Whether you were one of the millions of people to watch the Super Bowl reluctantly after a year of passive or active boycott. Or, if football is your religion, there was no doubt that finding out that 21 savage was not, in fact, from Atlanta (or even an American citizen) was the most exciting news on Sunday night. The game was boring, but so was every single thing else.
The only way I had ever heard my Mother make any mention of a sporting event (beyond my peewee basketball days) was during the buildup to the Super Bowl and exactly one day after. The advent of the DVR made it possible for her to fast forward through the game and watch the commercials. She was elated. I’m sure many middle aged suburban women and people who could give a rats ass about a bunch of sweaty mean bludgeoning each other with their bodies to the point of inducing mental illness, but watch the game anyway because it is one of the last American cultural events that (until recently) was relatively innocuous and apolitical. Largely because of the commercials.
But here recently, because of the flimsy nature of the all white NFL owners, the political climate spurred on by Big Orange, the multi-billion dollar enterprise that is the National Football League’s fear (or arrogance) stemming from their not wanting alienate their “core audience” (read: white people), what we got this year was an infuriatingly bland block of television, soaked in nationalism and nostalgia.
The Big Game is the only television program all year where commercials are also an event. This year’s corporate offerings were horrendous. Noticeably absent were any legitimate brands other than the title sponsors like Budweiser and strangely, Avocados from Mexico.
There were a few ads that did stick out to me, and were memorable for all of the wrong reasons, namely: Hennessy. It is Black History Month and all, and the Super Bowl is the championship game of a sport who’s talent pool is nearly 80% black, it was held in Atlanta, the stadium had a giant Mercedes Benz pendant on it (read: world’s largest chain), and it was lit up like some futuristic geodesic Ciroc chalice (not an official sponsor).
The Hennessy commercial was as sixty second spot with a price tag (if the reporting is accurate) of a bout ~$10 million dollars. The ad highlighted the athletic accomplishments of black cyclist Major Taylor around the turn of the twentieth century. Imagine my shock, after watching what was essentially a deeply emotional mini-film about a young man who was born just over a decade after the Emancipation Proclamation, achieving greatness in a time where the world he was in was none to kind to blacks, especially of great prominence in white spaces — and out of the shadows it is revealed that I just watched a commercial for a spirit that is so associated with black people that many bars today refuse to carry it. And to top it all off, it was narrated by Nas. I am sure you can see where this would be troubling. Disgusting.
This commercial encapsulated much of the tone deafness of the entire spectacle. The entire thing seemed like crash course in how to use tokenism and shill mediocrity. After this commercial, a person attending the party where I was made a comment saying that “this [commercial] is what happens when you only have one black friend”. Noticing my own blackness, I looked around the room and I, too, was the lone black person in the room.
To add insult to injury, and piling on another heap of disrespect to all of the braincells that would be lost over the course of the game (on the field and off) the thing that has annually provided respite for all non-football fans since Michael Jackson hopped out of the stage and stood still for fifteen minutes: the halftime show. This year’s halftime mess was not “spectacular” or “magical” — words you might associate woth a lot of fireworks and noise. What we got instead was pretty much what you might find on an abandoned iPod shuffle. Short Travi$ Scott’s performance of his omnipresent hit Sicko Mode, the only thing notable about the performance was clothing related. This includes Big Boi’s giant fur coat and Adam Levine’s lack of a shirt by the end of the performance — and, well, the CVS receipt of talent that turned the gig down. Big Boi and Travis Scott and Spongebob couldn’t save the day. I could opine about the unfettered mediocrity of Adam Levine and Maroon 5, but their music and its terribleness has been very well documented.
At the end of the experience, it left me feeling really empty, and questioning why on earth I thought it was going to be entertaining in the first place. I was half expecting Tom Brady to announce he was going to spend the week at Mar-a-Lago instead of Disney World (which I presume has chosen to distance themselves from the NFL too). The whole thing is, after all, one big dumb commercial. This year was horrible. I think I will be retiring from the game. Farewell.