Sunday, February 1, 2009

Can Super Bowl Ads Top This?

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, which means two weeks of hype will culminate with a football game that is likely to be pretty dreadful.

But don't worry about that. We'll still have plenty of Super Bowl ads to check out, and that's the best part of the game anyway.

This year presents one problem, though. The best ad of the football-playoff season has already been run.

Regular readers know that I'm a sports fan, but the Super Bowl started turning me off about XL years ago, not long after Joe Namath guaranteed a win and then backed it up when his New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

That shocker was followed by years of stupefyingly boring Super Bowls, and I finally realized that if you want to watch real football, catch the NFL playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl. That's because the big game itself tends to be a snoozefest.

Granted, last year's game between the New York Giants and New England Patriots was an exception, featuring an upset, a thrilling finish, and one of the great clutch plays in sports history:

Today's matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals has all the makings of a return to Dullsville. I grew up a Cardinals fan, when they were in St. Louis, and have fond memories of watching standouts like quarterback Jim Hart, running back Johnny Roland, wide receiver Mel Gray, safety Larry Wilson, and cornerback Roger Wehrli. Heck, those Cardinals even had colorful offensive linemen, such as Tom Banks and Conrad Doebler.

But the Bidwell family that ran the team couldn't stand prosperity, so they screwed up the franchise and ultimately moved it to Arizona. Under the direction of the Bidwells, the Cardinals have long been one of the most dysfunctional organizations in sports. The franchise seems to finally be getting its act together, but the Steelers (one of the best-run organizations in sports) should win today's game handily.

But does it matter if the Super Bowl turns out to be a flop on the field? Heck, no. For more than XXX years, it's been about commerce more than coaches, pomp more than pigskins.

That's why many Americans will tune in today for two reasons: (1) The halftime performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band; and (2) The string of uber-expensive commercials that usually includes a few delightful hits and quite a few grimace-producing misses.

Perhaps the worst miss in Super Bowl ad history has strong Birmingham connections. It was a 1999 "gem" for Just For Feet, a now-defunct, Birmingham-based footwear chain. Without going into details about the "premise" of the ad, let's just say it was trashed as confusing, mindless, and racist--and those were some of the nicer things said about it. Salon called it the "ad from hell." One Web site includes the Just for Feet debacle as one of the "seven most awful Super Bowl ads ever."

So what will be the best and worst ads in today's Super Bowl? That remains to be seen. But our cultural team here at Legal Schnauzer submits that the best ad of the football-playoff season has already been run.

It comes to us from the fine folks at Hardee's, the fast-food chain that still does biscuits and gravy better than anyone. This ad touts the restaurants' new chicken parmesan sandwich. For our money, it's a classic (the ad, not the sandwich.) Enjoy:

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