Between These Lines

This year’s most interesting Super Bowl ad may not have been run by a traditional business but by the NFL.  I refer to the “Inside These Lines” spot, which interweaves images of diversity, unity despite differences, and hard work, ending on a football field painted within the outlines of the United States of America.

Careful viewers will note that the phrase “…when you’re fighting to move forward” is accompanied by a very brief shot of the Seattle Seahawks staging one of their “unity protests” during the national anthem.  Casual viewers may miss it, as it was undoubtedly carefully chosen over of a shot of players taking a knee or raising a fist during the anthem to protest police brutality.

Before the big game, FDRLST publisher Ben Domenech wrote a column for the NYT arguing that when sports events (and sports media) get political, they get in the way of healthy apolitical bonding and ironically “limit[] the space free from the culture wars Mr. Trump exploited to great effect.”  Despite the fact that his lead target was the pregame interview of Pres. Trump, most of the response that he received from the left, afaik, tended to be ad hominem.

The marginally smarter lefty response to Ben’s line of argument, occasionally heard on sports radio, is that the NFL went political well before the anthem protests by wrapping itself in the American flag and embracing our military.  The argument isn’t entirely wrong, but given that the military and the police are two of the top three trusted institutions in America, it speaks volumes about the political judgment of those making it.

The same lefty sports media dismisses the idea that injecting New New Left politics into pro football is harming the NFL’s all-important television ratings.  Indeed, they will argue it is due to just about anything and everything else.

They will argue the league’s decline this season was about cord-cutting, the ratings-stealing election, poor matchups, the dilution of the product after a few seasons of Thursday Night Football, concerns about concussions and domestic violence, the decline of fantasy sports sites, the popularity of the RedZone, vague rules, and the breathtakingly awful color commentary of Phil Simms.

Again, this argument has a kernel of truth.  Simms is terrible.

But the NFL is worth at least $74.8 billion.  You can bet the league has put some effort into researching their situation.  The fact that the NFL decided to use extremely expensive airtime during its most-watched, marquee event to air “Inside These Lines” — as opposed to an image ad with a different message — may tell you what they found…between the lines.

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