Tuesday, February 9, 2010

That's Entertainment! Tim Tebow & the Super Bowl

Property The Daily Gamecock

As millions watched the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints battle their way to football’s biggest prize, the lingering question in the back of America’s mind was, would Tim Tebow and his mom ruin the Super Bowl forever?
Controversy rippled through the media, or maybe just the fervent corner of Internet speculation, last week when it was announced Tebow and his mother, Pamela Tebow, would be featured in a pro-life spot.

Fans eager to protect the assumed sanctity of Super Bowl advertising were quick to protest the politicization of the ad without even seeing it. How could CBS air such a divisive ad during a game that many steadfastly believe represents a moment of national unity?
By these accounts, Tebow’s ad would be the most devastating and talked-about Super Bowl moment since Justin Timberlake showed the world a little too much of Janet Jackson. Early in the first quarter, the devastating tornado of soapbox preaching and moralizing came sandwiched in the midst of a commercial break.

Imagine the horror of seeing Pam Tebow reflecting on how her healthy, beautiful baby almost didn’t make it into the world, photographed against a white background as she holds a picture of her child. Imagine the disturbing moment where “Timmy” tackles his mom, only to throw an arm around her and flash an over-the-top grin a second later.
Cheesy, yes, but if you blinked you missed it. From there, other commercials rolled on, the game went on for four quarters and The Who played at halftime.

The “ad that would destroy the Super Bowl” was more like a tide pool ripple than a tsunami, but it begs two important questions — first, why did people get themselves so up in arms in the first place; second, does the Tebow ad have any lasting impact for Super Bowl advertising as a whole?

The first question seems a bit obvious. Our society likes to segment its distractions. Save God for church, never bring up politics at the dinner table and make sure the Super Bowl ups the silly factor to the extreme.

Why we assume the most important issues in our lives shouldn’t be integrated into media is the greater mystery here. Why relegate the discussion of abortion (or health care, or the recession) exclusively to news channels or coffee houses?

In many ways, the Tim Tebow ad forced us to consider the very nature of the Super Bowl as a state of national discourse. Of course it would be a respectful, modest and insignificant ad, despite the claims some launched of images of dead fetuses circulating for 30 seconds. The question was, should it even have been there in the first place?

While it’s doubtful Tebow’s set a precedent for other socially conscious public service announcements of this type, the Super Bowl still reigns as one of the greatest opportunities to win an audience in 30 seconds. It’s perhaps more an issue of society that we have to force ourselves to believe television and sporting events should brush larger issues under the table for a few measly hours.

There’s a difference between pushing an agenda and promoting a message, and the distinction must be realized to further understand how media, from a 30-second commercial to a two-hour film, can be positively used to engage us with society’s broader preoccupations, even at — and especially at – our moments of diversion and distraction.

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