Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Ultimate Sunday

Super Sunday is here. Years ago the Dallas Cowboys had a running back named Duane Thomas. Thomas played for them in Super Bowl VI against the Miami Dolphins - played well - and was asked by a reporter after the game how it felt to play well in and to win "the ultimate game". Thomas, who was as renowned for his disdain of the world as he was for his play on the field responded somewhat incredulously, "Ultimate game? If it is the ultimate game, then how come they play it every year?"

Thirty-eight years later - undoubtedly to Duane Thomas' great surprise - the "ultimate game" is bigger than ever. And they still play it every year. Super Bowl Sunday has grown into such an event that there is a sentiment growing in the United States to make tomorrow - the Monday after the Super Bowl - a national holiday. It says something about us as a people although I am not sure what exactly that George Washington's birthday and Abraham Lincoln's birthday have been folded together into one holiday of convenience while we are leaning towards elevating the day after the conclusion of football season to stand-alone holiday status. Being the Father of the Country or the Preserver of the Union merits only a time-share apparently.

Today is not just about the game or the half-time performance from the Bruckheimer Empire House Band. It is about the commercials. At $2.6 Million for 30 seconds, it had better be; right? One of the spots will feature Tim Tebow and his mother. Tim Tebow is best known for his exploits on the collegiate gridiron as a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the University of Florida. However today Tebow and his mom will appear in what is considered by supporters and critics alike apparently to be a "pro-life" spot sponsored by the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family, discussing her decision 23 years ago to continue with her pregnancy despite complications. She was pregnant with her son, winner of the 2007 Heisman Trophy.

Throughout Tebow's college career he never shied away from the devout nature of his faith, from telling the story of how he had arrived here and his position on what is if not the most controversial political hot-button issues in these United States, one that is firmly ensconced in medal position. This is a kid - after all - who spent his summers while in college doing missionary work all over the world. He is enthusiastically "pro-life". Candidly his point of view on the subject is not one with which I agree. But unlike many, I have no problem with Tebow's TV spot.

As an initial consideration, it seems to me that one needs to keep in mind that in Tebow's case his mother's decision had a direct impact on his being born. So whereas it may be a philosophical issue or religious issue for me and you, to Tebow it is an extremely personal one as well. I cannot help but wonder whether the hue and cry would be as passionate if Tebow and his mom were on air trying to sell something other than a point of view.

For the past several years the Super Bowl has been dominated by commercials for products holding the cure for erectile dysfunction and by commercials featuring race car driver Danica Patrick wearing little more than a checkered flag. Neither men with the inability to perform a full-staff flag salute or Ms. Patrick seem to have a direct connection to football. Yet it is hard to find anyone objecting to either being shown during the Super Bowl on that basis. Not so with Tebow's commercial. CBS is being criticized in some circles for showing it because "that issue" is not something that the average football fan wants to think about during the Super Bowl. Apparently timing himself as he hopes against hope for nothing longer than a 3 hour and 59 minute erection - including one he self-creates while watching young Ms. Patrick yell, "Go Daddy!" - is.

As of last night, CBS was still intending on airing Tebow's commercial. We shall see if by day's end they have remained steadfast in their position. If you find it objectionable, then do not watch it. I have not yet made up my mind whether I shall. I expect I shall because while I do not share Tebow's position, I respect his right to have it and his right to express it. In the truest sense of why someone buys advertising time I expect the advertisement will fall flat. Those sharing Tebow's position would do so regardless of the commercial and, similarly, those who do not are not likely to be swayed by hearing his story.

The Republic will not fall simply due to the airing of this particular commercial. The Super Bowl will survive. Regardless of Tebow's commercial, they will play the game again in 2011.

Do not take my word for it. Ask Duane Thomas.


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