HOUSTON — Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's big game, Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Kid Rock and Nelly are determined to make sure Super Bowl XXXVIII goes down in history.
All the acts performing in the MTV-produced halftime show practiced Thursday night at Reliant Stadium and are ready to go. About 3,000 kids covered in clear plastic rain ponchos stopped traffic that evening as they made their way over to the home of the Houston Texans, and once inside the dome they found both shelter from the rain and a carnival-like atmosphere.
The first thing they saw as they walked in was a set that was every bit the spectacle you'd expect, with multiple connected stages, each loaded with its own unique features. A sea of controlled chaos, including more than 400 volunteers, hundreds of MTV crew members and thousands of extras, were swarmed around the massive structure.
Everyone cheered as Janet Jackson made her grand entrance, while P. Diddy watched in silence from edge of the tunnel that leads onto the field. Jermaine Dupri made his way out of the tunnel with a smile and swagger to check on his girlfriend when she finished her set, the details of which are being kept under wraps.
The thousands of kids, who'll also be part of the show come Sunday, took up a small section of the stands, but their long and loud cheers made it sound like a sold-out game. "Nelly! Nelly! Nelly!" they chanted before eventually singing along with one of the songs that he'll use in his number. When the music was turned off in the middle of a verse, they kept it going a cappella.
The object of their affection was so excited to be there that he wanted to throw a football into the stands, but he was persuaded not to. Instead, he talked to the fans, yelling "H-Town!" into the mic. He was answered with a chant of "Derrty E.N.T. We all we got!"
During Diddy's run-through, the Bad Boy CEO made an 11th-hour executive decision and adjusted his music. "I need you to step away right now," he said to his choreographer. "I need you to go up in the stands somewhere and listen to both versions."
While Diddy was waiting for his music to be cued up, he showed love to the fans, yelling "What's up?" into the mic and being answered with a roar. No matter how many times the artists rehearsed, the kids screamed like it was their first time seeing the show.
Backstage in the green room, Nelly and Diddy's crews cracked jokes and ate while one of Diddy's special guests made the rounds, sharing stories and shaking hands. The big dog rolling with P.D.? Baseball legend Reggie Jackson.
Friday at MTV's nearby compound was all about football legends and music superstars as MTV taped its "Rock 'N Jock" game.
"I'mma show you enough today to make you wanna sign me," Deion "Primetime" Sanders said with confidence to teammate Dan Marino, who's now an executive with the Miami Dolphins.
"Sure, you'll play for the minimum?" Marino asked with a chuckle.
"The minimum?" Sanders responded, showing his patented grin. "The minimum won't even pay for my wardrobe."
The 300-pound-plus Ruben Studdard came over to discuss his role in the day's game. "I'm just going to block," the "American Idol" winner said.
"We're going to give you a little short pattern," Marino told him, garnering a huge laugh from another of their teammates, Nick Cannon, who was sitting nearby and surprisingly silent until then.
"Rock 'N Jock" coach Warren Sapp was anything but quiet. One moment he'd be jaw jacking with the opposing team's quarterback, Warren Moon, and then the next moment he'd be making his way over to talk junk to Moon's team captain, Nick Lachey.
"After you, captain," Lachey told Nelly as he held the door for him. Nelly is the captain of the Rock Stars team, coached by the Rock, and the rapper said he was confident he could make sure the Rock's prophesy of handing the Beat Down team a "Texas-size ass whuppin' " came true. "They don't know about me and my little derrty," Nelly said of the one-two punch he and Murphy Lee were going to provide. "We got something for them."
On the field, Nelly and Murph showed Deion they'd mastered his famous end-zone shuffle. Matthew Lillard threw passes to Fefe Dobson and Tara Reid, while Nicole Richie played catch with Chingy.
To see who really had skills on the gridiron, tune to MTV on Saturday. "Rock 'N Jock Super Bowl XXXVIII" airs at 2 p.m. ET, right after a special edition of "TRL" that begins at 1 p.m. Friday night on MTV, a special "MTV's Super Bowl Friday Night: Live From Houston " concert airs live at 10 p.m. Hosted by Cedric the Entertainer and Wanda Sykes, the show will feature N.E.R.D. and Puddle of Mudd.
Hangin' in H-Town — News and Notes From the Super Bowl:
- It has been unseasonably cool this week in Houston. Usually around 70 degrees, the city has been stuck in the 50s, spurring many of the celebs to break out their furs. P. Diddy came up with the best way to beat the cold, though — leave. "It's too cold," he said at the outdoor rehearsal Wednesday. "We can do this via satellite at my house in Miami."
- Since J. Lo has broken up with Ben Affleck, people have questioned whether she'll hook back up with Diddy. Well, Puff hasn't ruled it out. At least onstage. When asked if Jennifer Lopez might be the special guest for the Super Bowl halftime show, P.D. didn't flinch or dismiss it. He suggested that people tune in and find out.
Super Bowl XXXVIII will air live from Houston's Reliant Stadium on Sunday. Coverage begins at 9 a.m. ET with the special "MTV's TRL at the Super Bowl."
For more on the weekend festivities, check out MTV Super Bowl Weekend.