Or, eighteen of the things I learned while watching Capital One’s Bowl Week on ESPN over the holidays.
Unlike the way much of America watches TV now (i.e., on premium cable without commercials, or on DVD one season at a time without commercials, or illegally downloaded from the internet without commercials), televised sports are saturated with ads that you are more or less compelled at least to sit through, if you care at all about the game you’re watching. The games themselves, at a remove of a few days (Capital One’s Bowl week officially ended on New Year’s Day), have been reduced to a rubble of primary colors in my easily-distracted mind, but I do remember the commercials, if only because the experience of sitting through so many, so often, is comparatively rare (for me). Herewith some random observations:
1. Apparently, to UPS, logistics = Doug Flutie throwing a Hail Mary pass on November 23, 1984 to allow Boston College to beat the University of Miami 47-45. In other words, UPS believes that logistics is the same as chaos theory. I’m going with FedEx.
2. According to a comprehensive study of every car commercial aired during bowl week, many people receive cars as Christmas gifts. I’ve never known anyone who received a car as a Christmas gift. As presented in a series of variations on a theme by one particular brand, the choice is either an ugly scarf or a new car. If you give someone an ugly scarf they’ll tell you “Just what I wanted!” but their heart won’t be in it. On the other hand, if you give them an unfathomably expensive tricked-out new ride they’ll say “Just what I wanted!” and they’ll mean it. For a mere $20K or so, you can buy sincerity.
3. Explain, please, why playing a word game on your phone in an airplane with a friend or even a stranger thousands of miles away is less impressive than paying your insurance bill on the same phone. And what a talking pig has to do with either of these things. Thanks. I’ll be over here uploading Instagrams of my foot.
4. Antelopes with night vision goggles are funny. Repeatedly. Children are always adorable, even when accompanied by Jimmy Fallon. Peyton Manning is kind of a dick who barks at his dad and the employees of OnStar and likes terrible pizza.
5. There is no such thing as an overused cliché. It is what it is.
6. Everybody in America loves America unconditionally. Banks have something to do with servicemen and women coming home safely. Insurance companies help teach children to ride bikes, or think that teaching children to ride bikes is the summit of good parenting.
7. Trucks are always powerful and tough and yet somehow still incredibly fuel efficient. All of them. Except Chevys, which are not strong enough to survive the Mayan apocalypse that didn’t happen.
8. The holidays are about families. Families buying things and eating things and drinking things. Also watching things on TV.
9. Nelly’s college bowl-week song is actually pretty catchy after three hundred listens. It’s a little weird to hear him singing what seems to be a straight-up pop song (at least in the ten-second version we get before and after commercials), but he’s a smart guy, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. I once went around Hollywood pitching a movie with Nelly. He was going to star in a sort of Porky’s update set at a junior college. No one wanted it.
10. ESPN college football analyst Mark Mays is insane. It’s my belief that fellow analyst Lou Holtz has driven him there. The good thing about the more colorful analysts is that their insanity is easy to spot. I suspect most ESPN college analysts are insane; it is after all an insane job, where you have to come up with different ways to say the same thing over and over again, and very often fail. The ones who are probably more insidiously nuts than the shouty beef-faced ones are the even-tempered, guys-can’t-we-all just agree-that-Georgia’s-defense-rules ones. Those guys strike me as the ones more likely to frequent underground sex dungeons. Where they probably see a lot of Lou Reed.
11. TD Ameritrade is a big fan of the films of Wes Anderson. But not of rocket science.
12. Alec Baldwin’s talents are perhaps better used than hawking anytime/anywhere credit card miles for Capital One. Then again, he’s doubtless getting a sweet deal since Capital One has bought the entire week for branding purposes and Baldwin is, for the most part, the face of their brand. He does seem hell-bent on squandering the goodwill he’s banked on 30 Rock, however.
13. As a corollary to the above point, the infinite jesting (cf. The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, the Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar) of televised sports continues apace, but it’s only intermittently intrusive. It was always weak-tea satire on the part of DFW anyway, and one of the reasons for a long time I considered IJ a mostly stupid novel. However: I no longer remember a time when the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl was not the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, if in fact there was such a time. The Discover Orange Bowl rolls off my tongue. The Chik-Fil-A Bowl didn’t even co-opt a bowl, or at least one that I can recall, they just made one up. And during the whole game, not once did anyone make a reference to marriage equality, which makes me think that college sports just doesn’t care about progressive politics.
14. Just for reminding me that Smashmouth was a thing, I hate Nebraska.
15. Insurance, banking, trucks, and Bud Light appear to be the four biggest businesses in America. Without these things life would be inert and colorless. And probably illegal.
16. Fink is a word you just don’t hear enough anymore. In fact, I didn’t hear it once during Capital One Bowl Week. I did read it in a comic strip attached to the sports section of the local Vero Beach, FL, newspaper (leaning hard on the metaphorical sense of the word “newspaper.”). My New Year’s Resolution is to bring “fink” back into vogue.
17. Every one of the several times an announcer referred to a particular play as going “sideline to sideline,” I thought it was a reference to a Superchunk song. It’s not. The Superchunk song is called “Driveway to Driveway,” but it strikes me that they missed out on a huge corporate tie-in there. Maybe indie rock isn’t dead after all. (It is. But that’s okay.)
18. The Oregon Ducks are shiny.