Another over-hyped Super Bowl is in the books.
Another game, that if it were happening in the middle of October rather than the beginning of February I would have turned off and done something more constructive, like mow my lawn. The most interesting part of the game is how a 43 year old beat the younger, more versatile, and more talented quarterback on the other side of the ball.
It has me wondering if there isn’t a cloven-hoofed, winged demon in a cave somewhere in the Adirondacks clutching a sulfur smelling piece of parchment with Tom Brady’s signature written in blood on it. It’s about as logical an explanation for an incredible career that has spanned two decades in a profession where the average lifespan is measured in months.
Like everything else since last year, the Super Bowl is different. There were not 70,000 fans packed into the stadium, there was no week of pre-Super Bowl extravaganzas and parties and media events vying for our attention. But some things are impervious to the coronavirus — like spending hundreds of millions of dollars to market and sell products in between remarkable plays by a guy whose first Super Bowl was when George W. Bush was president.
The Super Bowl commercials were not completely immune from the effects of the pandemic, as some of the mainstay big brands opted out of advertising in a climate where so many people continue to struggle financially. But even muted, by Super Bowl standards, many of the commercials had that gravitas element we’ve all grown to know and not always love.
The winner of the “gravitas” award with golden clusters has to belong to the commercial for Jeep, starring music icon Bruce Springsteen. It was shot like a mini-movie with a stylized sepia tone, and it was all about the “values” of the middle. Middle America, middle of the road sensibilities, even middle of the country geography.
Well, nothing speaks to me louder about down home middle American values than an Eastern elite multimillionaire. And the tagline informing me that I was now privileged to be back in the “ReUnited” States of America made me sure only of the remoteness of me ever buying a Jeep product in the near or distant future.
In the good old days, they employed sex and peer pressure to sell cars. Today, as evidenced by this commercial, Madison Avenue has morphed into something else. The middle, or some facsimile thereof, is probably a good place for all of us to be politically. Temperatures on either side of that scale run too hot and have far too great potential for harm.
But locating exactly where the “middle” is requires knowing something about the philosophical or political perspective of the person who is drawing the line. And I fear those who drew the line down the middle for the Jeep commercial probably need to recalibrate their compass.
Jeep’s political statement was as subtle as a used car commercial on local cable access. It is no secret Bruce Springsteen despised the former president of the United States and views the current president as a kind of redeemer.
A simple Google search of the “Boss’” opinion of the former boss does not sound very unifying to me. And we don’t need to revisit the past election to understand that, in the light of more than 40 executive orders signed by the new president, a different point of view and political emphasis is entrenched. The question is, does this qualify as a return to the “middle?”
Many of the executive orders are in direct and incontrovertible defiance of Catholic teaching. Where’s the middle part there? If the “Boss” and Madison Avenue are correct, and wholesale abortion and anti-science transgenderism is the middle ground now, then I feel the ground shifting directly under my feet.
It’s not just Fortune 500 companies using tested and approved messaging about some kind of mythical “middle” to sell Jeeps to people who don’t need them. Many other entities, even some religious nonprofit organizations, burn a lot of midnight oil trying to figure out how to find that “middle” sweet spot to get people to support their cause while being very cautious as to not appear too far this way or that way.
The only problem with that is that Jesus had a terrible track record when it came to marketing and development. He had no time for the lukewarm, and he never occupied the “middle” of anything.