Every year, over 100 million people tune into the Super Bowl to watch America’s biggest sports spectacle unfold. If some good football gets played along the way, even better. Sure, the event has a few thrills, but it’s the things we can’t predict that get people talking the next day. The Nipplegates and the Left Sharks. These unlikely events strike viral gold in the eyes of our reality-obsessed, meme-loving culture and the search for the next one gives viewers something else to fixate on during the game.
Here are some of the all-time classics.
The Moment: The “Wardrobe Malfunction” That Undid America
Few people remember who played in Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. What the 140 million who did tune in remember, however, is the Halftime Show — namely, when television audiences got a glimpse, for 9/16th of a second, of Janet Jackson’s breast. The event, which became known as “Nipplegate,” sent some Americans scrambling for their TiVo remotes to rewind and rewatch. It actually became the most rewound moment in TiVo history — the 21st century equivalent to what Sharon Stone uncrossing her legs was to VHS. It also sent other Americans scrambling for pearls to clutch and complaint forms to fill out.
The Wardrobe Malfunction set off an FCC domino effect that 1) Led all live television events to air with a 5-second delay and 2) The proposal and passing of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005, which gives fines and penalties to networks for “the broadcast of obscene, indecent, or profane language.” Watchdog elements of TV viewing that are still in place today.