They are calling it a "lyric malfunction", echoing the "wardrobe malfunction" at a previous Super Bowl when Janet Jackson "accidentally" revealed a naked breast during a dance routine with Justin Timberlake.
Some 100 million viewers were watching on Sunday night when the singer Christina Aguilera mashed up the lyrics of "The Star-Spangled Banner" just three lines into her elaborately warbled rendition. Thanks to Twitter, her fumble – as American football commentators call a dropped ball – caused a huge storm, bigger even than that which erupted over Ms Jackson.
Embarrassing and disrespectful, tweeted outraged critics. A "creative reimagining", replied her fans, somewhat desperately. The singer issued an immediate apology, saying she had been "caught up in the moment".
No such excuse for the cut-price internet site Groupon which paid $2m a go for three 30-second advertisements that were shown during the match. Would-be jokey commercials about repression in Tibet, saving the whale, and halting the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest, they were spectacularly ill-judged and no one laughed.
On the pitch the Pittsburgh Steelers went down to the Green Bay Packers, but the biggest losers of the evening were elsewhere.