I settle in at the Cheesecake Factory for pinot, popcorn shrimp and the football game. Up walks a drone with crew-cut hair and country-club clothes and his kid, who looks nine or 10 years old. They sit at the bar, which I don't think is the best parenting choice, but they want to watch the Chargers game, so OK.
Ah, but then Dad starts telling the kid about a Bud Light commercial. The one where some poor schmuck has been given tickets to a football game by his buddy, who wants to get the poor schmuck out of the house because the buddy is, apparently, diddling the schmuck's wife. Dad finds this hilarious. Sonny doesn't get it. Dad repeats the spot's plot, and then repeats it again, until the kid understands.
Heartening to think of this youngster as an adult, telling his own son about the time he bonded with granddad over advertised alcohol use and adultery.
Normally, I might not have even noticed this slice of the American way of life. But the--shall we say--ironies of our consumer culture are always most apparent during the two-week Super Bowl marketing mash-up that kicks off with the conference championships and concludes with the Big Game. We're doubly drenched in blood red, white and blue when Super Bowl fortnight falls within a presidential campaign year.
And all of it is driven by you, my little media and marketing poppets. This is the only time of the year in which your iron hand sheds its silken glove. You drop the humble-pie masquerade and all that claptrap about consumer control and bring the communications hammer down upon our heads with a vengeance. It's a singular moment when the veil lifts, and you are revealed not as the servants of the marketplace you pretend to be but as you really are: a relentless, unstoppable and implacable Messaging Machine.
This is why our national sport and marketing are so tightly linked. The brutal zero-sum of a football game is the perfect metaphor for living in a material world. And the cold calculation and precision pandering of a presidential race is its perfect complement.
There's no better observation post for this process than a place like Thousand Oaks, either. Kudos to Bud Light, as well, for their latest contribution to our country's cultural uplift. They'll have plenty of company in the next two weeks.
That's about when Firestone tells me they will be finished with my car.