CBS fails Super spot check
Network’s out-of-focus decision to air moral-advocacy ad creates an appalling precedent
For a network, televising a Super Bowl should be goofproof. Sell ads. Collect money. Mount cameras. Keep Dan Dierdorf away from live microphone. Count profit.
But leave it to the wacker-hacks at CBS to pinprick the most golden football.
The decision of the Fisheye Network to sell a 30-second spot to Focus on the Family — the conservative, tax-exempt evangelicals who oppose abortion, ‘‘militant feminism’’ and gay rights, among other things — is wretchedly inappropriate.
But not necessarily because of anything the Christian group advocates.
This is America. They are entitled to their beliefs and to free speech. They are entitled to spread their word.
But in the middle of a Super Bowl — at a cost of at least $2.5 million?
At any point in time, did the CBS jambones consider the across-theboard implications of their decision?
For better or worse, in contemporary America, Super Bowl Sunday has evolved into a robo-pop bacchanalia. It is a day of revel that means absolutely nothing unless an individual — through sheer fandom or deep vested interest — really cares about the outcome.
Many Americans don’t. They just know it is a rare change of pace for communal interface, kind of like a major snowstorm. And, like Chauncey Gardiner, they like to watch — even the commercials.
It is a day when the TV nation does not want to be challenged, or reminded, or divided, beyond whodat or Hoosier daddy!
As Frank Zappa said, ‘‘America drinks, and goes home.’’
But now, thanks to CBS, Focus on the Family and the apparent proselytizing of Tim Tebow and family, the telecast of Super Bowl XLIV will ever-so-briefly become a platform for a tempering thud of faith-based advocacy.
The legacy of the CBS decision will be a dicey one to the NFL and all future sports programming.
When does an ad of moral advocacy — however ‘‘responsibly produced’’ — become inappropriate for a network and its sports partners?
There is no Solomonian — or even McLuhanian — answer. There are only interim conclusions:
(1) CBS must be desperate to sell out remaining ad inventory for SB XLIV;
(2) Focus on the Family must have a lot of tax-exempt dollars to fling around;
(3) Maybe Jay Leno is behind all of this.
Executive producer David Milch, creator of ‘‘NYPD Blue’’ and ‘‘Deadwood,’’ is close to a deal with HBO for a new series pilot focusing on the backstage ‘‘business’’ of thoroughbred horse racing.
The show — working title: ‘‘Luck’’ — could debut before the end of the year, according to Web insiders. The lead character is Ace Bernstein, ‘‘a guy versed in all the permutations of finance, illicit and otherwise,’’ according to Milch.
Milch is no stranger to the game — he co-owned 1992 Breeders Cup Juvenile winner Gilded Time and took all the carrots with 2001 BC Mile champ Val Royal.
Chicago native Michael Mann (‘‘Ali,’’ ‘‘Public Enemies,’’ et al.) is in talks to direct the pilot. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens also is likely to be involved.
‘‘I’ve joked that if I can make $25 million on this show, I’ll be even on research expenses,’’ Milch, a longtime horseplayer, told Hollywood trades. He hopes to shoot the pilot at Santa Anita in April.
If Milch is serious about expanded research, he’s also welcome to sign on for personal tours of Pony’s Place down at 35th and South Laramie — across from Hawthorne’s west gate — and out at Murphy’s in the shadow of Arlington Park. Password at both is ‘‘Juvie D.’’
The Cubs and fading WGN-AM (720) a forever thing? Seems more like 11 p.m. on the Titanic right now and the Ricketts family has plenty of lifeboats. . . . Brent Musburger, thankfully, returns to Big Ten men’s basketball play-by-play tonight when he works the Wisconsin-Purdue game alongside Steve Lavin (6, ESPN).
Garboesque Bulls chief John Paxson should shake his Krauseian cobwebs and work a February game or two as second analyst on Comcast SportsNet and WMVP-AM (1000). He not only would provide uniquely expert insight but also might help remix the chemistries between Neil Funk and Stacey King on TV and Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington on radio.
International media are reporting that British oddsmaker William Hill has pushed the figures on Tiger Woods toward the likelihood he will play in the Masters. The Hill line moved from 4-6 to 1-4 with Tiger at 5-2 to win at Augusta and 33-1 to sweep all four majors this year. . . . Scourproof John Calipari, college basketball’s Exxon Valdez, actually used the full-consonant ‘‘j.o.’’ during an interview on ESPN this week. And he wasn’t referring to himself or Digger Phelps.
WMAQ-Channel 5’s Mike Adamle, who promises he’ll look 37 one of these days, is contemplating yet another Ironman triathlon. The Wonder ’Cat has completed the grueling trifecta to mark major birthdays. . . . Comcast SportsNet will salute unsinkable SunTimesman Lacy J. Banks at 10:30 p.m. Feb. 8 during a monthlong tribute to prominent African Americans on the local sportscape.
ABC late-night schmocker Jimmy Kimmel, noting the widespread company that accompanied the Los Angeles Lakers to the White House, quipped: ‘‘ Lamar Odom brought his new wife, Khloe Kardashian. Let’s work out the paper trail on this: Kim Kardashian makes a sex tape, becomes famous and gets a reality show. Somehow this leads to her sister going to the White House to shake the president’s hand. It really is the fairy-tale story of our generation.’’ . . . TNT’s Charles Barkley, on gods and odds: ‘‘Two people are undefeated — Father Time and that blackjack table.’’
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his family will be proselytizing during a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl for “Focus on the Family,’’ a conservative, tax-exempt Christian advocacy group.