In the end it was innocuous, wedged between a plethora of Bud Light and Doritos ads. Nonetheless, Focus on the Family’s pro-life advertisement — featuring Pam Tebow and her son, ex-Florida Gators star quarterback Tim Tebow — was a Super Bowl first. Never before has such moral advocacy been allowed to disrupt the fountain of rampant commercialism, which begins when the game clock stops. Despite gaining points for novelty, this new arm of the anti-abortion crusade struck a sour note.
Football has become a powerful integrative force in the United States, and there is nothing that brings the nation together like the Super Bowl. Everyone remembers what happened when 100 million Americans were involuntarily subjected to Janet Jackson’s protruding right breast, and though the Tebow ad was nowhere near that high on the scale, it is still odd for such a polarizing issue to obtrude into a unifying national event.
Then there was the cost of the advertisement: a reported $2.5 million for a 30-second slot. This amount would have surely been better spent on any of the Pregnancy Resource Centers, which the conservative Christian group helps run. Unfortunately, the commercial — which tried, at gross expense, to pitch so-called family values to a disinterested Super Bowl audience — was impractical. Tebow’s story is its own pro-life advertisement without being abused in such a schmaltzy fashion.
The ad presented itself as pro-family, which apparently means being anti-abortion. This oblique approach appears to be the group’s main shtick. FOF Vice President Gary Schneeberger said, “Most of the folks having ads in the Super Bowl are trying to sell you something. We’re not selling anything; we’re celebrating families.” This would be refreshing if it were true, but of course the ad was selling something— a lifestyle choice. If the group had its way and Roe v. Wade were repealed, abortion would cease to be a choice at all.
Indeed, it would have been infinitely more memorable if FOF had simply gone for the jugular and actually mentioned the a-word; but then they would never have gotten that past CBS. We should be thankful that this unwanted invasion of the Super Bowl by such a divisive hot-button issue went no further, and that the network never allowed the program’s barriers to be stormed, as has happened to so many other corners of national life. It remains to be seen whether such advocacy commercials will become a permanent feature of the Super Bowl landscape.
Ultimately, though, I doubt if many people even remember the commercial, so in that spirit, well done to the Saints, and to Drew Brees.
E-mail Tim MacFarlan at firstname.lastname@example.org.