In Super Bowl Ads, Football Safety and Guns Take Center Stage

The blogosphere talks about Sunday night's more serious commercials.

By + More
The biggest advertising event of the year was briefly interrupted Sunday night by a football game, a Beyonce concert, and a 35-minute blackout during which the game stopped because the lights went out in half of the stadium. Here is a round up from around the blogosphere of reactions to the main event: the commercials.Amongst the ads for soft drinks and cars and men's underwear, the NFL itself ran a series of ads for their new campaign "NFL Evolution," meant to stress the steps the league is taking to make the game safer. Writes Washington Post Wonkblog's Ezra Klein:
It's meant to show how the NFL has made the game safer, with pads and and helmets and rules. Instead, it shows how it's made the game more dangerous, making it easier for the players to hit harder, last longer, endure more trauma. And it shows how we're complicit, too. Even as the ad is meant to assuage our guilt about the game's violence, it's all about the game's violence — it's one big hit after another, because that's why we tune in, that's why we like to watch. The ad celebrates the NFL's sobriety by ordering everyone a round of shots.The NFL hasn't evolved to be safer. It's evolved to be more lucrative, which means being more fun to watch, which means having bigger and more spectacular hits.[ Take the U.S. News Poll: Should Super Bowl Ad Videos Be Released Online Before the Game?]In addition to addressing the increasing opposition to the adverse health effects of football, another serious topic took the stage last night: guns. Mayors Against Illegal Guns ran an ad only in the Washington, D.C. market in the third quarter of the game that called out the NRA for their backtrack on universal background checks for gun owners. Annie-Rose Strasser of Think Progress explains:
The ad is part of the group's " Demand A Plan" campaign, which focuses on convincing elected officials that stronger gun regulations are needed.The spot features pictures and voices of children—a harsh reminder of the 20 first-graders killed in December in Newton, Connecticut. The kids single out the National Rifle Association for backtracking on its earlier support for background checks on all gun sales.[ See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]Amy Davidson of Close Read says this isn't the first time the mayors' group has run a Super Bowl ad on guns, but it was a much more blatant act of lobbying than last year's commercial.
And it wasn't a general evocation of tragedy, like having children from Newtown sing "America the Beautiful" with Jennifer Hudson. Bloomberg seems to have decided that this moment is less about supplicating or pretending there's no real discord, and more about getting a bill through Congress. That will involve putting cracks in the N.R.A.'s defenses.…And what does this have to do with football? Super Bowl ads are a wide-open cultural space, and as good as any to talk about guns. (Or, for that matter, same-sex marriage.) Beyond that, this was a year that saw a Chiefs player shoot and kill his girlfriend and, after driving to his team's practice facility, himself. Bob Costas, in the halftime of the Sunday Night Football game that weekend, asked for a discussion of our gun culture, and was (wrongly) attacked for it.[ Read the U.S. News Debate: Should High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines Be Banned?]On the other side of the spectrum, the Truth About Guns's Robert Farago calls the commercial a "blessing:"
While it adhere's to Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals (demonize the enemy), the message is churlish rather than effective. No cause and effect emotionalism.…The ad indicates that the civilian disarmament movement has "retreated" from their calls for an assault weapons ban and ammunition magazine capacity limits to their "fall back" position of universal registration. I mean, background checks. Either that or they're focusing on one assault on the Second Amendment at a time.