February 2, 2014

Some of the Super Bowl commercials Canadians won’t see on TV

Filed under: Business, Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:13

The audience for the Super Bowl is split between fans of the game (who actually care about the outcome) and fans of the ads (because this is the biggest TV audience, advertisers pull out all the stops and generally try to be genuinely funny). In Canada, thanks to our TV regulations, most of us will see the broadcast of the game itself, but we won’t see the same commercials as our US neighbours … we’ll get the same assortment of crummy ads they’ve been showing since the start of the season, with a few of the US ads as a “teaser”.

Fortunately for those who aren’t interested in the game itself, but like the commercials, the lead-up to the Super Bowl usually includes web release of many of the ads that will air during the broadcast. Here’s a selection put together by the Guardian, including a “behind the scenes” of an ad that won’t get shown … because it was never made:

Go behind the scenes of the Mega Huge Football Ad Newcastle Brown Ale almost made with the mega huge celebrity who almost starred in it. See more at http://www.IfWeMadeIt.com

The VW ad is rather amusing, too:

Story of the day – the invasion of the Super Bowl prostitute army

Filed under: Media, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:45

You’ll undoubtedly have heard that the New York and New Jersey area has been swamped with an invasion of sex workers (many of them under-aged) who have been trafficked into the area to “service” the fans in town for the Super Bowl. You’ll probably have heard the same thing about every major sporting event over the last few years. What you won’t have heard is any actual evidence that this really happened. That might be, as Maggie McNeill says, it’s a media myth:

Major events such as World’s Fairs and the Olympics always provide an excuse for governments to “clean things up” in the host cities before the guests arrive. Police sweep people the leaders consider undesirable, embarrassing or just plain unsightly out of public view (and into jails or exile for the duration). The victims vary with the time and place: the poor, the homeless, unpopular minority groups, drug addicts and gay people have all been among them. The list always includes sex workers; even in countries where prostitution is legal (such as Greece or Brazil) the moralists feel compelled to purge the most visible manifestations of the sex trade from areas where visitors might encounter them. Xenophobia is also heightened by such events, as those so predisposed fear the prospect of strangers coming to town, bringing with them outlandish and alien forms of sin and crime. Together, these two factors may be the origin of one of the stranger (yet more persistent) myths of our time: the idea that some Lost Tribe of Gypsy Harlots, tens of thousands strong, wanders about the world from mega-event to mega-event, unimpeded by the usual logistics of transport and lodging which should make the migration of such a large group a daunting task indeed.

The legend seems to have first appeared in conjunction with the 2004 Olympics in Athens. That’s telling because, though the rebranding of sex work as “sex trafficking” was already underway in prohibitionist circles in the late 1990s, the moral panic seems to have begun in earnest in January of 2004. In the months before the Olympics Athenian officials went through the usual cleansing procedure, raiding brothels for largely bogus violations of zoning restrictions. A Greek sex workers’ union complained that by making it difficult to work in legal brothels the city would increase illegal prostitution, and this was twisted by European prohibitionists into “Athens is encouraging sex tourism.”

By the end of the year, the growing “anti-trafficking” movement was using bad stats to claim that “sex trafficking increased by 95 percent during the Olympics.” Within a few months, anti-sex worker groups made the bizarre prediction that approximately 40,000 women would be “trafficked” into Germany for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Of course, nothing of the kind happened. Despite increased police actions (including raids on 71 brothels), the German authorities only came up with five cases of exploitation they believed to be linked to the event. The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, which closely investigated the myth in its 2011 report “What’s the Cost of a Rumour?”, was unable to find a credible source for the “40,000” figure; it seems to have simply been made up. But it has doggedly persisted since then, accompanying virtually every major sporting event including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and the 2012 Olympics in London. Despite massive police crackdowns (costing about £500,000 in London), no significant increase in prostitution (coerced or otherwise) has ever been found during these large events.

Don’t forget your Super Bowl Bingo card

Filed under: Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:23

Super Bowl bingo

Update: Seattle, you’re drunk. Go home.

Seattle Super Bowl snack

February 1, 2014

The hand-egg championship, described

Filed under: Football, Humour, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Part of a continuing series of reporting American events in the way American media reports foreign events:

This Sunday, the eyes of millions of Americans will turn to a fetid marsh in the industrial hinterlands of New York City for the country’s most important sporting event — and some would say the key to understanding its proud but violent culture.

Despite decades of exposure to the outside world through trade and globalization, Americans have resisted adopting internationally popular sports like soccer, cricket, and kabaddi, preferring instead a complex, brutal, and highly mechanized form of rugby confusingly called football. (Except for in a couple of instances, feet do not touch the ball.)

The two finest teams from the nation’s 32 premier league squads meet each year in an event known as the Super Bowl. (There is in fact no bowl.) This year, the game pits a young upstart team from the Northwest Frontier Provinces against another from the mountainous interior region led by the aging scion of one of the sport’s most legendary families. The winner of the contest will claim the title of “world champion,” although very few people play the sport beyond the country’s national borders.

Although the rules are complex — this video [embedded below] offers a brief overview — in broad strokes the contest involves two large teams of large men wearing large amounts of protective padding attempting to move an oblong ball down a 91.44-meter field by either throwing it or running with it while their opponents attempt to knock them to the ground with maximum force.

January 29, 2014

YouTube‘s formative nine-sixteenths of a second

Filed under: Football, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:19

Marin Cogan explains how less than a second of TV helped to trigger the development of YouTube:

You know what happens next. Justin reaches over, grabs a corner of Janet’s right breast cup and gives it a hard tug. Her breast spills out. It’s way more than a handful, but a hand is the only thing Janet has available to cover it, so she clutches it with her left palm. The breast is on television for 9/16 of a second. The camera cuts wide. Fireworks explode from the stage. Cue the end of halftime. Cue the beginning of one of the worst cases of mass hysteria in America since the Salem witch trials.


Michael Powell, then the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was watching the game at a friend’s house in northern Virginia. He’s a football fan and was excited to relax and watch the game after a rough couple of weeks. “I started thinking, Wow, this is kind of a racy routine for the Super Bowl!” he says, his voice pitching up in bemusement. “He was chasing her kind of with this aggressive thing — not that I personally minded it; I just hadn’t seen something that edgy at the Super Bowl.”

Then it happened. Powell and his friend gave each other quizzical looks. “I looked and I went, ‘What was that?’ And my friend looks at me and he’s just like, ‘Dude, did you just see what I did? Do you think she … ?’ And I kept saying, ‘My day is going to suck tomorrow.’” Powell went home and watched the moment again on TiVo. The same thought kept running through his mind: Tomorrow is going to really suck, he remembers thinking. “And it did.”


Of course, our children and our children’s children will never need to dig up an actual time capsule to find out about the wardrobe malfunction. As soon as they hear about the time Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed on live TV, they’ll watch it online. And the reason they’ll watch it online is that in 2004, Jawed Karim, then a 25-year-old Silicon Valley whiz kid, decided he wanted to make it easier to find the Jackson clip and other in-demand videos. A year later, he and a couple of friends founded YouTube, the largest video-sharing site of all time.

February 12, 2013

The State of the Union address is the political version of the NFL’s Pro Bowl

Filed under: Football, Humour, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:05

Jim Geraghty explains:

If you said to me, “let’s end the NFL Pro Bowl,” I’d probably disagree. Because while I haven’t watched a Pro Bowl in its entirety in decades, I’d hate to see a tradition end. But as any football fan will acknowledge, the Pro Bowl is a quasi-necessary event that is executed in a fundamentally flawed fashion. For starters, it occurs at the end of the season, instead of at the halfway point of the season like in other sports. This is because of players’ legitimate fear of injury in a game that has only pride on the line; as a result, everybody plays at about half-speed. Selected players decline to go, so you get the second, third, and sometimes fourth-best players at each position. The NFL moved it to the week before the Super Bowl, to make it less of an afterthought to the season, but now the players on teams in the Super Bowl skip the game.

My friends, the president’s State of the Union Address is our national pro bowl — a simulation of the art of persuasion and politics featuring all the big stars, played at about half speed, with no real consequence.

[. . .]

You’ll recall Matt Welch’s discovery from last year about just how interchangeable the rhetoric is:

    Starting with John F. Kennedy’s address to a joint session of Congress in 1961, you could take one sentence from each SOTU since, in chronological order, and cobble together a speech that will likely resemble much of what you’ll hear tonight. So that’s precisely what I’ve done.

Every president uses the event as just another speech, and avoids anything resembling a hard-nosed assessment of where they’ve made progress and where they need to improve their performance. What’s fascinating is the ritual news articles about drafts of the speech and previews, as if you or I couldn’t predict a half dozen points and themes. This is why we have State of the Union drinking games — because people can often predict the precise phrases, never mind the topics or arguments.

February 4, 2013

CBS Sports fumbles during SuperBowl blackout

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:23

In the New York Daily News, Bob Raissman asks why CBS didn’t bother to do any actual “journalism” about the blackout:

The fans inside the Superdome were not the only ones left in the dark when half the building’s power went out in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII Sunday night. Viewers were left with unanswered questions as CBS Sports’ sideline reporters, and the rest of the cast, failed to go into a reporting mode.

There was no outrage, no questioning how a thing like this could happen on the NFL’s biggest night of the year.

At a time when they should have been aggressively gathering news, CBS’ crew was satisfied with the crumbs the NFL dropped on them. And they swallowed the scraps gladly. Not once during the 34-minute delay did a representative of the National Football League appear on camera to attempt to explain what caused half the Superdome to lose power. Why should they? No one from CBS put any pressure on them.

[. . .]

Think about it. CBS pays billions for the right to air NFL games. Much of that dough is shelled out to secure rights to the Super Bowl. So, on the big night, there is a major screwup and the NFL won’t put someone on the air — and CBS won’t push the league — to try to explain what’s going on? That’s mind-boggling.

But not quite as wacked as CBS’ laid-back approach to reporting this story, which will go down as one of the more unusual moments in Super Bowl history. All the players were on the field, waiting, stretching. Why not take a camera and microphone on the sidelines for an interview? If they blow you off, fine — at least viewers would have something worth watching.

A legal spectre is haunting the NFL

Filed under: Football, Health, Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:12

In the wake of a vastly entertaining SuperBowl contest between the “San Francisco 50-1′ers”* and the “Baltimore Black Birds”*, Steve Chapman outlines the possibility that we won’t see too many more SuperBowl games:

Professional football is the most popular spectator sport in America, which is one reason yesterday’s Super Bowl was expected to draw 110 million viewers. With its famous athletes, storied franchises, and lucrative TV contracts, it’s an industry whose future appears limitless.

But football has a problem: the specter of mass brain damage among current and former players. So far, the steady trickle of disturbing revelations has had no apparent effect on ticket sales or TV ratings. What it has done, though, is more ominous: It has invited lawsuits.

If football falls into decline, it may not be the result of fans turning away, athletes avoiding it, or parents forbidding it. It may be from lawyers representing players who sustained chronic traumatic encephalopathy and expect to be compensated for the damage.

[. . .]

Walter Olson, a Cato Institute fellow, blogger (Overlawyered.com), and author of several books on liability, knows well how a tide of litigation can transform a landscape. And he has a bold prediction: “If we were to apply the same legal principles to football as we do to other industries, it would have to become extremely different, if not go out of business.”

“Seriously?” you may ask. A guy who made a good living engaging in high-speed collisions with 300-lb. blocks of granite can say he didn’t understand the risks involved? It may seem that case will be laughed out of court.

But Olson thinks not. “Courts have not been very friendly to this argument, particularly when something as grave as permanent brain damage is involved,” he told me. And it’s become apparent that while players were aware of the possibility of mangled knees, broken bones, and concussions, they didn’t grasp that repeated blows to the head could produce debilitating and irreversible mental harms.

* See the Samsung commercial in this post for explanation of the team names.

February 1, 2013

Nicely played, Samsung

Filed under: Business, Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:05

At Techdirt, Timothy Geigner tries to talk about something to do with football or advertising:

It’s almost that time of year again, when many of us lesser beings will gather together to watch super-human men on all manner of PEDs and deer antler urine sprays smack each other around while an oblong leather ball sits somewhere in the background. We’ll leap for the pizza and chili like salmon during mating season while, between whistles, obligatory commercials with Avatar-like production budgets glow at us. That’s right sports fans, it’s [editor redacted] time!

Wait, hey! What the hell? I said it’s [editor redacted] time! Oh, come on. I can’t say [editor redacted]? Fine, what about a euphemism, like [editor redacted]? No, can’t say that either? Maybe [editor redacted]? Damn it, this is stupid. I’m talking about something that rhymes with “Pooper Hole” (heh, got you, editor!).

Fortunately for our entertainment sensibilities, Samsung decided this year to combine a distaste for trademark stupidity and our concept of advertising being content in this gem of a spot.

July 26, 2012

Patrick Reusse: Stop being optimistic, Vikings fans

Filed under: Football, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:35

Getting up on the curmudgeonly side of the bed, Patrick Reusse explains why he does not understand the modern Viking fan with an optimistic viewpoint:

The age for sincere emotional involvement with a sports team is 12. Anyone whining over the result of a game before that is a crybaby destined to grow up with few friends.

Which means, if you were 12 on Jan. 11, 1970, the last cheery moment you had about the eventual fate of the Vikings came before that afternoon’s kickoff of the fourth-ever Super Bowl.

Minnesotans as a whole were never more certain of anything than that the Vikings’ magnificent defense would stifle the Kansas City Chiefs and provide a pro football championship in only the third season of Bud Grant’s coaching tenure.

The final was Kansas City 23, Vikings 7. A couple of months later, NFL Films released a highlight tape from the game, complete with Chiefs coach Hank Stram cackling and ridiculing the Vikings throughout his team’s decisive upset.

It was a wound that never healed for Vikings fans that were at least 12 that day, and are now 54, older, or dead.

February 5, 2012

Your Super Bowl TV watching schedule

Filed under: Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:54

Scott Stinson charts exactly what will happen over the long, long, long, long, long, long, long hours of the pre-game show leading up to kickoff sometime in the next 48 hours:

Planning to watch the Super Bowl? A little leery about the six-and-a-half-hour pre-game show? Fear not, we can provide you with an approximate guide for what you will see. Read this, then spend time with your family instead. Win-win! (All times approximate, by which we mean made up.)

12:00 p.m. NBC’s broadcast is coming to you live from Indianapolis, which means we begin with Bob Costas trying to: (a) argue that Indianapolis is a great place and that the game is somehow more meaningful for being there; and (b) keep a straight face

12:32 p.m. First shot of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski walking on his injured ankle. Will he play? Will he be effective? Fortunately, we have six hours to listen to people come up with ever more inventive ways to say “maybe.”

12:45 p.m. Costas gives an earnest speech about Indianapolis, home of the iconic Colts franchise. Not mentioned: Most of the iconic stuff happened in Baltimore, before the owner snuck the team out of town in the dead of night. In Indy, the history of the franchise’s fortunes can be summed up as “crappycrappycrappyPeytonManningcrappy.”

1:02 p.m. Time to soak in some of the exciting moments from the official “tailgate” party, which is in fact nowhere near a parking lot. Musical act falls under the category of “Popular Enough Once That Some People in Audience Have Heard of Them, But Not So Popular That We Would Want Them on TV For Long.” So, Fleetwood Mac, Alabama or 3 Doors Down.

1:04 p.m. The real question here is whether the performance rivals that of the tailgate party a few years back, when Journey appeared and caused America to collectively wonder when Steve Perry turned into a Fillipino guy with long hair.

Update: For those of you who only watch the Super Bowl for the ads (and I know there are lots of you), Reuters has most of the “big” ads collated into one post for your convenience. This is especially useful for those of us north of the 49th parallel, where many of the ads will be overlaid with the same crappy commercials we’ve seen all year. I’m not normally a fan of “there ought to be a law” solutions, but I’d be less than upset if CRTC regulations prohibited showing the same commercial 6-8 times per hour. (If nothing else, that level of repetition probably irritates potential customers more than it attracts them.)

Update, 6 February: It looks like the Reuters collection in the first update was intended to emphasize the lamest of the ads. There’s another collection in the National Post with more. (I don’t follow hockey, but I did think the Budweiser hockey ad was well done, even if they just stole the idea from an improv group.)

February 8, 2011

Packer fans’ code of conduct in Minnesota

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:29

Michael Rand offers some well-intentioned guidelines for euphoric Green Bay fans who happen to live in Viking country:

Here is our statement, on behalf of Vikings fans living in Minnesota: Congratulations to the Packers and their fans. Sunday’s Super Bowl victory was well-deserved. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best — if not the best? — quarterbacks in the NFL. Everything that happened from Jan. 24, 2010 (Vikings/Saints) until Sunday was pretty much the greatest thing that could have happened to Wisconsin. We understand this. You have the right to enjoy this. And you have bragging rights for the foreseeable future.

However … here is our advice to Packers fans living in our fair state: You will want to adhere to the guidelines set forth below — the Articles of Celebration — in order to bask in the post-Super Bowl afterglow safely, in moderation, and without getting punched by a pack of surly Vikings fans. (Note: Much of this, of course, assumes there is an NFL season)

February 6, 2011

Lost recording of SuperBowl I turns up

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:55

Given the ubiquity of video sites on the web today, it can be hard to believe that major TV networks only started systematically storing tapes of shows in the early 1970s. One of the “holy grail” recordings that historians were looking for was SuperBowl I:

Football fans know what happened in Super Bowl I. The game, which was played on January 15, 1967, was the first showdown between the NFL and AFL champions. It ended with the Green Bay Packers stomping the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10.

Unless they were one of the 61,946 people at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that day, or one of the fans who watched it live on NBC or CBS, there’s one thing that all football fans have in common: They’ve never actually seen the game.

In a bizarre confluence of events, neither network preserved a tape. All that survived of this broadcast is sideline footage shot by NFL Films and roughly 30 seconds of footage CBS included in a pre-game show for Super Bowl XXV. Somehow, an historic football game that was seen by 26.8 million people had, for all intents and purposes, vanished.

My favourite bit of information from the article is a lovely juxtaposition between the massive popularity (and wall-to-wall TV coverage) of modern SuperBowl games and this:

The recording also includes a shocking sight for a Super Bowl: empty seats. The game didn’t sell out, even with ticket prices that topped out at $12.

February 4, 2011

Superbowl XLV storyline: sportscasters in the frigid cold

Filed under: Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:03

The Two Scotts spend a bit of time talking about the teams, but most of their column talking about how the brave network sports guys are bearing up under the unexpectedly cold weather:

Reid: Top three undeniable facts about Super Bowl XLV:

1. Sports Reporters Are Pussies. So far the most reportable item from the 2011 Super Bowl appears to be that it’s very coldy woldy. We had to spend days listening to ESPN’s Mike and Mike wussy aloud about how cold it was broadcasting outside until they finally moved their show indoors. And it seems every other reporter in Dallas assumes what the football-loving public wants to learn first is how they’re all holding up in the frigid air of north Texas. Yo candy apples, it’s barely dropped below freezing. Grow a pair!

[. . .]

Feschuk: Reid is right — how can you people think about football at a time like the Super Bowl? Have you not read the stories of valour and bravery from north Texas? Are you not aware of the HARDSHIP and SUFFERING being endured by members of media, who have been subjected to horrible injustices such as wind and having their corporate golf junkets cancelled? Reading their harrowing dispatches from the front lines, it’s clear that these reporters are pretty much exactly like the pro-democracy protesters in Egypt, except even more courageous because some of them forgot to bring warm socks. WE STAND WITH YOU, HEROES!

Honestly, did the US networks hire all of their current crop of sportscasters from Toronto? It would explain the whining about the weather . . .

Then again, the reporters had to write about something, and there are only so many times you can go on about Aaron Rodgers’ talent or interview the family of gypsies that lives in Brett Keisel’s beard. One news outlet in New Hampshire was so desperate that it actually ran a story about a local man who has the same name as Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Think about that. Think about how hard-up for a remotely engaging Super Bowl story the editor must have been to say out loud, “There’s someone else on this planet with the name Mike McCarthy?? AND HE LIVES HERE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE???? To the newsmobile!!!

Aside from the terrible, terrible burden of the weather, the next biggest problem (according to Reid) is this:

There are Not Enough Slutty Women in Texas. In what would constitute a crisis in any circumstance, an embarrassing shortage of prostitutes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area during the Super Bowl may irreparably damage the city’s reputation among hard-up pigs. It is estimated that 10,000 hookers are needed to satisfy the drunken demands of fat corporate slobs who, left to their own charms, couldn’t pick up a slice of pizza. Dallas currently has less than half this number of ladies of the evening (not mention ladies of the afternoon, the late morning, the early morning and the Warren Sapp). In response, the Dallas mayor has been forced to implement emergency measures: Free tickets for Charlie Sheen and ‘friends’.

February 16, 2010

QotD: Football

Filed under: Football, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:11

The Super Bowl is one of those great annual events that is uniquely American — except for the Roman numerals. I think those still belong to the Vatican.

If you missed it, the final score was Saints, XXXI and Colts, XVII.

The Super Bowl represents what we Americans are all about: creative commercials occasionally interrupted by violence. During the six-hour broadcast, there were only 11 minutes of actual, live football action. Some of the commercial breaks were so long that, when we finally came back to the game, I had forgotten which teams were playing.

And what better Norman Rockwell-esque ritual could I have with my kids than to watch 20 erectile dysfunction commercials to every snap of the football? “Daddy, why are those people in bathtubs watching the sun set?” I just tell them the people lost their homes to foreclosure.

Football is a lot like sex: countless hours of advertising how good it will be with only 11 minutes of actual action. Then, for me, there is always that awkward moment at the end when my credit card is declined.

Ron Hart, “Super Bowl: Uniquely American – except the Roman numerals”, Orange County Register, 2010-02-10

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