Saturday, August 11, 2012

We'll Be Right Back

In other countries, public television represents the interests and characteristics of the people, presenting and displaying diverse programming that covers all aspects of life.  In the United States - American exceptionalism, you know - public television is a bunch of period dramas and nature shows, with occasional highbrow fare supposedly funded by private contributions from an aspirational middle class but really funded by oil companies and David Koch (what's the difference?).  But sports? Certainly not.  That explains why Brits who can't attend the London Olympics in person can still watch it on the BBC without commercial interruption, but we hapless Americans have to watch it on NBC . . . and put up with those damn commercials.
These commercials are mostly harmless, but most of them are forgettable.  There will be a few commercials that I will remember with a smile.  As hypocritical as I find it to allow a fast-food restaurant chain like McDonald's to use real Olympic athletes like Lolo Jones and Marlen Esparza to promote their Olympic prize  contest - because real athletes don't eat that crap - it's kind of funny to see ordinary teenagers giving these athletes advice they obviously don't need.  My big problem with these ads, though, is that I feel like I see athletes like Sanya Richards-Ross run in commercials more than in actual competition.
As far as commercials from previous Olympiads are concerned, I don't remember a lot of them. I remember Cadillac featuring Olympic athletes in its ads with the line that they believed in "controlled precision." What?  (Ads for the Cadillac ATS sedan aired during the London Games don't bother with such silliness; they're too busy focusing on the product.)  One ad I do remember from the 1992 Winter Olympics shows a Lithuanian skier arriving in Albertville, France, with a voice-over talking about how so many athletes had to come so far to represent their country, while some of them, like the Lithuanians, had to come so far just to have a country to represent.  (Two of the three Baltic States, Estonia and Latvia competed in the Olympics as independent nations in 1992 for the first time since 1936; Lithuania competed in the Olympics as a independent nation in 1992 for the first time since 1928.) What was the ad for? I don't remember. :-D
Of course, my favorite Olympic ad (below) has to be from 1996 - a Visa ad, in which the U.S. men's basketball team hosts their competitors at a luncheon and Hakeem Olajuwon says he and his fellow Americans "are going to treat these guys for lunch!" 
As the other teams cheer, Olajuwon's teammate Scottie Pippen whispers into Olajuwon's ear, "We said we were going to eat these guys for lunch, not treat them!"
"Whoops," Olajuwon says, forced to pick up the whole tab on his Visa card.
That was during the Games of Atlanta, which had all of us drinking antacid for breakfast.  (The Mylanta Olympics? What better sponsorship could you ask for? :-D)

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