the Marlboro Man? It wasn’t because he smoked; it was because he was a stud.

I think I might have been a little miffed if, say, Donovan Mc- Nabb or some other married player had been the focus of Edie’s attention. Terrell Owens, who thinks he’s God’s gift to, not only women but to every quarterback he’s played with, was the right man for the job.

What we saw on Monday night — in addition to the Philadelphia Eagles embarrassing Coach Bill Parcells’ Cowboys — was a classic sendup of an old rivalry. Not a National Football League rivalry, mind you. But the rivalry between a woman wanting her man to pay more attention to her than the boob tube. A “Desperate” woman trying to lure her man away from a man’s sport.

For many a woman — present writer definitely excluded — spending Sunday afternoons watching football is one thing; Monday “night” is an entirely different matter.

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