The fiftieth Super Bowl is about to be played. Some Super Bowls are good, others are boring, but going back to the first one, the games are always played against the backdrop of the cultural and political zeitgeist of the day. When the Green Bay Packers beat Kansas City in front of 61,000 (not nearly a sellout) in the LA Coliseum on January 15, 1967, in a game not even known yet as the Super Bowl (it got the actual name two years later), the United States had just crossed the 400,000 mark in the number of American troops in Vietnam. The Gallup Poll that month was already showing 32% of Americans agreeing that it was a mistake to send those troops.
Every fourth year, of course, it’s a presidential election year…. the game is played near the beginning of actual voting in Iowa and New Hampshire. Two years ago, then not-yet candidate Hillary Clinton thought this was a hilarious barb in the direction of All-Benghazi-All-The-Time Fox News, just ahead of Seattle blowing out Denver on the Fox Broadcast Network, where Bill OReilly played with President Obama in the pre-game.
In what may have been the biggest buildup to a big, fat zero when it finally aired in 2010, pro-choice forces got all worked up over what they assumed was to be an explicit Focus On the Family anti-abortion commercial. It ran during the game and never actually mentioned abortion. Featuring Tim Tebow and his mom, it fell flat and there was no real “pro-life” message as we know them to be.
It will be interesting to watch this year’s game to see if CBS stands by their alleged policy to not air political ads during the actual game. (Read here how a Jeb super-Pac plans to get around the rule by buying local instead of network time) They rejected this 2004 ad that criticized the “bad economic policies of President George W. Bush” from MoveOn.org. Just on the merits and the point of the ad, CBS was vindicated when the reelection of Bush resulted soon after in
the greatest economic boom the country has ever seen the worst economic mess the country has seen since the 1930’s Great Depression.
Here’s one more extremely well-done ad that while it didn’t run during the actual game in 2008, it was a brilliant remix of one of the most famous Super Bowl ads …. one of the most famous anywhere ads…. ever. The Hill: Adapting the “1984” Apple ad that premiered during the Super Bowl 32 years ago, an Obama fan’s video showed a blond female athlete throwing a sledgehammer at a huge screen of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) talking to people who appear brainwashed. The ad, which only appeared on the Internet, ended with this message: “On Jan. 14, the Democratic primary will begin. And you’ll see why 2008 won’t be like 1984.”
… Which gets us to what already is a tedious split in the culture between those who love Cam Newton “just being himself”…. and those who hate his every non-football move on the field… from the Superman bit to the “dabbin” in the endzone…. to the Gatorade towel on the head and the “first down” self-congratulatory gestures to the giving of the ball to kids in the stands after a score. Disgustingly, it seems to have infected the entire Carolina Panthers roster. What a remarkable coincidence that the only possible comparison to a Super Bowl-winning team of the past is to those ’85 Super Bowl Shuffle Chicago Bears of Mike Ditka, who employed a linebacker named Ron Rivera, now the Panthers coach.
There have been major personality differences between Super Bowl quarterbacks in the past, but none being played up in such a pernicious way as this one between young, black Cam (26), and Probably Last Rodeo white guy Peyton Manning (39). In 1969, brash, upstart, slightly long-haired punk Joe Namath (25) pulled the greatest Super Bowl upset there can ever be in leading the New York Jets over the Establishment Baltimore Colts 16-7. The Colt’s qb was Earl Morrall (34), straight-laced, crew-cut guy who was pinch hitting for injured legendary, straight-laced, crew-cut guy Johnny Unitas. It took 19 more years to pass for a black quarterback to start a Super Bowl. 1988-Doug Williams has the day of his life, going 18 for 29, 340 yards, four TD passes as his Washington Redskins beat….. the Denver Broncos 42-10. Williams was the game’s MVP.
No, Cam Newton and Peyton Manning do not have the same quarterbacking style nor the same kind of physical skills, but I would submit that if we’re serious about “bringing this country together,” we’d do ourselves a world of good in concentrating on what these guys have in common…. that winning attitude we so allegedly admire, leadership and desire to inspire teammates both on and off the field. The NFL is a brutal, hyper-competitive business that most of us have no real idea about except as fans. This year, at this time, these two guys represent the best of their sport. They do not represent black vs. white or demonstrative vs. quiet. Cam Newton has not disrupted football as Donald Trump has disrupted the political process. I will not up-close-and-personal myself into a tizzy over another football game.
Peyton Manning is not truth, justice and the American White Way personified…
Cam said this ten days before the Super Bowl: “I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing they can compare me to.” Muhammad Ali once said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” Doug Williams says this:
“Let’s be real. This kid has had an unbelievable year. He has his own personality. … I don’t see anything arrogant about Cam Newton. And I think a lot of people would agree with that. The kid is having fun. Ain’t nothing wrong with having fun. The team loves him. The fans love him. And the city loves him. At the end of the day, for Cam Newton, that’s the most important thing to him. I don’t think he spends a lot of time with what people think about him if it’s not positive. I think what he’s shown in Charlotte and a lot of other places is that he’s a pretty good kid.”
Can’t we all get along? My parents finally gave up on hatin’ on the Beatles and I finally gave up on hatin’ on Frank Sinatra many decades ago. Different styles. Both winners.