Deep Thoughts: Playoff commercials edition

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Because I DVR almost everything I watch on TV and 90% of my regular season baseball watching occurs on MLB.tv, the only time I ever really watch commercials is during the playoffs.  And, as anyone who has watched a lot of playoff commercials this fall knows, a handful of them are on HEAVY rotation.

This is pretty pointless — and yes, I realize that I’m half-talking out of my butt here as I don’t know jack about advertising beyond whatever I picked up while watching “Mad Men” — but here are some random postseason commercial observations:

The DirectTV ads may be the most nihilistic and depressing things ever.  The ones in the “don’t wind up in a roadside ditch” campaign are bad enough: they are basically telling you that any attempt to do anything besides watch TV will lead to bodily injury. But at least they core point of that — become a slave to your TV! — is in keeping with their corporate interests.  They’re a TV company, so of course they want you watching, so I cut that a little slack.

But the new spot is something else. You know which one I’m talking about: the woman who gets out of the shower to see the big DVR message in her bathroom, only to have her tooth-brushing husband offer all kinds of acidic and crappy remarks back at her (“well, at least somebody gets to …”):

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At least the guy who ends up injured in a roadside ditch will find some modicum of safe, depressing contentment if he gets rid of cable. The tooth-brushing guy, however, is gonna be a miserable, passive aggressive sonofabitch even if his family does switch over to DirectTV.  The worst part: the newest ad has him talking to his kid. Great, not only is he in a bitter and loveless marriage, but there are kids involved. Thanks DirectTV! Where can I go kill myself?

In a more subtle form of anti-marketing, the Taco Bell Cantina bowl commercials perplex me a bit.  I get what they’re doing — expanding their menu and going after Chipotle and the like — but it strikes me that there is no brand stronger in fast food than Taco Bell’s “come here and eat cheap tasty stuff that may not be good for you but by god it’s gonna make you happy” brand.  When I see a chef in an impossibly well-appointed kitchen, poring over fresh ingredients and telling me that “you won’t BELIEVE it’s Taco Bell!” I feel like they are abandoning their core stoner/blogger/Taco Bell-loving demographic.  And I’m not alone in this:

Consider it an opportunity lost.

I do like one thing about those Taco Bell ads: the way Lorena Garcia says “avocados” and “guacamole.” Not gonna lie: I look forward to that.  But one effect it does have is to put the actual avocado commercials — “that’s BUSH LEAGUE, BRO!” — into sharp, horrible relief. They’ve been around forever, and they’re beyond tired. The ballplayer in them is probably retired and nearly eligible for the Hall of Fame now. All I can think is that the avocado industry is so hard up right now that they can only film new commercials every five years and that, by rerunning them all the time, they’re banking on us becoming so sick of that ad that we feel compelled to buy more guacamole simply so that they get more money to produce new ones.

Hey handsome:

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I have no idea what to think about these ads. I am not a rum drinker at all and can’t see how I ever will be, but I kinda like them. And that “You Rascal You” song from the one they play most of the time is actually pretty bitchin’.  Easily the best “stumble upon a song you didn’t really know about and then end up liking on its own terms” commercial since that Volkswagon ad that featured Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” back in 1999.

Still, I feel like the woman who the Captain takes out of that party is a bit fickle.  She is understandably creeped out by the old guy in the powdered wig with whom she’s dancing, but is this guy any less creepy?

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I dunno. I’m more for quiet gatherings in the first place, so maybe I’m taking it too easy on the dude from the dance.

Anyway, that’s all I got for now. Tune in next year when we celebrate the ten year anniversary of “HER HIS FATHER IS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY!”  Hoping they bring that one back.

UPDATE:  Forgot one!  The Samsung Galaxy III commercial that makes fun of the people on line at the Apple store.  The one I like the most is the “the headphone jack is going to be on the BOTTOM …[speshhhew!!]” guy.  I don’t know why I like him. I like to imagine that he’s going to become like Henry “Are we have fun yet??!!!” Pollard on “Party Down.”

As for the campaign itself: good luck, Samsung. It reminds me — and this will date me a bit — of the IBM OS2 Warp operating system commercials from 1995.  They were kind of funny and clever and took aim at Microsoft and its slightly delayed introduction of Windows 95.  Those commercials will always live in my memory, but if you can find one person who was really using OS2 Warp after Windows 95 came out you were a better man than I.

It will take more than a cursory apology for Josh Hader to put this behind him

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If you missed it, Brewers reliever Josh Hader landed in hot water the minute he stepped off the mound in Washington last night when multiple tweets he made in 2011-12* were uncovered containing some seriously gross, racist, misogynistic and homophobic language.

Almost as soon as it broke, Hader made a quick apology for the tweets, saying that he’s not the same person now than he was when he was 17 years-old. Major League Baseball is investigating the matter and Hader acknowledged that he must and that he will talk to his teammates about this, so the story is not over.

Some commenters and correspondents of mine, however, have said they believe it should be over. Indeed, they said it almost as soon as the news came to light. While a small handful of those folks likely take no issue with the language Hader used — there’s a lot of ugliness out there, particularly noticeable in the anonymous online world — others have simply, and it would appear genuinely, said that we should cut Hader slack for some bad choices he made when he was 17.

I will gladly cut Hader more slack for six and seven-year-old tweets he made as 17 year-old that he apologizes for genuinely than I would if he tweeted that stuff yesterday, but let’s not rush to “aww, he was just a kid” land seven hours and a night’s sleep after it all came to light. Indeed, there are many reasons why this is not a case for instant and automatic forgiveness.

This was not some kid breaking out a neighbor’s window with a slingshot. This was not someone saying “that’s gay” instead of “that’s dumb” in the way a lot of us have in the past. This was not someone using a word or phrase that only recently came to be accepted by most people as unacceptable or said something that, while not containing any awful individual words was insensitive, to use the parlance of the day. It was some seriously ugly language (go read it if you’d like), used consistently, repeatedly and confidently. It’s not from some hazy time in the past like the 1970s. It’s from 2011 and 2012. It’s language that he and everyone else knew, at the time, to be profoundly offensive to a massive number of people and which was unacceptable to use in a public forum. Not just now, with the hindsight of age and time, but then, even at the age he was. The tweets are a window into a really gross and disturbed person’s mind.

Hader should — and he will — be given the chance to apologize and to make amends. No one is suggesting he be banished to an island and he certainly won’t be, so don’t even make a suggestion that he is or will be any sort of victim of P.C. culture or whatever the hell else people cite in order to excuse their awful behavior or the awful behavior of others. At the same time, however, let us not let him off the hook with a cursory apology and a conclusory “I’m not like that anymore” statement to a beat writer five minutes after the controversy came to light.

For one thing, no one else would be given such an easy pass like that. No politician or musician or artist or job applicant or anyone else, famous or non-famous, would simply be able to cite being 17 as a get-out-of-decency-free card. We routinely try criminal defendants that age as adults. We make 17 year-olds of color conform their behavior to the most unreasonably high standards, set by others, in order to avoid being discriminated against or worse. For his part, Hader was an elite high school athlete who knew damn well that what he said and did in public was scrutinized in a fundamentally different way than what others said and did and nonetheless tweeted that garbage anyway. He did it either because his level of empathy and respect for women, blacks and homosexuals was defective and abhorrent or because he knew better and simply didn’t care.

I am not suggesting Hader not be given a chance to apologize and make amends for all of that. I am not suggesting that he not be able to continue to pitch late innings for the Milwaukee Brewers, become rich and famous and live his life happily and freely. I am merely saying that it is not too much to expect him now, less than 12 hours after all of this has come to light, to have to do some actual work to explain and atone for it. To not just say that he’s “a different person” now but to tell us how — apart from getting caught being obnoxious — he became a different person and what that really means. To expect him to explain this and to apologize to his teammates, and not just the two who happened to be in Washington with him last night. To explain and to apologize to his fans, many of whom are women and minorities, and to ask for their forgiveness and understanding.

I am not, to use a phrase someone threw at me last night, “on my high horse” about this. I am not holding Hader to some unreasonable, liberal/P.C/social justice warrior standard in which poor, victimized Josh Hader can simply not win. I am simply saying that this is far more serious than finding out some 80-year-old man jumped a subway turnstile back in 1954 and that the acceptance of responsibility, the apology and the work Hader has to do in light of this is not to issue some quick and cursory one offered to a national beat writer as he towels off after a postgame shower.

I realize our standards and expectations of certain public figures in this country have become impossibly low, but my God, they are not that low, nor should they be.

*There were some putative Hader tweets floating around Twitter of a more recent vintage, particularly one about Trayvon Martin from 2016, but there is reason to suspect at least that one is a photoshop. Hader has locked his account, however, and it cannot be confirmed. It’s not really important, though, given that Hader has admitted to making multiple ugly tweets, to inspect every single one this moment, so we’ll leave the analysis of each and every individual tweet for another time.