Super Thoughts, One for Each Quarter of the Big Game

1. The angry folks at Focus on the Family bought a Super Bowl advertisement meant to illustrate what a big mistake abortion is. They enlisted college football superstar and possibly closeted gay religious zealot Tim Tebow to communicate how terrible it would have been for his mom, doing missionary work in the Philippines and carrying her fifth child, to have terminated what doctors viewed as a deeply troubled pregnancy. Had she listened, we — “we” meaning the University of Florida, the NFL, and everyone else who is going to earn jillions of dollars from Tim’s exploits, as well as the millions of voyeurs who enjoy watching him crash into defenders and thank God before and after every victory — we all wouldn’t know Tim. There would be no Tim! If the answer to the obvious question is, “Yes, of course, all God’s Children are all precious and valuable and should be saved from the abortionist’s forceps,” then I ask: Would it not have been less insulting to families of severely deformed and defective children to have made the “star” of the anti-abortion commercial someone who isn’t Tim Tebow? Anyone would regret aborting a Heisman Trophy winner, including militant pro-choicers. To make a really strong argument, the FoF prosyletizers should have cast an adult with severe Down Syndrome, a speech impediment, and a diaper. They should have had him look into the camera and gurgle unintelligibly, with subtitles, “The doctors advised my parents to have an abortion after my mother overdosed on heroin during the 3rd month of pregnancy. But I’m sure glad she didn’t listen!” That would be strong.

2. The next time I happen to launch a business that has the potential to offend a large number of people — like, say, a dating site for straight men who want to have trysts with gay men — I shall publicize my new company by attempting to buy a Super Bowl advertisement. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have $2.7 million for a 30-second spot, or that I can’t even afford to produce an ad. When CBS (or whomever) sees that wishes to use a fine American tradition for un-American activities, my attempt to purchase time will surely be denied. Then, one indignant press release later, I’ve gotten $40 million worth of publicity from the hand-wringing media, outraged special interest groups, and a handful of celebrities who sympathize with my plight. It’s like scalping a Super Bowl ticket you had no intention of ever using, except in this case you don’t have to buy a ticket. You just have to take advantage of a television network’s tendency to act as arbiter of morality.

3. The gladiators in the Big Game may or may not be terribly bright, but they’re magnificently accomplished at what they do. Which reminds us: The difference between skilled and unskilled labor is essentially this: unskilled labor can be learned successfully on the job. From elementary training to total mastery, the unskilled laborer doesn’t have to absorb a bunch of complicated stuff in order to do his job well. When we observe how much certain skilled laborers — I’m thinking musicians, surgeons, engineers — earn on an hourly basis versus their unskilled brethren, we should remember that these folks work less and earn more in public. They work in private for more hours than the average observer might imagine. A friend of mine, a celebrated pianist, rehearses nine hours for a ninety-minute gig — and he practiced six-to-ten-hours a day for twenty-five years before he was ready to do his job at the level he does it. He could get subtle lessons and improve on the job, but he couldn’t learn his job at the lobby of the Sheraton or onstage at Kennedy Center. He had to do homework.

4. By having The Who perform at halftime, the risk of an exposed breast is greatly reduced. But giving the geriatric rock band the high-profile slot is a bummer, and not because Pete Thownsend is possibly a pedophile. It’s a bummer because there are so many interesting, charismatic performers available and eager for the spotlight, and settling for a group that basically sucks in every way is discouraging to aspiring artists with the kind of integrity and artistic sincerity that only the younger generation exhibits, trailblazing visionaries like Taylor Swift and the Black Eyed Peas. What are you gonna do? The suits upstairs don’t know any better.

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