Friday, 6 a.m.
You imagine the lighting to be soft, as it often is in television commercials.
You imagine Elin Nordegren, a face out of your past, as she walks through her living room and sit on the couch. She sits, folds her hands and smiles.
“You know,” she starts slowly, “when I plan to catch my husband Tiger fooling around with another bimbo, I usually check to see that it's 2:25 a.m. on my Rolex. Then, I pick up one of the new graphite shaft Nike golf clubs, re-enforced through the shaft. After that, I chase him to his brand new Escalade, which rides like a dream, and bust out the sneaky little twit's back window.”
And there you have it.
The ultimate sports commercial.
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It seems to me that sports ads have lost their purpose. Who really cares who drinks Gatorade these days? Doesn't everyone? Who cares who eats what pizza? Who cares what beer a jock drinks when he's out partying with Johnny Manziel?
Still, the sponsors pay like crazy. It's as if they think the rest of us are trying to remember which brand of tuna Tom Brady eats when he's getting ready to play in another Super Bowl. “You know, if we get LeBron James to say he prefers Advil to Tylenol, everyone else will believe it must be better.”
The theory is this. Athletes are admired. They're young and fit and popular, and they know what's hot. They drink beer and soda and eat pizza and the like. Besides, it isn't so much that this guy wears this watch. It's that this guy can entice you to watch a commercial where someone else does.
And off we go.
Do we still care that this guy likes Gatorade and that guy likes Coke and the other guy likes Miller Lite? That this athlete prefers Papa John's and that guy likes Pizza Hut and the other guy likes Domino's? Look, when the world grew up, there were 3-4 TV networks, and we all saw the same commercials. But now there are a couple of hundred, and Flo is the leading spokesman of our day. As near as anyone can tell, she never won in the Olympics.
Still, there seems to be a place for sports commercials. Those who pay for them are kind of stuck in the habit.
Roger Federer, the tennis star, supposedly made $58 million for pitching products such as Nike, Rolex, Mercedes-Benz and Gillette last year. Woods, who doesn't make the cash he used to, pitches Rolex and Nike and Fathead. Peyton Manning, it seems, once made every commercial from Nationwide to DirecTV to Papa John's.
Still, can you remember the last Caroline Wozniacki commercial? Someone must be watching them. She made $11 million in endorsements last year.
The beauty of it? No one's commercials backfire on them anymore. An athlete can screw up as badly as he wants, and people know better than to blame the product.
O.J. Simpson was huge with Hertz, remember? Aaron Hernandez pitched Puma. Oscar Pistorius sold Oakley. Lance Armstrong pushed Anheuser-Busch. Mike Tyson sold Nintendo. And so on.
And none of the scandals got on anyone's shoes. Which also are for sale.
It's hard to tell when sports commercials first came into vogue. I can remember Mickey Mantle and Johnny Unitas whining that they wanted their Maypo. Joe Namath, before he started wearing pantyhose, talked about his old pal Ovaltine.
Then it was Joe Greene, throwing his sweaty laundry in return for a Coke.
Oh, it was a real hoot there for a while. I loved the Bo Knows commercials. There were some funny Miller Light commercials. The one where Billy Martin didn't punch no dogie. The one where Bob Uecker must have been in the front row. Chicks were digging the long ball, which was being hit by steroid freaks. Funny stuff.
There was Tiger Wood, dribbling the golf ball on his club like magic. There was the Larry Bird-Michael Jordan h-o-r-s-e game for McDonald's. The Peyton Manning “Cut That Meat'' commmercial. The Troy Polamalu Head-and-Shoulders commercials.
I happened on an old sports ad for Bally's Casino's the other night. It had, singing and dancing, Johnny Unias, Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Phil Esposito and Bruno Sammartino. It was like the Love Boat of TV commericials.
When did it all start? There are some who say it was Joe Namath's take-it-all-off shaving cream commercial. There is a Wheaties ad on YouTube that features (in a non-speaking role) former slugger Ralph Kiner.
Of course, the root of all of this is the sneaker commercial. I've always said that if shoes didn't have to pay to have athlets sponsor them, sneakers would still cost $2.99 each.
Of course, you only can imagine the commercials that might have been. How about O.J. Simpson pitching Hertz taking you to the airport? How about Tonya Harding selling baseball bats? How about Hope Solo pitching bail bondsmen.
Ah, yes. For the right product, the right pitch.
After all, it pays to advertise.