Sunday, January 30, 2011

WHODATHUNKIT?! The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About Super Bowl XLV:

Whodathunkit!?, a shared enterprise between The Best Of Everything and Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!, celebrates the momentous occasions in life by telling you not what everyone else is talking about, but what you really want to know. Let other people talk about the same old things, year after year -- the commercials, the on-field action, the hype, the crowds, the score... ho, hum... sigh, snore.

If you really want to be the life of the party -- or at least that person who's there but nobody's sure who invited them -- then you need Whodathunkit!?, the only blog post with the guts to look at those areas of major events that nobody else has thought to look at. And thanks to me, you don't have to do the legwork. Just read this post, then memorize it, and be prepared to recite it during the various breaks in the action during the big game. And don't worry: with only 11 actual minutes of football action in any televised football game, there'll be plenty of time to share such bon mots as:

1. Love is in the air at championships:
All those stories about how Dallas needs another 10,000 strippers to meet the demand for the Super Bowl? Not only is that story nothing new -- strippers flocked to Tampa before the Super Bowl there, and generally head to any city where the game is held -- but it's just a minor aspect of the overall atmosphere of romance that hovers over football championships. From college players proposing after bowl games to reporters trying to hook up with Tom Brady* during Super Bowl week:

There's just something about a bunch of sweaty men grabbing each other and throwing each other to the ground that screams romance. Right, Ben Roethlisberger?

Right! People in the past have tried to raise money to propose via Super Bowl commercial -- because what better way is there to let your fiancee know exactly where she'll rank in your life in the future? "Honey, I'm glad you said yes. Now shut up, because the second half is starting."

(That guy couldn't get people interested enough to buy time during the game, and had to settle for proposing via a commercial that aired during Veronica Mars. Let's hope the marriage lasted longer than the show.)

Sometimes people's romantic hopes don't pan out though -- like when Kim Kardashian breathlessly revealed to the world that if Reggie Bush's Saints got a Super Bowl ring for him, he'd get a wedding ring for her. 2011 rolls around with Reggie Bush having the ring (but not his Heisman Trophy) and Kim trying desperately to stay in the public eye by dating an NBA player.

There've been worse endings to Super Bowl romances. Take Albert Haynesworth, the erstwhile Redskin player. Back in May, Haynesworth was sued for $10 million by a stripper who said he'd gotten her pregnant and left her in the lurch:
Silvia Mena [described in the article as a "Salma Hayek lookalike"], 25, alleges Haynesworth, 28, met her in Miami, romanced her during Super Bowl week, and invited her to his Tennessee home. She claims in the documents that after learning about the pregnancy, Haynesworth promised to "emotionally and financially support Silvia." But, "after making such promises . . . Haynesworth has abandoned the pregnant Sylvia Mena . . . He has refused to provide any emotional or financial support of Silvia Mena or his unborn child."
(The two are shown in the picture alongside the heading for this section.)

Whatever your situation, just remember that Super Bowl parties are public events, and nobody likes PDAs:

Especially when they get in the way of the chips.

2. "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."
Joshua/WOPR said that about tic-tac-toe/global thermonuclear war, and his primitive, straight-forward, not-yet-capable-of-winning-at-Jeopardy! computer brain was clearly wrong: You win in tic-tac-toe by taking a corner move first, and you win at global thermonuclear war by letting that one city way over on the left go and focusing on the two cities closest to you. (This lesson brought to you by the arcade version of Missile Command.)

But WOPR could have been talking about Super Bowl ads. With airtime going for upwards of whatever figure the media wants to make up today, it can be increasingly hard to justify blowing the annual ad budget on a 30-second commercial that, by now, must include each of the required elements of a Super Bowl ad:

(a) Cats
(b) Women in tight t-shirts.
(c) Betty White, at least until she dies.
(d) A twist ending
(e) More women in tight t-shirts.
(f) A cameo appearance from some reality show star you won't recognize.
(g) A Master Lock.

Seriously. Take a drink each time you see an ad featuring at least one of those things. If it features more than one, down your whole drink. If it features all of them, take Chad up on his dare to send a friend request to that hot girl you both knew in 11th grade, but do it while your wife is out of the room.

You know what's cheaper than airing an ad during the Super Bowl? Not airing one at all, and having the entire world run it for you in the week leading up to the game. That's the tactic taken by PETA and other groups in the past few years: Create an ad that's so provocative that the networks don't dare show it... during the Super Bowl. Instead, they'll show it on their news programs and talk shows, and it'll get front page treatment on HuffPo, Slate, and everywhere else people surf.

The strategy has become so common that there are articles about how common it is, and people are actively trying to come up with ads that'll be banned:

The banned Super Bowl strategy dates back to 2005, when Internet registry firm had its commercial yanked after running in only one of the two spots the advertiser had bought. That ad ended up generating some 2,700 news articles and blog posts, according to GoDaddy. It is, in many ways, the “1984” of the banned Super Bowl ad genre.
The following year's commercial was rejected 11 times. In 2008, it actually advertised during the game, promoting its previously rejected ad starring Danica Patrick. "It worked like a charm," reflects Bob Parsons, chief executive officer of GoDaddy.
The approach has spawned imitators, most notably infidelity dating site AshleyMadison. Unsurprisingly, this year Fox nixed AshleyMadison's ad, which features a porn actress and centers on workplace affairs. But the $120,000, in-house-produced video is a hit on YouTube, where it has 450,000 views and directs viewers to the AshleyMadison site for the “X-rated version.” There’s little doubt that a banned Super Bowl spot can lead to a short-term pop in attention and consideration. AshleyMadison two years ago had a Super Bowl spot rejected by NBC.
The spot, which cost $200,000, garnered over 1 million views on YouTube and attention from Larry King and others. Noel Biderman, CEO of AshleyMadison parent company Avid Life Media, said the buzz surrounding the rejected ad resulted in 100,000 new members—a $2 cost per acquisition, far below the $100 maximum it sets.

(Source.) This year's hot banned ad? Jesus Hates Obama:

An ad that, according to the article, was designed to be banned during the Super Bowl.

Most ads that get banned are knocked off the list for being too sexy. One, though, was rejected apparently for being in incredibly poor taste:

Sometimes I don't know why the rest of the world doesn't just come and punch us all in the throat.

3. Whether you'll have any money to buy the stuff in the ads depends on who wins the game... and not just because you bet February's mortgage payment on Green Bay. Stupid! They'll never cover the spread!

The "Super Bowl Indicator" is a longtime superstition that holds that if an "Old NFL" team wins the game, the market will go up the following year, while if an "Old AFL" team wins, the market is going to drop faster than Charlie Sheen's pants around porn stars.

[I made that joke hoping that this blog entry will be banned by the Super Bowl, and that it will then make me rich.]

Or, that's what one site says. That site -- -- claims that the predictor is 80% accurate (give or take a couple of percentages) but muddies up the water by noting that some "Old AFL" teams aren't exactly "Old AFL" teams; the Steelers, for example, were in the NFL before there was an AFL, and the Packers have always been an NFL team.

Which poses problems because the predictor would work only if you phrased it the right way -- kind of like a Magic 8-Ball, or the Congressional Budget Office. If, for example, you say The market will go up provided that an old-NFL team wins, then this year you're guaranteed to get the market going up, as both the Steelers and Packers are NFL teams through and through. But if you were to say the market goes down when an old-NFL team loses, then we're in for another 12 months, at least, of financial troubles, and probably looking at President Palin.

And neither of those formulations can work when the game pits a team that wasn't part of the old NFL or AFL, period. When Carolina or Tampa Bay make the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl Indicator has troubles working. And what can the Powers That Be make of the Baltimore Ravens? This article claims that Baltimore counts as an "old NFL" team because they used to be Cleveland -- but the NFL, remember, awarded NEW Cleveland all the old Cleveland records. So is Baltimore really Old NFL?

Discuss that amongst yourselves. I'm going to go watch all those banned super bowl ads. I've got a hankering for some shirtless Mickey Rooney.

More eerie than the idea that the Super Bowl might affect the market is the idea that television show writers might affect the Super Bowl -- or have the ability to almost predict the future.

Certain TV shows and movies have at times hinted at a future we can only (at the time) imagine -- such as Smart Guy predicting a Saints-Colts Super Bowl:

54-3? Smart Guy wasn't really good on how football games work, was he? That wasn't the only time pop culture accurately predicted the participants of a Super Bowl. I Am Legend forecast the Giants-Patriots* matchup by predicting (in a news crawl early in the movie) that the Giants would lose to the Patriots* for the second time in a season; since the teams are in different conferences, the only way they could play twice in one season is to meet in the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl predictions by pop culture tend to be close but no cigar -- no matter how far back they go or what the pedigree. Consider this prediction, by Nostradamus:

Four dawns past the inverted name of the beast shall arise a four eyed heir to the throne, name unpronounced, in favor of the god, the child. Twin brothers in celestial dispute, Mars at its zenith, shall defend the stronghold. The great son of apostle Peter lie in tandem with the 22nd man of the serpent, reign upon the battlefields as the Taylor waits patiently for his cloth. The Bear, Lion, Eagle, shall no longer be welcome, victory blood green to purple, the spoils of war earned.
That was interpreted to mean that the Vikings would win the Super Bowl. But it's all in the interpretation, I guess -- as this clip was promoted as having foreseen, back in 2005, Tiger Woods' affairs:

Did they know something we, and Elin Woods, didn't? And would that have been bigger news if that show hadn't sucked so badly?

All signs point to yes.

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