As an avid TV watcher and student of popular culture, I’ve noticed a few things about advertising over the years. It really doesn’t matter what the product is, advertisers have any number of wily ways to coddle and woo the customer.
One proven method involves subliminally suggesting that if you buy a given product, you will magically inherit the traits of the people in the commercial. Using the right shampoo will make your hair look luxurious and full of body, and if you read the subliminal messages, it will also take care of that crooked nose, unsightly warts and as an added bonus, you’ll shed those 35 extra pounds you’ve been carting around since the late 90’s. For obvious legal reasons, no shampoo manufacturer is going to actually promise you much of anything beyond clean hair. Still, the models in their ads never have crooked noses, warts or thunder thighs. A coincidence? I think not.
For many advertisers, there is an implied promise which is even more alluring than that of physical beauty, and that is making your child into a sports superstar. Take for example, the notion that if you buy a certain brand of minivan, your child will score the winning goal in the soccer game, and will be carried off the field on the shoulders of his or her comrades, to the waiting luxurious comfort of your shiny, stain-free mini-van. It might be the winning run of the baseball game or the winning shot of the basketball game instead of soccer, but make no mistake about it, if you plunk down 30 large for this incredible mini-van, your son or daughter will win the game (As a point of clarification, scoring the winning touchdown in football games is usually reserved for laundry detergent ads).
Parents have no bounds when it comes to doing anything and everything they can to ensure the success and popularity of their children. Trust me on this one, I have kids. OK, you got me, I had kids. They’re all young adults now, but I have my memories. If some slick huckster on Madison Avenue implanted the germ of an idea in my head that buying the right mini-van would improve one of my kids chances of scoring a winning goal, you know damn well I would have bought it. Crash rating? We don’t need no stinking crash rating!
Now that my kids are older, I can look back with some degree of objectivity on all of this subliminal advertising insanity. While I wrote that any number of sports could suffice, I’ll stick with soccer for this hypothetical discussion.
On any given weekend day, there are easily a hundred thousand little league soccer games being played all across America. A standard soccer game will have 11 players on each team. Only one team can win – there are no ties in mini-van commercials, so we’ll eliminate the 11 players on the losing team. One of the players on the winning team is the goalie, and unless they make an incredible kick, the goalie is highly unlikely to score the winning goal. The goalie, especially in little league soccer, would be much more likely to score the winning goal for the other team, however this would probably not result in his or her being carried off the field a hero.
Another factor is that, despite the best efforts of league organizers at spreading the talent evenly among the teams, there are often powerhouses and cellar dwellers in many soccer leagues. The disparity of talent will result in lop-sided wins or losses. It’s a simple fact that no one will carry you off the field for scoring the winning goal if it happens 3 minutes into the game in an eventual 10-2 blow out. Therefore we can safely eliminate half the games being played because they’re blow outs.
Yet another issue is the incidence of overly involved parents. In a few of these games, despite the outcome, some Dad will go berserk and charge onto the field to assault the referee. This will result in the game being called on account of boorish behavior, and no one will be carried off the field with the possible exceptions of Dad being carried off in hand-cuffs and/or the referee on a stretcher. This may present an opportunity for police car or ambulance advertisers, but admittedly these are niche markets at best.
Of the remaining eligible kids who could possibly score the winning goal, still more must be ruled out. In commercials, it will be the smallest, scrappiest, cutest little goomer. He or she will have a small scuff of dirt on their little determined cheek, and they’ll make a face of utter surprise and delight after scoring. Therefore, none of the bigger kids on the team can score the goal, because they would appear to be a bully or a ringer. None of the clean faced kids can score it, that just wouldn’t look right. Finally, none of the really incredibly talented kids can score it because they would never be able to fake the look of surprise and delight, because as an elite 3rd grader, they knew that shot was going in.
I know I’ve lost some of you by now, so allow me to lose the rest of you by introducing a summary in mathematical terms:
100,000 soccer games X 2 Teams of 11 players = 2,200,000
2,200,000 players minus 1,100,000 losing players = 1,100,000
1,100,000 players minus 100,000 goalies = 1,000,000
1,000,000 players minus 500,000 players in blow outs = 500,000
500,000 players minus 50,000 players in games called due to Dads = 450,000
450,000 players minus 400,000 players who are
too big, too talented, and/or too clean = 50,000
50,000 players minus 40,000 players who’s parents
missed the game due to work or other obligations = 10,000
10,000 players minus 6000 players who were distracted by
planes overhead = 4000
4000 players minus 2000 players who fell down or burst into tears
for no apparent reason = 2000
2000 players minus 925 players who were called offside
by that idiot ref = 1075
1075 players minus 274 who stopped to tie their cleats = 801
801 players minus 211 who missed the game due to dance recitals = 590
590 players minus 562 who are in sportsmanship leagues which forbid
gloating or being carried off the field by teamates = 28
So there you have it. By my highly scientific calculations, 28 players out of 2.2 million will score the winning heroic goal as portrayed in mini-van commercials. Not exactly Mega-Millions long shots, but far from a slam dunk.
Maybe those crash ratings are worth a second look after all.