Saturday, January 25, 2014

And That's Why He's An All-American

ESPN hastened to inform me yesterday afternoon that the NFL had fined Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman the peculiar sum of $7,875 for taunting 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the NFC Championship Game. I hastened to change the channel.

A commercial flashed on the screen, one of those film noirish ads for that headphone brand that feature professional athletes. The athlete in this one, of course, was Sherman. In a dark, stylized rendition of a locker room he was conducting a press conference -- a press conference that was a close facsimile of the actual one Sherman gave in Seattle last Tuesday, except he had slightly better lines. Practice makes perfect.

When a questioner uses the word "thug" Sherman does not respond. He gives a sharp but sly glance, puts on the headphones and we fade to a big picture of the product and its slogan of only hearing what you want to hear.

I wouldn't guess what Sherman got paid for that ad. I'd be willing to bet $7,875, however, that it was a lot more than $7,875. Celebrity, not bitcoins, is this country's real alternative currency, and Sherman knew how to leverage notoriety for both fun and profit, especially fun. It had to be fun to make a commercial validating Sherman's not-too-hidden belief that the critics of his football rage rant last Sunday are clueless about the sport and life in these United States in general.

We will also note that a corporation making a consumer good felt a good way to sell it was to give Sherman's beliefs an approving pat on the back. For every outraged middle-aged white sportswriter, there may be 10 much younger people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds who might be convinced headphones are a fine means of projecting attitude and shutting out the world that doesn't understand them.

As a further sign of genius, both Sherman and the unknown to me ad agency that should get a big bonus hastened to strike when the bullshit controversy iron was at its hottest. Cable news nonsense nonnews has a very short shelf life. Even now, Justin Bieber is driving the Sherman "issue" off the air with tornadic power. By Monday, only Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless will still be arguing about it.

So if Sherman thinks he's smarter than most people, he may be right. I suppose many folks will be horrified or at least saddened that he was able to cash in on what was (or was it?) a spectacular loss of self-control. Myself,  as an American citizen I found that commercial oddly reassuring.

The Chinese may make more stuff than we do. The food's better in Italy and France. Pick a country and its health care system works better for more people than ours. But no other land on earth can or ever will top the U.S. in self-promotion. It is our true national gift.


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