Mayor Mike’s Super Bowl Selfie

Facebook can be pretty jarring these days.  You’re scrolling through posts about your friend’s great trip to Italy, or the impressive honor a colleague received from her alma mater, or the fine paintings other friends have created, or pictures of kids and dogs and home remodeling projects . . . and then suddenly you’re confronted with overt political ads.  They stick out like a sore thumb.

Consider this Facebook ad for former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg that appeared on my news feed recently.  He apparently has bought ad time for the Super Bowl game, but he wants to encourage people to go to some other page to see the ad even before game time — and as a result the friends on Facebook have to see this crudely photo-shopped image of a grim Mayor Mike staring into the distance, sleeves rolled up as politico sleeves always are, towering over a football stadium, with his foot on a football.  It’s like a gigantic political selfie.  (And it might be tone deaf, besides — if you’re a football fan, you certainly don’t think that anyone is bigger than the game itself, and if you’re not a football fan, you probably don’t want anyone to remind you that the Super Bowl will be dominating water cooler conversations come Monday.)

Facebook has always been a political forum of sorts, as people have posted comments and memes about the political events of the day.  But we seem to have moved into a new era where it’s not just Facebook friends posting their political views, but also the candidates themselves barging into your news feed.  It’s like a group of people standing and talking and minding their own business when an overly caffeinated campaign volunteer butts in and starts pushing fliers into your hand and talking about how awful the opposing candidate is.  To me, at least, overt Facebook political ads like Mayor Mike’s Super Bowl Selfie seem awfully intrusive, and not effective for that reason.

As time has passed Facebook has become a lot more commercialized and ad-oriented, and now it’s becoming more politicized, too.  I prefer the old dog and kid photo days.

 

The Eternal Question

Well, it’s Super Sunday again.  That means it’s time for the New England Patriots to play for the pro football championship . . . again.  It’s the third straight year the Patriots have kicked the ass of the rest of the AFC and made it to the Super Bowl.  Overall, it’s the eleventh Super Bowl for the Patriots, the most for any team.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns are still sitting on that inglorious goose egg.  Which raises, as it does every time a Super Bowl is played, the seemingly eternal question for we Browns fans:  will the Browns ever play in a Super Bowl — much less win one — in my lifetime?

I was a rosy-cheeked lad of 9 when the first Super Bowl was played, 52 years ago, after the end of the 1966 season.  At that time, the Browns were a very good team.  They’d won the league championship only two years before, at the tail end of the pre-Super Bowl days, and had lost in the championship game the next year.  If you’d asked people then whether the Browns would ever play in a Super Bowl, they might have viewed it as a trick question, because there was a legitimate question of whether the Super Bowl was just a kind of exhibition game or a permanent fixture on the pro football scene.  But if you’d said the Super Bowl would be played 53 times and asked how many times, the Browns would play, no one — absolutely no one — would have guessed that zero would be the right answer.

Yet, here were are.  I’m in my 60s, and the Browns haven’t made it.  They’ve come close — the last time, incidentally, was 30 years ago — but they’ve nevertheless been shut out.  And while this past season was a ray of sunshine after three of the worst seasons in Browns’ history, the goal of a Super Bowl still seems very far away.

So, will the Browns ever make it to a Super Bowl in my lifetime?  I honestly don’t know, but I do know that I’m steadily getting older.

 

“Celebrating” The Super Bowl

The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl last night, and then the city of Philadelphia “celebrated” with a riot.

1226802Journalists listening to calls coming in on the Philadelphia police scanner heard about Christmas trees being set ablaze, drunken people climbing telephone poles, and marauding people roaming highways.  People flipped over cars, pulled down light poles and traffic lights, threw bottles, and destroyed property.  And, of course, people were injured in the melee, either from being assaulted by other rioters or by falling from the places where they shouldn’t have climbed in the first place.  For hours afterward, the victory in a football game turned downtown Philadelphia into a dangerous, violent place where the law and normal rules of behavior went out the window.

It’s an all-too-familiar story, where a sports victory causes a bunch of drunken fans to go crazy.  It’s happened before in Philadelphia, and in other American cities.  It’s not just an American phenomenon, either — it seems to happen with European soccer fans, too.

I can understand the impulse to go outside and be with fellow fans to celebrate your team’s big win, but I don’t get why, in many instances, the celebration suddenly turns violent and destructive.  I guess it’s just the influence of alcohol and drugs and fellow “celebrants” who are really just looking for an excuse to break things up and throw a few bottles, and a few punches.

At times like this I’m happy that Columbus doesn’t have a professional football team.

Super Unfunny

Super Bowl LI will be the stuff of legend, but the commercials during the game?  Not so much.

I can’t say that I saw every commercial broadcast during the game, of course, but the ones I did see weren’t very memorable.  Basically, in this Super Bowl as in other Super Bowls, the commercials fell into two main categories:  the tedious “story” ads that hit you over the head with a message, and the ads that are supposed to be funny.  (There’s also a third category of weird, one-off ads from companies that simply want to get their name out there during the Super Bowl, even though there is basically no chance that 99.99% of the viewing audience will ever purchase their product or service.  This year, the Morgan Freeman ad for Turkish Airlines aptly represents that category.  Turkish Airlines?  Really?)

The enormous Super Bowl audience endures the “story” ads, and accepts the perverse notion of large corporate sponsors lecturing us on the proper way of thinking about something, in hopes that the ads that are trying to be funny will make us laugh.

This year . . . not so much.  I like seeing Melissa McCarthy slammed around as much as the next guy, but her ad was symptomatic of the flaws that seemed to infect all of the wannabe funny ads — a thin premise that gets beaten to death and tries way too hard.  You sit and watch them, kind of shake your head, and marvel that this is the best that a huge ad agency and a million-dollar commercial buy can do.  I didn’t see anything clever or original in a way comparable to the classic “Doberhuahua” ad from a few years ago, for example — and because we could all use a hearty laugh these days, I’ve linked to it below.

Who knows?  Maybe a symptom of aging is that you think the commercials during past Super Bowls are better than the current crop — but I doubt it.

Patriots And Parity

We’re only a few days away from the Super Bowl, and I haven’t heard anyone talking about the game.  I had lunch a few days ago with four male friends, and literally not one word was spoken about Super Bowl LI.  Donald Trump and his antics were discussed ad nauseum, but football didn’t come up once.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England PatriotsIt’s not just because of Trump, of course.  It’s also because nobody is particularly excited about this Super Bowl match-up.  This has to be the least buzzworthy Super Bowl since — well, maybe ever.  Who cares about the Atlanta Falcons, and how many times can a person watch the New England Patriots, anyway?

But let’s pause for a moment to at least give a nod to the Patriots, their grumpy and rumpled head coach Bill Belichick, and their quarterback, Tom Brady.  Since Belichick has become the Patriots’ top dog in 2000, they’ve made the NFL playoffs in all but three years.  They haven’t missed the playoffs since the 2008 season.  And, even more impressive, the Patriots, Belichick, and Brady have made it to six Super Bowls during that run, winning four of them.  That’s why it seems like the Patriots are in every Super Bowl as a matter of federal law.

What’s remarkable about all of this is that the NFL is specifically designed to crush any possibility of the kind of dynasty the Patriots have become.  The NFL seeks parity above all else.  Regular-season schedules are set up so the strong play the strong and the weak play the weak, with the league hoping that everybody ends up with an 8-8 record and fans who are hoping for a playoff spot up until the very last game of the season.  And, of course, after every year players who have done well who have become free agents can go to other teams, and assistant coaches can be hired to be head coaches elsewhere, and the playing and coaching talent gets redistributed.

The Patriots, however, refuse to participate in the NFL’s regime of enforced mediocrity.  They lose players and coaches, but under Belichick and Brady they always fill the holes and just keep rolling along.  In a world where everything conspires against them — thereby feeding Belichick’s innate sense of paranoia — the Patriots somehow rise above and just keep winning.  Their run is as remarkable, in a positive way, as the Browns’ record of consistent and crushing futility is on the negative side.

So we’ve got to tip our cap to the New Englanders.  Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to actually watch them, again, in this Super Bowl.

Winging It

The Super Bowl is the greatest chicken wing-consuming event in America.  The National Chicken Council forecasts that Americans will chow down on 1.3 billion chicken wings during the game tomorrow.  That’s four wings for every man, woman, and child in America.  As the vice president for communications of the National Chicken Council aptly stated:  “Any way you measure it, that’s a lot of freaking wings.”

slide_3So, if you’re going to eat chicken wings tomorrow — and chances are, if you are a red-blooded, football-loving, commercial-watching American, you will be — and if you live in the Columbus, Ohio area, why not get your wings from a place that the Only in Your State website recently announced was one of the 11 restaurants with the best wings in Ohio?  The wings from JT’s Pizza & Pub made the top 11 list, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that the JT’s wings are excellent.

In the interests of full and fair disclosure, please note that JT’s is owned and operated by our nephew, Joe Hartnett, who’s been doing a bang-up job as a small businessman.  Now that the conflict of interest disclosures are out of the way, why not stop at JT’s to satisfy that Super Bowl wing craving?  You’ll find JT’s and its magic wings at 2390 West Dublin Granville Road — also know as Route 161 — in Columbus.

Dad’s In The Cradle

There’s been a lot of talk about which Super Bowl commercial was the worst.  The competition was pretty stiff this year.  Was it the Nationwide ad where a little boy turns out to be dead?  Or the creepy one with Jeff Bridges in a couple’s bedroom?  Or one of the many commercials that were supposed to be funny but were complete duds instead?

To me, the worst commercial was the Nissan ad where a race-car driver has a son, is an absentee Dad who ignores and repeatedly disappoints his kid, and then tries to make up for it by giving the kid a new car.  In short, you can cure your crappy performance in the fatherhood department if you just shell out enough for a really neat car!  Hard to believe that even a car manufacturer would think that message would promote car sales.

But this commercial wasn’t bad just because it made me kind of embarrassed to be a Dad, either.  I really hated it because the soundtrack was Harry Chapin’s awful Cat’s In The Cradle song, which has to be one of the worst and most depressing songs ever recorded — and not just because Harry Chapin really couldn’t sing a note.  It’s a trite message about a Dad who works his life away rather than playing ball with his kid.  Because he wasn’t playing catch with his son, his priorities obviously were misplaced.  Who cares if the overworked Dad has to labor those long hours because he’s trying to put food on the table, buy clothes for his family, and send his kids to college.  But those are the kind of real world nuances that the sledgehammer subtlety of Cat’s In The Cradle just couldn’t capture.

These days, Dads usually aren’t cast in a very favorable light, and the Nissan ad is just the latest in a long line of Dad dissings.  I’m tired of it.  The ad agency that came up with that effort should be sentenced to listening to Cat’s In The Cradle for a solid week.

 

Super Bowl Blahs

Hey, the Super Bowl is starting in a few minutes!!!

Meh.  As I’ve listened to the pre-game hoopla — which sometimes feel like it officially started before the two teams actually playing in the game were even determined — I realize I don’t give a flying fig about the game, or the two teams.  I don’t care about Deflategate.  I don’t care about Richard Sherman, or the Seattle running back who is trying to be Duane Thomas reincarnated.  I don’t care whether Bill Belichick looks like a grumpy slob in a slouchy sweatshirt hoodie.

Heck, I don’t even care about the commercials, whether there are racy efforts that have been banned, whether the Budweiser Clydesdales or Spuds McKenzie make a reappearance, or whether the ratings set a new record — which is probably the only thing that the NFL really cares about, in any event.

How many people in America, really, care about the Super Bowl?  I think more people really care about the college football national championship than the Super Bowl.  It’s so overhyped and overblown, it’s hard to really care much about it if your team isn’t playing.

Randomly Dissing The Browns

The Super Bowl is always a tough time of year for Browns fans. We know that, from Super Bowl I through Super Bowl XLVIII, the Browns have never made it. Not once. It’s an annual source of tremendous embarrassment.

So, it’s just adding insult to injury when people start making fun of the teams actually in the Super Bowl by comparing them to the woeful Browns. Last night a tweet went out from Purell, the soap people, saying that the Denver Broncos could use a “refresh” moment, “because right now they look like the Cleveland Browns.” The Purell people later said they “apologize for the insensitive post.” (Who even knew that soap manufacturers tweet about football games — or for that matter that anyone would pay any attention to them? I’m learning something new every day.)

I’m assuming the Purell people were apologizing to we long-suffering Browns fans, because the apology tweet had the hashtag “#Browns fans.” In reality, though, the apology tweet should have gone out to the Denver Broncos. They may have been getting their brains beat in in the biggest game of the year, but no one — no one — deserves to be compared to the Browns.

When You’re Not Watching The Super Bowl . . . .

Not watching the Super Bowl is kind of liberating.

You know that pretty much everybody else in America, from the President on down, is glued to the TV, either because they are interested in the game or they’ve bet on it or they want to watch the commercials or they think the halftime show could be interesting.  They’re all sharing in one of the very few common social experiences in our diverse, sprawling country.  Tomorrow, everyone at work will be talking about the game — or, more likely, about the commercials — but I won’t be able to join them.

I don’t care.  I’m tired of the prevalence, and glitz, and the over-the-top nature of professional sports, and I need to take a break.  The Super Bowl seems like a good time to start.  So, I’m listening to Verdi opera choruses and surfing the net, trying to get caught up on the latest developments in robotics.  For once, I don’t have to fake that I care about a simple football game that has been relentlessly pumped up into something that is grotesque and ludicrous.

It’s like when you’re in high school and you finally decide to stop trying to be popular and just be yourself, no matter how nerdy and out of it you might be.  When you make that call, the pressure’s off — and that can be very enjoyable.

Hoping The Ravens Get Crushed

When my team isn’t playing in the big game — which, given the Browns’ record of utter futility, means this rule applies to every one of the XLVII Super Bowls ever played — I usually root against one team, rather than for the other.  I pick the team that I despise the most and hope that they suffer a devastating, humiliating loss.  (I realize this makes me appear to be a small, highly negative person, but that’s probably an accurate depiction of my character, anyway.)

This year, the choice of which team to root against is easy.  I’m hoping that San Francisco beats the whey out of the Ravens.  I root against the Ravens because, on a grim, star-crossed day years ago, greed-addled Art Modell decided to follow the dollar signs and move the Browns franchise to Baltimore, thereby carving the beating hearts out of hundreds of thousands of loyal Browns fans.  With that fateful decision, the now-deceased Modell earned the opprobrium of all Browns fans for the rest of eternity.  I hope children born into the families of Browns fans for generations to come are taught to despise the sight and memory of Art Modell.

I also root against the Ravens because I abhor their carefully cultivated, bad boy image.  I loathe Ray Lewis and his histrionics, and it sickens me that he has the chance to end his career with a Super Bowl win — although the stories about his alleged use of deer antler velvet extract have taken some of the shine from Lewis’ time in the spotlight.  I hate the cheap shot tendencies of their defense and their showboating.  The Ravens are one of those teams that, in my book, epitomize just about everything that is wrong with professional sports these days.

I don’t care about the 49ers, or the match-up of the Harbaugh brothers, or any of the other story lines leading to today’s games.  Although I won’t be watching today’s game as a personal protest of the money-drenched, ugly culture of professional sports, I’ll be hoping the 49ers smash the Ravens and win the most lopsided Super Bowl in history.  I’ll be hoping that every 49ers fan shows up at the game wearing a full rack of deer antlers.  I’ll be hoping that Ray Lewis whiffs on countless tackles and gets stiff-armed to the turf a time or two.  I’ll be hoping that, at the end of the game, Ray Lewis and the rest of his thuggish Ravens teammates are shown on the bench, blubbering like babies at having been embarrassed in front of millions of TV viewers.

I need to give 49ers fans fair warning, however — the sports results I root for almost never happen.  This likely means that the Ravens will win tonight, and Ray Lewis will be the toast of sportsdom.  Ugh.

The Pathetic, Performance-Enhanced World Of Professional Sports

Every week brings new allegations about professional athletes using performance-enhancing substances and odd treatments for injuries.  This week is no different.  The allegations get made, and the athletes issue denials, and the games go on.  Who’s to know whether that great athletic performance you so admired was the result of hard work, careful training, and focus, or the juice of the root of the exotic zub zub tree?

It’s appropriate that the issue of performance-enhancing drugs was raised this week, because it’s Super Bowl Week — the week of the worst wretched sports excess in an America that is characterized by wretched sports excess.  Want to know why some athletes take performance-enhancing drugs?  Take a look at the outrageous trappings of the Super Bowl, the money-drenched parties, and the adulation poured on the participants, and you’ll have the answer to your question.  If you have a chance to become a household name who will be paid tens of millions of dollars to play a sport, wouldn’t you be tempted to take drugs that might allow you to realize that goal?

I’m heartily sick of American professional sports.  I’m sick of the ludicrous contracts, the players who are all about themselves and not about their teams, the blowhard jock-sniffing owners, the celebrity coaches, the athletes who have become cult figures, the luxury boxes, the mindless endorsements, and just about everything else that has to do with professional sports.  Whatever innocence once existed in sport is long gone, and a sick money culture has taken its place.

This week, I’m going to protest by not watching the Super Bowl.  I’ll watch college sports instead, and try to convince myself that the huge amounts of money floating around student athletes haven’t ruined the college games, too.  I know that my little protest will make no difference, and the Super Bowl will set another viewership record, but I don’t care.  I’ve had it.

Indy Envy

For a long time, Columbus and Indianapolis were viewed as very similar.  Both were white-collar Midwestern cities that managed to avoid the rust belt fate of fellow Midwestern cities that were built around the steel, rubber, glass, and auto industries.  Both had a reputation for being white bread, straight down the middle, boring towns.

If anything, Indianapolis was viewed as even more dull and predictable than Columbus.  That’s why some people referred to it as “Nap Town” or “Indian-no-place.”

No longer!  Things started to change when Indianapolis got an NFL team to go with its NBA franchise.  Then the city started to host NCAA Tournament regionals, then the Final Four, and now, this year, the crown jewel — the Super Bowl.  And, by all accounts, Indianapolis did a fabulous job in hosting the Super Bowl and wowing all of the visiting journalists and high rollers.  Local people — including one of my friends — were recruited to serve as hosts, ready to direct visitors to events and help them make reservations and plans.  The weather was great.  The downtown zip line had the requisite coolness factor.  As a result, Indianapolis got great, and richly deserved, PR.

So now, in Columbus, people are talking about what we need to do to keep up with our neighboring city to the west — the one that has left us in the dust as a destination for sports events.  Let’s face it — we’ve got a bad case of Indy Envy.

Simply Flawless

With the death of Whitney Houston most will recall her singing of the song “I Will Always Love You” from the movie The Bodyguard. For me I will always remember her passionate singing of the Star Spangled Banner before Super Bowl Twenty Five.

Just ten days prior to the Super Bowl a coalition force made up of thirty four nations began to wage a war code named Operation Desert Storm against Iraq who had invaded their neighbor Kuwait.

The video below is truly a show of patriotism at it’s finest with Ms Houston’s stirring version of the song making her the only artist to turn the National Anthem into a hit single when it reached number 20 on the Billboard Top 100. The single was also reissued shortly after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center when the song hit number 6 on the charts.

Super Bowl Commercials

The Super Bowl is on Sunday and I will be watching it with friends. Since the Browns won’t be participating (will they ever) I am hoping it will be an entertaining game.

I typically don’t get to see all of the commercials which are the highlight for a large number of people viewing the game.

Here’s a link to a preview thirty of the best Super Bowl commercials for 2012. I didn’t watch them all, but I wasn’t overly impressed by any of them. I did like clicking on the link and watching the best Super Bowl commercials of all time though – enjoy !