By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

Explain this: Janet Jackson's lovely, surgically-enhanced breast, exposed for the briefest of seconds, is a Super Bowl outrage worthy of condemnation from this country's highest power, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. But a naked, blonde Desperate Housewife jumping into the lusting arms of Terrell Owens is the perfect way to kickoff Monday Night Football?

Explain this: Joe Horn grabbing a cell phone, Chad Johnson making a sign, T.O. shaking pom-pons and Warren Sapp skipping through the opposition's pre-game calisthenics are the kind of showboating and self-promotion the NFL wants to avoid. But a naked, blonde Desperate Housewife talking Terrell Owens into missing an NFC East clash is the perfect way to promote Monday Night Football?

You can't. Neither can the NFL. Nor can ABC. The league issued a statement on Tuesday, calling the network's opening of Monday night's Philadelphia-Dallas clash "inappropriate and unsuitable."

ABC, meanwhile, apologized for the risqué lead-in after it heard complaints from a number of offended viewers.

Doesn't change a thing. It happened. Millions of people saw it, right there in prime time. And ABC, by issuing the apology Tuesday amid controversy, received the free publicity it wanted for its Housewives on Sundays.

Look, I wasn't among the offended ones. I was shocked and stunned. And jealous. As long as we're trying to explain these obvious NFL hypocrisies, I'd like someone, please, to also explain to me why Justin Timberlake and Terrell Owens land all of the good jobs.

The spoof on ABC's wildly popular, night-time drama, "Desperate Housewives," caught me -- and I'm sure everyone else -- totally off guard. I was jogging along on a treadmill at the downtown Hyatt Hotel in New Orleans when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw T.O., in full uniform, standing in the locker room with a wet, towel-clad blonde. I heard T.O. say something about "what's buried underneath that pool," and then I saw the naked, blonde Desperate Housewife drop her towel and leap into T.O.'s sure hands.

Uncertain of what I'd just witnessed and looking for an excuse to cut my workout 30 minutes short, I jumped off the treadmill, ran up to my room and frantically started calling all of my friends who might have been watching MNF.

My friend Ivan, a huge sports fan, TiVos everything. But this time, he didn't tune in in time to catch the whole opening. He only caught the ending, when the naked, blonde Desperate Housewife dropped towel and buried herself in T.O.'s arms.

"Hmmm,'' he said. "I bet there are some Cowboys' fans who didn't appreciate seeing that."

Yeah, they got a little more than Hank Williams Jr.

Now, my friend Jimmy The Freak, a deputy sheriff and moonlighting comedian, saw the whole thing.

"It was classic buck in the big house!'' screamed The Freak. "It was a new-millennium remake of that old Ken Norton movie, 'Mandingo'."

Now, I may not always understand The Freak's analogies, but at least he confirmed what I saw. Yes, ABC opened its telecast of "Monday Night Football," the NFL's regular-season showcase, with the league's No. 1 showboat showboating for TV ratings. One of the NFL's most-reprimanded stars participated in a sexually titillating spoof designed to shock TV viewers.

Nicollette Sheridan
AP
Even without her towel, Nicollette Sheridan drew stares at this month's American Music Awards.

Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake wanted to shock and titillate and promote. Joe Horn, Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens just want to promote themselves. What they do after a big play isn't remotely shocking or titillating.

How can the league stand against orchestrated end-zone celebrations and tolerate pre-game titillation at the same time? How can the league legislate how many players can do the Lambeau Leap after a touchdown, and tolerate Monday night nudity at the same time?

How can the league complain about the negative images depicted on the fictional show "Playmakers" and tolerate the depiction of T.O. as a libido-driven wide receiver at the same time?

The NFL, after the fact, has condemned the Monday night opening. But somebody had to know it was happening, either in the league office or at the Eagles' headquarters.

Truth is, every time T.O. poses on the Cowboys' star in the end zone, every time Warren Sapp prances through somebody's pre-game warmups, every time Joe Horn makes an in-game cell-phone call, the cameras are there at the ready, front and center. Nobody thinks they should pan away from it.

The truth, too, is that each network that televises the NFL uses the football broadcasts to promote its other programming. And was what ABC showed in the MNF opening any racier than what appears each week on "Desperate Housewives?"

You can't be a little bit pregnant. The NFL is nothing more than a long-running soap opera. It's operated for the sole purpose of driving TV ratings by any entertainment means necessary.

It's unfair to ask Janet, Justin, Joe, Chad and Terrell to play by rules the league and the networks are unwilling to follow. If the NFL gets its wish, the league will be airing games soon on every day of the week except Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Football's TV nation already just went through a 19-day stretch of televised, Division-I NCAA and NFL games.

Football has reached its TV saturation point. To be different and compelling, I guess we can expect to see more showboating and titillation.

Just don't be surprised if everybody remains a little hypocritical about it.

Jason Whitlock is a columnist for the Kansas City Star and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of "The Sports Reporters." He also hosts an afternoon radio show, "The Doghouse," on Kansas City's 61 Sports KCSP. He can be reached at ballstate68@aol.com.




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Jason
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EXPLAIN THIS!