In this day and age, it is extremely unusual for more than six in 10 Americans (about 65 percent) to be viewing the same television program on a given Sunday night, but that’s expected to happen with this weekend’s Super Bowl.
At any other time, they would be tuned in to a hundred different cable channels or streaming media services such as Netflix, watching DVDs, playing video games and who knows what else.
The Super Bowl offers us a rare opportunity for humanity and commonality, when you realize that most everyone else is doing the same thing you are at that exact same time.
It truly has become the ultimate made-for-TV event designed to attract a universal audience, complete with halftime concerts appealing to every musical taste, all kinds of pageantry and splendor and pomp and circumstance. And, oh yes, they manage to play a football game, too.
Another attraction unique to the Super Bowl is the clever commercials debuted especially for the occasion. Who can forget ads portraying Clydesdales playing football, or a horse reunited with its owner during a parade after many years of painful separation?
The E-Trade commercials of a baby standing in a crib and appearing to talk as a cocky adult also have been memorable, along with many others. The Snickers ad with Betty White playing football, part of its “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign, is one that comes to mind.
Super Bowl commercials tend to be entertaining and on the humorous side — after all, the main objective involves advertisers seeking attention for their products — but also can be serious and thought-provoking. For example, a “God made a farmer” ad in 2013 drew solemn attention to the hardworking farmers of America who are its backbone and the epitome of all qualities we hold dear.
Unfortunately, another such message will not be seen Sunday night. A veterans organization was seeking to run an ad urging fans to stand during the playing of the national anthem before the game.
Innocent enough subject matter for a promotional spot, you might think, but one that the National Football League has rejected, saying it objected to the particular language being used.
What? The NFL is frowning on a message promoting one of the most important symbols of the American way as a whole: our anthem. It also would have featured a color guard holding the American flag — a banner under which liberty has thrived and also the free enterprise system that made Super Bowl ads possible in the first place.
The proposed anthem ad, of course, was a response to the practice of some players earlier this season kneeling while “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played and otherwise showing disrespect for it as well as the flag.
After many fans lambasted this behavior, as did President Trump in his famous S.O.B. remark, and some advertisers pulled commercials from televised games that fans also started boycotting, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sprang into action.
He maybe, kinda, sorta told players that they ought to perhaps consider standing for the anthem — but never came right out and banned the kneeling or sitting during its playing.
Now the NFL has seen fit to outlaw an ad that justifiably promotes the opposite point of view, one that highlights many sacrifices made by veterans which allow a bunch of pampered athletes to espouse their misguided beliefs. The NFL’s predictable, though unacceptable, position is that it finds the phrase “please stand” objectionable due to the political nature of those words.
Yet somehow, the political nature of the players’ actions has not been patently dismissed by the National Football League.
In the midst of such behavior, TV ratings for NFL games dropped by 10 percent during the 2017 season compared to 2016.
This would indicate that the league leadership is out of touch with rank-and-file Americans, the beer-guzzling, straight-shooting, blue-collar workers who form the core of its fan base and resent the disrespect of our national symbols.
And the decision to reject the Super Bowl ad urging everyone to stand for the anthem shows that the NFL has still not learned the lesson it already should have grasped during the regular season.
Is the NFL that anti-American?
Amid all the sagging ratings and resulting losses of advertising dollars, the league brass would be well-advised to conduct its own version of a halftime analysis to pinpoint what it has done wrong with the anthem/flag stance so far — a losing one.
If not, even Tom Brady — the great New England Patriots quarterback known for his late-game heroics — won’t be able to pull the fat out of the fire.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.