Sleaze surrounds Super Sunday

February 03, 2002|By Bob Katz

LEXINGTON, Mass. - Ah, Super Bowl Sunday. Let's bow our heads and pray that this year's telecast does no harm.

For if you are a parent to impressionable youngsters hell-bent on watching the entire extravaganza, there are good reasons to be concerned. And I'm not just talking about the questionable prospect that the game will turn out to be a scintillating cliffhanger.

For it's no secret that the glitzy, clever commercials employing state-of-the-art production values to craft memorable vignettes that shrewdly reflect the marketing world's vision of modern consumers (i.e., lazy slob guys and sultry females in heat) have become as compelling as the game itself.

Conscientious parents, of course, can try to offset this orgy of hucksterism by diligently seizing every opportunity to point out the sport's many edifying virtues. I've done this with my sons, sitting beside them on the sofa while using John Madden-ish grunts and arrgghhs to punctuate my insights. "Wow! See that block by the fullback, kids? Little things like that add up!"

But sooner or later, there's a time out in the action.

On the tube, (to cite last year's leading example) two doofus guys with art class sketch pads leer at a lady who appears, filmed from the rear, to be stark naked. Every lascivious nudge of the camera urges the mind toward illicit exploration. It's a beer commercial. To veteran adult viewers who've seen hundreds of these stupid ads, it's pretty much white noise.

Your child, however, sits bolt upright, far more captivated than he's been by the game. And why not? He's been allowed inside a peepshow, and you who strive to screen him from so much of the tawdry and X-rated in this media-besotted culture are the willing escort.

It's the infamous "Daddy, why is the lady in the bathing suit kissing a beer bottle?" moment. And if you don't think such moments are central to a child's experience of televised sports, you've got your head stuck in the nacho sauce.

It will be these, more than the vaunted gridiron heroics, that eventually will form your child's lasting impression of the Super Bowl experience.

Regrettably, TV sports have become the Trojan Horse in our living rooms. We welcome them not simply for the sheer gift of entertainment but for the range of stellar qualities - perseverance, courage, teamwork - they so often impart. But let's be honest: The good stuff is slickly packaged with a whole lot of garbage.

I suppose a concerted campaign could be mounted to dissuade the beer companies from using vulgar imagery during primetime sports (yeah, right) as the Senate Commerce Committee attempted to do with Hollywood a couple years back. And there's always the option (yeah, right) to abstain from viewing.

No, I'm afraid the only responsible gesture is to brace myself for action.

As each of those smutty, dumbed-down commercials appear, I'll exclaim to my kids in my best Madden imitation, "Wham! Ugh! Ouch! Grown-ups sure do some stupid things."

Bob Katz, who writes frequently on parents, kids and sports, is co-author of The New Public School Parent, a book to be published by Viking in August. He lives in Lexington, Mass.

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