In an age when DVRs grace us with the ability to skip commercials before they suck our soul through our noses, sport remains the one venue that is immune to advertising avoidance.
Don't get me wrong, it is a modern age miracle to be able to record a game you missed thanks to the horror otherwise known as "family obligation" -- you know, the kind of events that leave you envying your unemployed bachelor relatives for their sheer lack of… anything. Okay, so you got stuck at a brunch, but provided you were lucky enough to avoid any news of the score, and you were willing to avoid any updates by shunning NFL radio and forcing yourself to listen to NPR on your drive home, the game is sitting there, pristine and ready for your undivided attention.
Pretty great -- but you have to admit it's not the same as watching it go down live. Something is missing. That weird knowledge that everyone else on Earth already knows the outcome takes some of the tang out of the excitement. That nagging feeling that you're pulling a frozen NFL game out of the freezer and watching it thaw ...
That's why you always watch a game live whenever possible, despite the fact that you can't avoid the commercials, and marone, those commercials get rammed down out throats repeatedly! How many times must we see that insufferable dork whip out his lollypop guild "celebration dance" in front of an otherwise magnificent flat-screen TV? Seriously, who sat in the conference room and said, "Yes! That androgynous fop in the cargo pants speaks to football fans!"
But when it comes to the Viva Viagra misfire award, I am compelled to nominate the Coors Lite press conference campaign.
You know -- the doltish beer dudes who are spliced into vestigial head coach press conference footage? It's hard for a great campaign to stand up to saturating overexposure, and this one is now officially ubiquitous (look it up, Thurman) ... and I am hereby prone on the canvas, tapping out ...
Having lobbed my share of inane questions at pressers and media days, I am on personal terms with the terror of trying something light-hearted while staring into the intensity of an NFL head coach's eyeballs. Lesser men have wet themselves. Okay, I have wet myself ...
The players are usaully fun, but the coaches? World-class intimidator is a part of the job prospectus. How the hell else do you become the alpha dog in a room full of uber alpha dogs?
Timing is key, and I have been known to wait forever in the tall weeds, until the moment is right - and I usually get rewarded with great results. Highlights included Mike Holmgren playing along generously, and I will always love Barry Switzer for rolling with my inanity to a fair thee well. There were other moments when I caught my share of crap, but I always forged ahead… with one exception: I completely wussed out at Bill Parcells' podium before Super Bowl XXXI. I waited… and I waited… but it was one of those tense days. Maybe it was all those "Are you going to the Jets?" rumors but I vibed some pretty ugly smackdown if I shot him one of my patented queries, like "Who would win in a street fight -- Aquaman or the Hulk?" I waited ... and waited ... and bailed, a little ashamed, but much relieved.
All of this is a long road to admitting that it's quite possible my life experience interferes with my ability to enjoy these Coors Lite shenanigans. I have stood there, I have perspired under the glare of an unhappy head coach's glare, I don't buy it.
I also don't believe I'm alone. Mea culpa aside, this campaign is pure ass for that very reason -- there is no payoff because there is no comeuppance for these wahoos. The joy of watching a tense post-game press conference is the vicarious awkwardness of it all - why do you think "Playoffs?" and "We let 'em off the hook!" live on in infamy? Because they are powerful moments when the truth forced its way out! Now they live on to sell light beer?! Way off the mark. And how does the casting breakdown sheet read on this one? "Must be a repulsive simpleton?" These are the kind of guys you wouldn't allow within 500 yards of any social gathering that included women, unless your goal was to guarantee your own celibacy. They don't belong anywhere near the delicious tension of the footage there are "Zeliged" into, in particular the one with Dennis Green screaming now-legendary sound bites from his "The Bears were who we thought they were!!!" meltdown.
Part of the sheer wrongness is the way the buffoon actor energy doesn't match the coaching footage. For all production team's efforts to match things up, they are such clearly separate moments it cripples my suspension of belief (fruity theater talk for "I don't buy it"), but there is an even larger problem of context -- the Green stuff is still too fresh. We are watching what could be the end of a guy's NFL coaching career. Love him or not, Green is a charismatic leader and there is something sad about seeing this moment turned into a goofball way to sell beer.
Hey -- don't want me to scrutinize your crap this hard? Then instead of buying 3,000 hours worth of air time to hammer a flawed thought home ... maybe you should study a rival beer campaign that verges on…
Dos Equis' "The most interesting man in the world." I will actually stop and replay this stuff -- every frame is shot with style and an impressive variety of period styles. What can I tell you - when Mr. Interesting frees that bear from a trap, I feel complete.
The copy, the direction, the casting -- every element is perfectly executed, and it's topped off by the one thing you never expect from a beer commercial - the ironic twist of a thrown-away tag line. Remarkably, in a world of "We're the best!" Dos Equis has the balls to make their tag line: "I don't always drink, beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis." On the occasions he does go for a beer, dude doesn't insist on their product - he merely prefers it.
Drop the bat, admire your shot.
Week 11 turning points?
Just because I grabbed an early seat on the bandwagon and conceded the 2007 season to the Patriots -- and I mean damn early, like, I'm driving the bus on this one, so you kids in back sit down or I'm turning around! -- it doesn't mean I don't care…
Despite my occasional bouts with cynicism, deep down inside I am always pulling for long-moribund teams to turn it around. And even though I loathe relocated franchises on a primeval level, for all of my Cardinals jokes over the years I still care about Joe Fan enough to realize that there are people out there who bleed Cardinal red and deserve a better product on the field after decades of ineptitude.
And here Arizona sits with a typically mediocre 4-5 record, yet they are only one game away from the top in the NFC West. Hope is also bolstered by significant evidence of growth thanks to the "Come out fast and punch 'em in the mouth" infusion Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm brought with them from Pittsburgh. I can only speak for myself, but I never thought Edgerrin James would gain another yard out there in the desert. Not the way this franchise has failed to run block for the past decade. It speaks of hard-nosed football that balances the aerial attack we have come to expect from the Cards in recent years.
P.S., the aerial attack is in better shape, too. Nothing against young Matt Leinart, but his injury let Kurt Warner take another shot at the wheel, and the savvy vet has made things so interesting that this weekend Arizona hits the road with a puncher's chance to rock a reeling Bengals franchise. One that Whisenhunt and Grimm are very familiar with from their years assisting in the AFC North. Turning point week for Arizona's season? Oh yeah. A win takes them to .500, and might just convince them they can win on the road -- something they have failed to do this season, with the exception of the three-foot putt that is a road win against the Rams. Sounds like gut-check time to me, and as an added bonus, a win might just give the Cards a shot at the division co-lead, thanks to another team staring at a turning-point game:
The Bears just happen to be heading out to play NFC West leader Seattle with the great unknown that is Rex Grossman back at the controls. Seattle is a remarkably formidable force at home, and no doubt they hunger for revenge after their demise at Chicago's hands in the divisional playoffs last season ... but at what point do the Bears start to play like the defending NFC champs? If not this week, just pack it up and wait until next year. The Pack are running away with the division, the Lions are a looking like a wild-card team ... meanwhile the Mediocres of the Midway are a sickly 4-5. If they slip to 4-6, the cat's in the bag, the bag's in the river. It is now or never. Can Rex learn from sitting on the bench? Can Cedric Benson finally deliver a big game in a system that clearly favored the divergent running style of Thomas Jones?
Advantage: Arizona? Time will tell, but when it comes to a couple of fetching dogs with their backs against the wall, you could do worse than Arizona and Chicago come Sunday.