What do you think of the NFL’s “No More” campaign against domestic violence? If you watch football on TV, the commercials are ubiquitous. NFL players look directly into camera and tell us, in so many different ways, “no more making excuses” when it comes to ignoring domestic violence. In other commercials non-players struggle to “start a conversation.” Men get choked up. Women cry. This stuff is sooooo hard to talk about.

The NFL created the “No More” campaign in response to the withering criticism it experienced for insufficiently penalizing star player, Ray Rice (two games) after a tape came out depicting him knocking out his fiancé in an elevator and then callously dragging her away. The NFL claimed it had never seen the tape, almost certainly a lie. The story blew up all over the world. If that wasn’t bad enough, another star player, Adrian Peterson, was busted for beating the crap out of his very young son with a stick. Peterson, in a pathetic story, claimed it was not abuse because ‘getting beat’ was how he was brought up. The NFL brand and its chief steward, Roger Goodell, took a well-deserved pounding for their indecisive and late reaction, which continues to this day.

Well, I’m also calling bullshit on their campaign. I say “no more” to these annoying and forced commercials. And so are a number of my friends on facebook, many well-known advertising professionals. I’ll let their comments speak for themselves.

These (commercials) are going to do absolutely nothing to help the issue. First of all they’re a complete lie and second they don’t confront, raise awareness, make a point…etc. Nothing. They’re an NFL whitewash…The NFL stonewalled the conversation and now they have the balls to say, “let’s start a conversation.” Unbelievably bad form. -David Baldwin

DO something authentically remarkable and different, and you won’t have to make shitty ads about a significant issue. -Jonathan Hoffman

I HATE them. Why? It’s built on the idea that this really happened behind the scenes. Contrived BS. It’s a lie. -Brian Brooker

Drama soufflé with drama sprinkles. -Katherine Green

Another friend commented the commercials were better than doing nothing. Barely. In my opinion, the NFL is mostly advertising its profound tone-deafness. The ‘crying women’ commercials are painful to watch NOT for the intended reason (the difficult subject matter) but on account of how cloying they are.

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We all know these ‘characters’ are not spontaneously crying. To portray them as behind the scenes and breaking down is clumsy at best, at worst callous and insincere. In the spots featuring real athletes, the men look like meatheads reading cue cards. I don’t believe a word. With the “No More” campaign, the NFL players and the brand come off as bulls in a china shop.

Like a lot of people in this country I love watching pro football. I grew up with the NFL. I also create advertising for a living and have done so for a very long time. Finally, and most importantly, I have a wife and three daughters. Save for the abused themselves, I don’t think there can be a more qualified person than me when it comes to calling bullshit on this campaign.

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The righteous drum continues to beat louder, calling for the termination of the Washington Redskins nickname, which got a huge assist when the United States Patent Office rescinded trademark rights for the moniker, deeming it offensive to Native Americans. Recently, the above commercial ran during the NBA playoffs.

The name is offensive. Period.

Anyone who believes otherwise, consider if the Redskins played a game against a team called the Seattle Slant Eyes or Miami Wetbacks. Why we took so long coming to this painfully obvious conclusion is the only issue worth debating.

Perhaps the biggest grotesque is that Washington DC is literally where, once upon a time, the orders were given to marginalize, if not wipe out, Native Americans. Naming one’s biggest sporting franchise after a people our forefathers nearly crushed out of existence is sick.

And yet the team’s owner, Dan Snyder is steadfast in fighting the injunction and any other measures demanding the team change its name. Claiming the term Redskins is a “badge of honor,” Snyder is not backing down.

Dan+Snyder
Dan, here’s an idea for a name.

Eerie the similarities to what’s going on with the embattled, soon-to-be former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Holding on to old ideas like these have no place in the modern era.

I know the bar stool defense. Old timers rail at political correctness. They bellow: Where does it end? The Fighting Irish? Chief Wahoo? Maybe those do go away. So what? The University of Illinois got rid of their mascot, Chief Illiniwek in 2007, deeming it “hostile and abusive.” The games are still packed with fans. Life went on.

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Chief Wahoo. Ouch.

Fighting-Irish
Piss off!

Not long ago, Jacksonville named their NFL team the Jaguars –an animal that is all but extinct in Florida. I think that’s kind of gross. Yet, I hadn’t thought about it until now. Maybe they don’t change the name but a dollar for every ticket goes to helping this endangered animal? New thinking comes from new ideas, even bad ones. New ideas rile people up. And that’s good.

But let’s get off the soapbox and into the boardroom.

Snyder is a businessman. Does he not see the huge financial upside in making a name change? All new jerseys symbolizing doing the right thing: like those wouldn’t sell. Please. As for all that old merch it would immediately become collectible. Moreover, can he not picture the marketing potential such a move would engender? Social media was made for an “event” like this. Fans could be solicited to help create a new moniker, or vote on one. Even if the selection process were contentious the freaking proverbial “conversation” would be radioactive.

I know a thing or two about popular culture and the influence young people have on it. New fans are not beholden to tradition, even when they should be. You can’t tell me the multitudes of young people, who voted for a black president (twice) and adore and follow the multicultural mainstream wouldn’t embrace a new look Washington football team.

Look around you, Mr. Snyder. Athletes are coming out of the closet. Pot is legal. More and more so is gay marriage. The world is moving on. Evolving. Adaptation is sound strategy. Making a name change transcends political correctness; it’s just good business.


Marion Barber leaves the field after losing to the Broncos.

Having lost a third game in a row, in overtime to the Tebow-lead Denver Broncos, the Chicago Bears are done. At 7-6, they trail the undefeated Green Bay Packers by a million games. One could argue their season was over when quarterback, Jay Cutler broke his finger three weeks ago. That the Bear’s overachieving running back, Matt Forte got injured the following week only added injury to insult. Marion Barber became the featured running back, and he is subject of this story…

For Marion Barber was featured in a fashion few of us will ever experience. Barber single-handedly lost the game to the Denver Broncos. Twice. First by inexplicably running out of bounds, thereby stopping the clock from running out on the opposition. Second by fumbling the ball on his way to an open field and the game-winning touchdown. In this way, the Bears lost an un-losable game.

To use a cruel cliché, if you look up “Epic Fail” in the dictionary you’ll see a picture of Marion Barber.

This evening, as I was decorating our family’s Christmas tree, I felt sorry for Marion Barber. I knew as I was stretching to put a star atop the tree, Barber was sitting on a brutally quiet airplane, staring out into a darkened sky, alone. If any of his teammates tried to commiserate with him, which is doubtful, he could only tell them he was sorry once or twice before even that became unbearable. Bears like Barber aren’t used to being the goat. No professional ball player is. The worst guy on the worst team in the NFL is infinitely better at his craft than most everyone else in the world. When one of these men shoulders the entire weight of a team loss, I can’t imagine the pain.

And it is a pain that won’t go away anytime soon. For tomorrow and the next day and the days after that, the media will crucify him. From the gaudy sportscasters on his favorite news channel to the paralyzing over-analysis on ESPN, his inability to stay inbounds will be EVERYWHERE. He’ll want to stay off Twitter as well.

Facing his family will bring no relief. They will coddle him and that will only make it worse. He will want to crawl into a hole until next Sunday when, God willing, he can somehow be a hero. It’s unlikely. Frankly, it’s unlikely the Bears will win another game.

Yes, a lot of other Bears screwed up plays, including the coaches. But Barber’s was by far the worst. Men like Barber are filthy rich. But I bet he’d give a million dollars to have either one of his mistakes against Denver reversed. In his cleats, wouldn’t you? I know I would.


Howard and the gang, “Back after a word from our sponsors.”

I found myself watching Monday Night Football, a tight game between the Dallas Cowboys and The Washington Redskins, one of the oldest rivalries in the NFL. The Cowboys would win, recovering a fumble from ex-Bear, Rex Grossman, or as we called him “Bad Rex.”

Football (college and the pros) is one of the few televised programs I watch in real time. Subsequently, it’s also one of the only places I get to see commercials in their original habitat. I view plenty of TVC’s but usually online, via links from bloggers, trades, or on someone’s website.

Funny way of looking at it: commercials in their original habitat. As if they were endangered species and the Internet a zoo for them.

Screen size aside, I wonder if viewing commercials online is the same as seeing them in the “wild.” Most would agree that seeing zoo animals pale in comparison to the real thing. My analogy is funky (I know) yet seeing spots isolated from other commercials and “your regularly scheduled TV programming” is different. For one thing we can replay them. Scrutinize them. Share them if we’re so inclined.

But on Monday Night Football commercials are fleeting and ephemeral, assuming you’re not using DVR. They slip into our living rooms like loud and colorful birds. No surprise we used to call them “flights.”

And there they were: beer commercials, fast food commercials, zillions of promos for other ball games. Just like the olden days, when we used those three minutes hustling to the bathroom, to the fridge or both.


“Use a glass, Sally.”
“Jeez, Ma, I’ll get one at the commercials!”

I barely remember when television commercials roamed our rooms, unabated by Tivo. My kids have no clue. They regularly ask me, “Why don’t you fast forward, Dad?” I tell them football is live, in real time and that I can’t just press a button. “That’s too bad,” they say.

I suppose.


“Relax, Frank. At least you’re not the middle child.

Let us compare two disparate groups of four: sports and monsters.

For the last hundred years America has had a love affair with four sports: Baseball, Football, Basketball and Hockey. For most of those years it was in that order. I’m leaving out soccer but will come to it shortly.

There are four major monsters haunting these lands: Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves and Mummies. For most of the last 100 years it was in that order. I’m leaving out witches but will come to them shortly.

While baseball has long been considered America’s pastime, in the last 20 or so years the NFL has taken over, largely due to gambling and its colorful violence. While sports purists and old people still prefer baseball, most concede that football has passed by it like a 50-yard bomb from Tom Brady.

Ever since Bram Stoker penned Dracula, vampires have been the preferred undead, bolstered now by Twilight, True Blood and the Vampire Diaries, among others. Zombies, however, have shambled to the top of the heap, starting with George Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead and all that it generated, including last years ugly-faced darling, The Walking Dead.


Monster of the Midway (not Dracula)

Zombies are the new vampires. Football is the new baseball. Agreed? Then let’s move on…

In a way (granted a very odd way) the NBA is like a pack of werewolves. Sleek, fast and cool but just not as popular as the others. Both have their rabid fans but the numbers just aren’t there. Werewolves and the NBA are like middle children.


B-ball and W-wolves…

An even odder comparison would be hockey and mummies. Hockey is the fastest sport and mummies are the slowest monsters. Clearly, The two have nothing in common. Except the glaring fact that compared to the other three in their respective categories, they fall miserably short. And yes, this is a popularity contest.

So: witches and soccer…

Soccer, or European football, is without a doubt, the biggest sport in the world. Yet in America it’s basically an activity for children. I prefaced this silly article by stating an American bias. And in the US of A, soccer is barely a stepchild to the Big 4.

Witches (yawn) are random, closer to fantasy than horror, at best a default costume for every other mom on Halloween. They are not scary. Of many proof points, take Marnie the witch on True Blood. In my opinion, she all but derailed the show. And then there’s Samantha. Bewitching yes but no monster.


Cute as hell but not from Hell.

I will withdraw my paragraph comparing boxing with dinosaurs, for they are both extinct. Mixed martial arts are having a nice run. Alas, I don’t have a monster corollary for them. Demons? Aliens? Rosie O’Donnell?

Why have I written this you may rightfully ask? Well, I love sports and I love monsters. And since popular culture would be sadly bereft without either, I decided to mash ‘em together, just for the fun of it. I hope you enjoyed the exercise as much as I did. If not, you’re either a witch or someone who gets up at 3AM to watch Real Madrid play Chelsea.

Editor’s note: I ignored Frankenstein for he is one-off like the Invisible Man or table tennis.