TV & Showbiz

Who Ever Said The Super Bowl is ‘Family TV’?


Where did we ever get the idea that a live sporting event with the pressure of the Super Bowl was truly a “family-friendly” event?

Even before Justin Timberlake pulled at Janet Jackson’s top during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII, exposing her breast and nipple shield, she was dancing in an outfit so tight it looked as if it might have been made of spray paint.

MTV, hardly a programmer of preschool fare, produced the infamous halftime show; no matter whether you believe the wardrobe malfunction was an accident or intentional, that should have told you something.

Nine years later, one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about this year’s game involved the kiss from that awful GoDaddy spot and the accusation that it was so inappropriate for family viewing.

Family viewing?

Entertainment productions aside, where did we ever get the idea that a live sporting event with the pressure of the Super Bowl was truly a “family-friendly” event?

Consider this: MVP Joe Flacco’s F-bomb during the post-game celebration opened CBS to a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission. Bad behavior, certainly not the kind you’d call “family friendly” doesn’t only happen during post-game celebrations. Yes, even admired sports stars sometimes use salty language. Especially when they’re on the field. I doubt I’m breaking any news here with such a revelation.

Just watch the coaches and players of any game. Swearing and other unsportsmanlike conduct is as much a part of the game as the actual game play. There’s something in us, I think, that enjoys watching players and coaches — especially coaches — right up in an official’s face, screaming at the top of his lungs, launching every profane word in his verbal repertoire. Even if you don’t hear the tirade, it’s often not that difficult to read lips. And you can bet it’s not that difficult for your children to read lips, too.

And then there are the injuries. Football, no matter how much you like it, is a violent game. Just ask any of those longtime players who now have daily rituals like icing various parts of their bodies even though they haven’t set foot on the gridiron for years. Some games have injuries that are potential career-enders. Back in October, University of South Carolina player Marcus Lattimore suffered a “gruesome” knee injury during a play. I’ve heard about the video and what it shows. I still can’t bring myself to watch it. Nor can I imagine watching it with a young child and having them see exactly how gruesome football can be.

There are so many variables that can go into a live sporting event and a live musical production. Combined, the notion of “family friendliness” seems to be in question from the moment the cameras go on.

Yet a disgusting, 10-second closeup of a kiss gets singled out because children might be in the room?

I’m not trying to badmouth football here, but where did we get the notion that live coverage of a football game — particularly one with as much riding on it as this one — was one we’d be “safe” letting the kids watch? Where does this feigned “shock” come from, exactly?

Live television carries an inherent risk of something indecent happening. (And it’s worth noting that what‘s “indecent” for some is merely “fair game” for others. So we don’t even have a workable standard to deal with.) I think deep down, most parents are already well aware of that.

With that risk comes the constant need for a parent to act like one, to be ready with a finger on the clicker and an explanation for a young, inquiring mind.


  1. Here we are, 7 years later, and the outcry is even more deafening after what I consider a really fantastic Half Time Show. I found your article after googling “Who said the super bowl was family friendly” and it aged well. I wish more people would have read it 7 years ago when their precious children were newborns to prepare themselves for the fact that the world does not, in fact, revolve around their offspring and not all media on network television needs to be catered to their consumption.

  2. Very interesting points. There were definitely some commercials this go around that I do not believe that my kids should be seeing (The Calvin Klein one for one).

  3. I would TOTALLY rather watch the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake thing on repeat than EVER be exposed to ANY GoDaddy commercial! All of their ads are gross, and this one was just the worst (so far). I’m on the verge of telling Danica to jump in a lake and stay there if she can’t find some other company to sign on with. I just don’t get why she’d affiliate herself with those scuzbags….

    Football is for families, and the coaches AND players swear all the time. If you don’t know that, football is eminently NOT for your family!  I’ve been watching football as long as I can remember, and while my dad never swore in front of us kids, we did go to public school, so it’s not like I didn’t know the words. Besides, it’s not just football–haven’t you every seen a baseball game?? Or basketball? Or (back to public schools) stood on a playground and listened??

    1. psalm23 I’m almost tempted to YouTube some past GoDaddy commercials…I honestly can’t remember one other spot of theirs I’ve ever seen. I’m sure their advertising agency would say that’s not a good thing!

      1. patricksplace psalm23 They’re all the most incredibly overtly sexist ads I’ve seen in the past 30 years. Just AWFUL. Don’t YouTube them, unless you want to have to wash your brian.

  4. I don’t think that football is necessarily for the entire family to watch together if that family includes young children but I imagine that there are those who would disagree with me.  I don’t think I allowed my daughters to watch games with us until they were 10 -12  years old and we would use incidents of “unsportsmanlike behavior” as examples of how NOT to behave.  Part of being a parent means that you sometimes are faced with having to explain things to your children that you might not have imagined that you’d have to.  It happens and you deal with it. 
    Frankly, I wasn’t offended by the kiss in the commercial, really.  I thought it lasted longer than necessary but I’d rather see a display of affection over some things that pass as entertainment now days. *shrugs*

  5. I agree.. there were some pretty raunchy things in a few of those commercials.   I hate to say it, but prime time tv is worse. Sad, isn’t it?

    1. OrganizerSandy Prime time can definitely be worse than sports…particularly given some of the choices even on the traditional networks. The so-called “family hour” isn’t necessarily for the WHOLE family anymore.

  6. The shock was not feigned, at least not in my case. But then again, I’m probably the most conservative parent I know (not politcal conservative – just conservative about what I let my children see on TV).
    The Super Bowl is a very
    different animal from your normal football game. It has become a spectacle in
    and of itself. People who haven’t watched a second of the NFL season watch the Super
     On Celebration Sunday,
    our pastor tones down his message because he knows their will be children there
    who wouldn’t normally be. The same idea can be applied in this case. Given the
    hour the game is on, it’s not unreasonable to expect families are watching the
    game together.
    Many of us watch the game at
    Super Bowl parties. We don’t have access to nor control of the clicker.
    And yes, that was a VERY
    interesting discussion to have with my 13  year old daughter.
    I will never use GoDaddy for
    hosting. Sorry. I won’t be doing it. 
    The spot was inappropriate
    and I think CBS should have declined to run it. Timing is importnant. By the time Joe Flaccos uttered his F-Bomb it was well past when most kids would have still been watching the game (or even awake). The common sense solution would have been to simply switched the timing
    of the GoDaddy spot with the “Farmer” spot. That would have put the
    GoDaddy spot on in a later time slot.

    1. TedtheThird Fair points, Ted. So let me ask a few follow-ups here:
      First, the church offers a room for kids where they can do other activities and watch videos and NOT the game. So at what age is it “safe” for a kid to watch the potential for violence and inappropriate actions associated with football –AND– the higher level of the above because it IS the Super Bowl? I suspect that age varies child to child, family to family.
      Second, the F-bomb in this case happened to occur in post-game. But such slips can occur from a player or coach on the very first play. Even a live buffer isn’t completely fullproof because the person monitoring the feed has to see and hear EVERYTHING, and human error is always a possibility. So I submit that in the case of events like the Super Bowl, there’s no surefire way to protect kids from seeing SOMETHING that could be objectionable…other than not letting them watch at all.
      I’m trying to remember watching the Super Bowl as a kid. I can’t remember a time that I was ever made to go to bed in the middle of the game. Or even immediately after the clock ran out. Maybe I started watching a bit later than most kids, but I certainly was watching at a time when I’d have never gotten away with even CONSIDERING the use of the F-bomb. I agree that CBS could have rejected the spot outright. But I don’t necessarily agree that placing it later in the game would have solved all of the problems: if it’s not worth airing, it shouldn’t be worth airing at 8:15pm or 9:15pm.

      1. patricksplace TV has taken time slot in account for as long as I’ve been watching it. The shows and subjects get more ‘adult’ as you get later in the evening, so from that perspective there is a difference between 8:15pm and 9:15pm
        Post game, I believe the coverage switched to NFL Network. CBS was hot to get its delayed Sherlock Holmes show on. I wonder what the ratings were compared to those who switched to NFL Network or ESPN.
        In my case, my daughter was eating at the time the GoDaddy spot came on. We made sure she got to the kids room post haste after that. I thik I could have handled the F-bomb better than the GoDaddy commercial. It certainly would have been an easier explanation. But each parent and family is going to be sensative to different things.
        And for all the fuss we make about the kids seeing the GoDaddy spot, it made me pretty uncomfortable as an adult to watch it (and it had the car crash effect of wanting to look away and not being able to). I think some of the ‘for the children’ cries are covering for the adult’s disdain. My daughter really should be of an age where she can handle the GoDaddy spot (and my point is I think she might have handled it better than her old man).

        1. TedtheThird For what it’s worth, the GoDaddy spot made ME uncomfortable, too. Much more so than the F-bomb would have, if I’d seen that part of the coverage.

      2. patricksplace TedtheThird I really really think that the game used to be on earlier when I was a kid. I know I watched till the end and it wasn’t a matter of staying up till forever to do so. Mom wouldn’t have allowed that! It’s only in the last few years that I seem to remember it starting so late…
        Off to do some research on this….

        1. psalm23 TedtheThird You may be right about the earlier start times. It seems like at some point, the game started around 6pm rather than at 8pm. But I’m not certain about that.

        2. patricksplace TedtheThird is the best I can do for times…..
          It occurs to me that I grew up in the Mountain Time Zone, so the game really did start earlier there, even when it OFFICIALLY started earlier. lol

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.