Insulting commercials...
viewers can do without them

Mar 28, 2006 6:20 AM

I’ve been involved with basketball since I was a kid, played it, announced it, wrote about it.

Last Sunday, I tried a new approach. I became a fan.

Like most Americans, I have a penchant for underdogs, and I was thrilled earlier in the week when George Mason took care of Duke. You have to admire Mike Krzyzewski, a truly exceptional coach, but I became annoyed with the smugness of the Duke players, and shed no tears when GM eliminated them.

Then, Sunday, I decided to watch the little known Virginia gang take on Connecticut, another bunch of overly self-assured big guys.

I did not think George Mason could win, and I felt I was right when they blew their 74-70 lead with 17 seconds left and Connecticut stormed back to tie. That ends it, I thought, figuring Connecticut would use that launching pad to wipe GM out in the next five minutes.

College basketball, as a television event, can become boring easily, and the pro game virtually all the time, with those 6-10 and up guys running back and forth dunking for 40 minutes, and hanging on the rim like tryouts for Tarzan.

So I decided that I would entertain myself, between the bursts of action, by watching and grading the commercials that kept interrupting the game endlessly.

We — you and I — have no defense against what the gang of ad copywriters in New York thinks up and then congratulate themselves on creating. Their commercials display their crassness, or their creativity, but I’ve developed a defense that is both zone and man-for-man.

I make notes on commercials that insult my intelligence, or if you question that quality, my sense of decency. I cross their products off my lists of things I will buy, and the first to go on Sunday was Direct TV, which lost me with their gutter taste in showing two guys urinating. There was no redeeming feature to that commercial, and I’ll use Dish.

I liked both the idea and production of Lowe’s father-and-son commercial, first with the son as young boy and then as star athlete cutting down the net and glancing over at his father with a look of deep appreciation. The two actors involved did a superb job in expressing their emotions of pride and gratitude, respectively. I’ll buy my next hammer and building supplies from Lowe’s, despite Home Depot’s weak claim, at least in my case, that "You can do it, and we’ll help you."

Midas lost me too with their Flintstones piece. I’ll pass next time I need brake pads or mufflers.

Cingular’s beautifully executed combination of smooth talk and screaming protest against dropped calls won points, and I loved the commercial showing high school girls admiring a handsome teacher walking by, and he then turning to reveal he was carrying a baby in his front carrying pouch as he met his wife. Well done, Mazda.

The ads for other television shows only confirmed what I’ve known all along. This country’s preoccupation with violence, and the TV networks’ conclusion that is all they want and can handle, is sickening, part of our sad and rapid decline as a respect world partner. Bang, you’re dead! And if not I’ll stab you to make sure.

Back on the court, George Mason was still leading, 74-72, with 7.9 seconds left. Then Tony Skinn, an 81% free throw shooter, misses one, and loses a pass, and I felt pangs of sorrow for the kid being the goat of the game. Connecticut tied it on Denham Brown’s reverse layup as the game went to overtime, but he will be remembered more for missing a close 3-pointer that would have won it at the final buzzer. Burger King showed an infantile commercial with two guys dressed as hamburgers”¦or was it cheeseburgers? Either way, I’ll go to McDonalds. They don’t insult me.

Coca Cola butted in then, boasting about making a Coke that doesn’t taste like a Coke. They picked an apt name — Zero. It’s a real zilch.

So George Mason wins, and I rejoice, and there is Mike Krzyzewski, his team no longer to be seen, trying to sell me a Chevy.

I think I’ll try National Public Radio.