Super Bowl Commercials and My Spiritual Tipping Point

by Sam Van Eman

Transcript of this recording:

It's early January and the perennial conversation about the Super Bowl game versus Super Bowl commercials has reached the living room already. Last night, after an overtime loss took the Steelers out of the running, a friend surrendered: "Well, there will always be the commercials." Even my seven-year old reminded me this week why she likes watching football: "I love the commercials, Daddy."

Of course, behind-the-scenes talk began months ago. This year's 30-second spot line-up was sold out before Thanksgiving. At a record-high $3.5 million a piece (about $117,000 per second), NBC is more than happy to host both the game and the high-fare entertainment.

Seth Winter, senior vice president of sales and marketing at NBC’s sports group, said, “We have shattered any recent revenue stories in regards to the Super Bowl."

Super Bowl commercials aren't predictably Jack's beanstalk for companies who commission them, but companies certainly hope their millions will become that. At the very least, with Ash Wednesday only weeks behind America's favorite game, it's as if they hope this will be the Mardi Gras of consumption until Black Friday resurrects their sales again.

My Mardi Gras

The Super Bowl is also my Mardi Gras; a last hurrah of pleasure and shiny lights before the darkness sets in; a cultural feast followed by a religious fast. I give up television each year for Lent because I watch too much tube leading up the Super Bowl. Charlie Brown specials, mid-winter sit-com reruns, play-off games, more play-off games. By the time I wake up the morning after the big event, I can't watch another minute of anything.

(Well...except for Netflix.)

The cycle does my body good. Unplugged, I'm invited to have expectations beyond wanting to see which Doritos' submission got chosen out of the more than 6000 entries for its 30 seconds of fame. Unplugged, I'm invited to wait for provision - the Easter kind no ad or product can produce.

For now - and since my team is officially out - we'll be talking about the commercials around here. I'll call my kids into the room when age-appropriate gems air, I'll talk with peers about their favorites, I'll reflect on the influence of advertising on our 21st-century hearts and minds. I'll also hope for more neighbor-sensitive commercials, pray for those creative types behind the scenes who have more power than they realize, and reflect on my own role in the machine that is consumerism.

And then, on February 6th, a day after partying with food and friends, I'll come home from work and find something else to do besides watch TV.


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Marcus Goodyear January 9, 2012 at 9:46 PM  

Very cool! And I love hearing your voice. I can just imagine the two of us having coffee somewhere and you going on about the superbowl.

Good ideas here. I love the comparison between the superbowl and mardi gras.

Bob Gorinski January 9, 2012 at 10:36 PM  

$117,000 / second?

They really sell enough Doritos to justify that?

Now that the Steelers are out of it, I can relax and enjoy those commercials. And watching the Ravens lose.

Sheila January 10, 2012 at 7:44 AM  

I suppose that as a woman who doesn't love football, I'm not all that rare.

But a not-nuts-about-football woman who's married to a not-nuts-about-football man?

I think THAT'S rare.

I've been thinking of a Lenten fast this year. I've never done one before.

But I'm still praying on what to give up. Anything I could sacrifice seems so trivial in comparison...

Sam Van Eman January 10, 2012 at 8:52 AM  

Marcus, that coffee/tea would be nice. Thanks for stopping by.

Bob, you and me both about the teams. Though my first thought was, "Hey, now I don't have to watch the Patriots game."

Sheila, good point about trivial. But we have to start somewhere I guess.

Sheila January 10, 2012 at 8:57 AM  

I certaintly didn't mean to suggest that your TV fast is trivial!

Sam Van Eman January 10, 2012 at 9:00 AM  

No, but it is, just like most/all of our attempts. They are, perhaps, symbols at best.

Sheila January 10, 2012 at 9:01 AM  

Symbols, yes.

Symbols have great power.

I can imagine Him, looking down on us as we give up this or forego that, and clucking indulgently.

David Rupert January 10, 2012 at 12:05 PM  

Sam. A most clever post that acknowledges our consumptive nature and gives us an out -- after the Super bowl.

So sorry your Steelers got Bronco-ized. My neighbor here in Denver lowered his Steeler nation flag before we could march him to the edge of the subdivison!

Sam Van Eman January 10, 2012 at 12:09 PM  

David, thank you for the condolences. Your poor neighbor.

I do have to admit that it was a great game, regardless of the outcome. I hope Denver goes all the way, if only to throw off NFL statistics.

Ann Kroeker January 12, 2012 at 2:20 PM  

We often watch with friends, and someone holds the remote and mutes or changes the station for some of those million-dollar effort to protect little eyes and ears from the raunchiness...and perhaps to protect our own, as well.

Sam Van Eman January 12, 2012 at 11:57 PM  

I do blacken the screen in many cases. Does my seven-year old need to see a commercial for Saw? Or GoDaddy?

Do I need to see those?

Megan Willome January 13, 2012 at 11:57 AM  

As the only non-TV watcher in a house of TV-lovers, can I get the rest of them to give TV up for Lent? I know, I know ...

And I walk away when the Super Bowl commercials come on. Ugh.

Anonymous,  January 13, 2012 at 4:37 PM  

Charming post--I like your equanimity and your admission of complicity--we're all complicit, few of us realize or included. Also appreciate your heart, praying for the commercial creators and all. Lovely.

Sam Van Eman January 13, 2012 at 8:26 PM  

Could be a tough battle, Megan. :)

Appreciate the visit, jodiq. Pray along with me for them, okay?

whitejohn February 17, 2012 at 1:09 AM  
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