Sports

Super Duds

I don’t watch many television commercials these days. My wife and I don’t actually get television. No satellite or cable, and certainly no broadcast here in the sticks. My parents next door have satellite, and we watch a few shows with them, but mom and dad hate the commercials and liberally employ the mute button. As a marketing communications professional, I should probably stay abreast of the latest TV commercials, but they are usually so bad and annoying, I don’t lose any sleep over missing them.

But for last night’s Super Bowl, I insisted dad put the remote down and keep the sound up. I shouldn’t have bothered.

The Super Bowl is supposed to be the showcase for advertising’s greatest creativity. If it is, what a sorry, sorry state the industry is in.

First of all, I can hardly even recall any of the spots, which is likely the worst thing you can say about advertising. I’m going over to NFL.com, which has a listing of the commercials quarter by quarter just to remind myself what I saw.

I'd like to teach the world to fight over Oreo cookies.

I’d like to teach the world to fight over Oreo cookies.

Oh, yes. There was the Oreo commercial that was just a stupid re-calibration of the old Miller Light campaign, “Tastes great. Less filling.” In this one a bunch of morons destroy a library arguing over whether it is the cookie or the creme filling that is the best part of the Oreo. We had the requisite competing Pepsi and Coke ads, of course. I think the Coke ad was trying to modernize the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” spot from the 1960s; while not exactly brilliant at least it is promoting harmony and not mayhem. And I have no idea what Pepsi was trying to say, but then I never do. I’m not cool enough to drink Pepsi.

There was that movie trailer with Vin Diesel and the Rock. Lots of things exploding. My mom commented, “I have no interest in seeing that.” To which I tried to explain that the studio would be horrified if she did; if an 81-year old woman wanted to see this flammable garbage, either the filmmaker fucked up or the promo people did, because, sadly, the last audience marketers not selling dentures or Depends care about is old people.

That Calvin Klein commercial simply looked like it had gotten lost on its way to HereTV.

And we can’t forget the beer commercials. These seem to come in two varieties, both of which promise that you’ll get laid if you drink their product. In the first variety, they want to convince us that the best way to improve our sex lives is by associating with their label. These ads feature people so fashion-conscious they orgasm just by seeing themselves in a mirror. The second and more common variety of beer commercial wallows in the frat boy mentality — just get everyone drunk, you’re bound to get fucked. The people in these spots are so stupid that even the brothers from Delta House would not want to be seen in their company.

Overall, what I’ve never understood about television commercials is how often the advertisers make the people who use their products look like idiots. Why do they do that? To make the commercials memorable? All this says to me is, “We think our customers are morons. Isn’t that funny?”

The advertisers pay $4,000,000 for each 30 seconds during the Super Bowl to display this dreck. So who are the morons, really?

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Three cheers for the Baseball Writers

Gashouse GorillaCongratulations to the Baseball Writers Association of America for proving they are the proper gatekeepers for America’s greatest sports museum. Today they sent the message that steroid use in sports is wrong by not electing anyone* on this year’s ballot to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

I’ve heard and read a lot of blather about how awful this would be if it happened. People who object to this outcome seem to hold it against the writers, instead of placing the blame where it belongs: with the cheaters. Clean players who feel unfairly tarred by the same brush as Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, need to look in the mirror and ask themselves why they stood by and let steroid use explode in the 1990s. Why did they let the Players Association block any efforts to test for illegal PEDs? Good for Curt Schilling acknowledging this after the voting results were released.

Let there be no mistake about it. If players who everyone knows were cheating are elected to the Hall of Fame, it will legitimize PED use. The Baseball Writers have, at least for a time, said you cheat and you don’t get the ultimate prize. Sorry.

The players who cheated could solve this current dilemma very easily. Stand up like men and admit it. That would make way for the clean players. Of course, this isn’t going to happen because the cheaters were never men of integrity. They were slimy cheaters, who wanted a short-cut to greatness and riches. They got the latter. Let them do without the former, please!

*Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio deserve to get in, but they had respectable first-ballot totals, and I’m certain they will at one point in the next few years.

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Marvin Miller: Modern day Lincoln? I don’t think so.

Marvin Miller, the great labor leader, died this week, and it has caused a ripple of hyperbole among sports journalists. This morning I was listening to MLB Radio while Peter Gammons, a journalist I very much admire and respect, refered to pre-Millerian baseball as a “plantation.” That is, the players were slaves, and Marvin Miller is a modern day Lincoln emancipating them from the suppression of their owners. Utter nonsense, of course. Baseball players prior to 1976 (when they finally got free agency) made a reasonable living playing a game. If they didn’t like their situation, they were always free to, you know, get a real job like the rest of us.

The minimum salary for players in 1966, the year Miller became the head of the players union, was $6,000. The average was $19,000. That’s for a job that consumed only two-thirds of the year. The average annual salary for Americans in 1966 was $6,900. So the average ballplayer was making nearly triple what he could expect to make in the real world. Not too bad, really.

I’m not trying to make Miller a villain. I believe ball players deserve the right to choose who to play for and for what amount. Just don’t try to convince me the players had it so bad before.

And don’t expect me to jump for joy about creating a new class of millionaire. Let’s face it, someone is footing the bill for those huge salaries and it isn’t the owners. Still, as anyone would argue, no one is forcing the fans to support the sport. It’s a market-driven business like any other. And that’s fine.

Ballplayers are rich, thanks to Mr. Miller. But why should I care? It’s not as if these powerful unions for various sports have done one ounce of good for the cause of unions in general. While the athletes’ unions got stronger, the union movement in America was crushed.

The current average salary of even the team with the lowest payroll is almost $2 million (and for the Yankees the average salary is over $6 million), but let’s ask ourselves how often we see baseball players or any other professional athletes standing on the picket line with the auto workers or any other union? Jim Bunning, one of the ballplayers who brought Miller to baseball, has actively worked against the interests of working people as a conservative U.S. Senator. I’d like to know what his stance was when Ronald Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Union in the early ’80s. My guess is he supported Reagan or kept his mouth shut; otherwise he wouldn’t have had the support of the Republican Party all these years.

So, yeah, it’s nice for the players that they have a strong union that gets them lots of money on the backs of the fans who support the teams. This is right. It’s the American way. Especially the part where they become millionaires and turn their backs on the labor movement in general.

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Tim Tebow vs. Bill Belichick

Tonight is the showdown of showdowns in the NFL post season, with the New England Patriots squaring off against the miraculous Denver Broncos, led by overtly Christian Tim Tebow. You’re either a Bill Belichick fan or a Tim Tebow fan in this one. But I must say that it is a little unfair that one side has an all-knowing, all-powerful being while the other just has God.

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What’s up, Doc?

There may be hope for us after all.

Whether it’s an earthquake, a hurricane or the Tea Party threatening to hit the self-destruct button, the world has started to feel like it is falling apart (and that’s just here on the east coast of the U.S.). But I found hope yesterday listening to MLB Radio on SiriusXM. A pitcher (with the Milwaukee Brewers, I think) was describing the repertoire of another major leaguer and said he has “a Bugs Bunny change-up.”* I couldn’t help but laugh, then thought we can’t be too far down the drain if 20-something professional athletes still use Bugs Bunny as the barometer of an effective pitch?

Bugs Bunny, the glue that will keep America — and even western civilization — together.

*For non-baseball savvy readers, a change-up is a pitch that looks like your fastball, but which you throw slower — also known as an off-speed pitch. Just keeps the hitters guessing. The reference is to the Looney Toons cartoon in which Bugs single-handedly takes on the Gas-House Gorillas. In one inning, he winds up like he is going to throw the fastest pitch possible, but when it leaves his hand, the ball floats slowly to the plate, and he strikes out three batters with that one pitch!

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To stand or not to stand

Peter Abraham of the Extra Bases blog over at the Globe.com commented on the fact that many baseball players are not on the field standing at attention when the national anthem is played to kick off a ball game. He wondered about this “disrespect” for the United States, and if MLB should require players to stand at attention for the anthem.

I like Pete. He is an insightful baseball writer. But he is a little off the deep end with this inquiry. Playing the national anthem before a sporting event is a bit of a strange tradition anyway. What do sports and patriotism have to do with one another? I doubt that Pete has to stand while the anthem is played in his office before he begins work. Really, what’s the difference? Just the fact that a bunch of people are gathered together? There are special occasions when the anthem is called far. I choke up when the Star Spangled Banner is played during medal ceremonies at the Olympics.

Look it is okay with me if it continues before ballgames. Most people seem to appreciate it. The national anthem is about uniting people of a nation, not alienating them from each other. And I even think that ball players on the field should stand at attention, instead of stretching or shoving another chaw in their mouths. But requiring them to be on the field? Well, that’s just crossing the line into fascism and that’s not a line we should get anywhere near.

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Why I am rooting for the Packers this weekend

Okay, it hasn’t been proven in court, and in the eyes of the law someone is innocent until proven guilty, but I’m entitled to my opinion. And I believe, from what I’ve heard and read (here and here), that Ben Roethlisberger is guilty — at best — of treating women badly, and at worst of being a genuine rapist. He’s the very essence of the over-privileged, wealthy athlete. And I don’t believe he’s changed his ways. Five years ago he flew headlong into a car windshield riding his motorcycle without a helmet. You would think that surviving something like that might make him more human (and smart enough to start using a helmet — but there are reports that he continues to ride with nothing but his brute face to protect that decaying brain). But this is clearly a man who thinks he’s invulnerable to the laws of the land as well as of physics. If he learned anything from last year’s brush with Georgia’s so-called judicial system it is that he can get away with it. Oh, he got a little slap on the wrist from the NFL, which needs to pretend it cares about such things. But if he wins his third Super Bowl on Sunday, there will only be talk of his legacy as a great quarterback. No one will talk about the dark side of Big Ben — that is until he assaults another woman, maybe in a state that has an actual law enforcement agency that cares about the truth.

So I am going to be cheering on the Green Bay Packers this weekend, which, unfortunately, almost assures that they will lose. But better to root for the loser than to cheer for a repulsive creep.

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Headline writers!

Just saw this up on the Red Sox site at Boston.com. Either the headline writer hates Theo Epstein or he didn’t have his morning coffee! (FYI, the story is about the need for bullpen help.) No further comment.

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Good bye, Dandy Don!

The first full football game I ever watched was the 1966 NFL championship game* between the Dallas Cowboys and the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers. I was 10 years old and didn’t know anything about either team, but I found myself cheering for the Cowboys, maybe because I liked their uniforms better or it seemed they were the underdog. Or maybe it was just because I got the concept of a cowboy, while I had no idea what a packer was supposed to be.

Dallas ended up losing that game, but it was exciting right down to the end and it was then I became a lifelong Dallas Cowboy fan (well before they became “America’s Team” they were my team). And what a fun team to root for. They had great players in Bob Lilly, Bob Hayes, Lee Roy Jordan, Jethro Pugh and Don Perkins. But my favorite was the quarterback, Don Meredith. He led them into the playoffs the next two seasons, including another matchup against the Packers in the infamous Ice Bowl, which they lost on the last play of the game. And then Meredith abruptly retired — I think he quipped at the time that when he saw Roger Staubach spending his leave from the Navy practicing with the Cowboys, he knew it was time to depart.

Meredith went on to be a star on Monday Night Football telecasts for the next 15 years. Then he disappeared from the limelight. He died yesterday at the age of 72.

Thank you, Dandy Don, for giving me some wonderful memories.

*Even though the Packers went on to play the Kansas City Chiefs in what became known as the Super Bowl, the AFL had yet to merge with the NFL, so the game between Dallas and Green Bay was the NFL Championship.

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What a concept

David Ortiz promises he’ll “play hard” for the Red Sox this year, even though they only agreed to pay him $12.5 million instead of renegotiating his contract. What a sport!

Of course, to actually earn $12.5 million, David would need to hit 50 home runs, rack up 125 RBIs, teach a year of high school algebra, rescue five people from burning buildings, respond to 127 police emergencies and cure cancer.

Alternatively, he could work on Wall Street, cost thousands of teachers, firemen, police officers their life savings, and still get a $12.5 million bonus. Gotta love America.

 

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