During most Super Bowls, and especially this Super Bowl, everybody knows the main reason to watch is for the commercials, just so that we might cement our status as soulless, blindly obeying consumer bots. Oooh, oooh, Budweiser made a funny ... I AM SUDDENLY SO VERY THIRSTY. But this year, a Super Bowl ad isn't just going to give you the chuckles ... it's going to make you think. Or at least throw things at your television.
When you go through the big list of Super Bowl ads, you see Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo re-creating their roles in the Vacation movies, Boost Mobile reuniting various members of the Chicago Bears Super Bowl Shufflin' Crew, and GoDaddy's continued attempts to convince us that Danica Patrick is hot. And then you see:
Focus on the Family — 1:30 which the The LA Times is reporting will feature 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother will appear in a 30-second commercial. The Christian group Focus on the Family says the Tebows will share a personal story centering on the theme "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life." "The group isn't releasing details, but the commercial is likely to be an anti-abortion message chronicling Pam Tebow's 1987 pregnancy." Whether it is a national or local buy is unknown.
We're not going to head down the political rabbit hole here, other than to point out that Mancrunch's gay-dating-site ad was rejected by CBS even though it would have been entertaining. The science and ethics of the Tebow ad have been deconstructed by smarter people than ourselves. (Essentially, as William Saletan put it, "[Tebow's mom's] story certainly is moving. But as a guide to making abortion decisions, it's misleading. Doctors are right to worry about continuing pregnancies like hers. Placental abruption has killed thousands of women and fetuses. No doubt some of these women trusted in God and said no to abortion, as she did. But they didn't end up with Heisman-winning sons. They ended up dead.")
What's interesting, as Jason Fagone points out in his Slate piece, is that the ad is a culmination of everything Tebow (and, more specifically, his family) has ever worked toward. Tebow's power and influence will never be higher than they are at this moment. He is about to enter the nasty, impersonal world of the NFL, where he'll just be another special-teams wedge-buster/direct snap change-of-pace. Today, for the last time, he is Heroic Tim Tebow, Mr. Perfect, Heisman Trophy winner, circumcisor. He will never reach more people than Sunday. With this influence and scope, of all the messages he could send, he's sending a pro-life message that might actually be based on a lie.
One suspects much of the to-do about the ad will be beside the point: It's easy to imagine a soft-sell ad that most viewers watch and barely realize is about abortion at all. (This is Dan Shanoff's view over at his Tim Teblog. Yes, that's an actual thing, a Tim Teblog.) But we don't know that, because no one has seen the ad yet. And it's a minute-and-a-half long. During the Super Bowl.
Make no mistake: This is an ad paid for by Focus on the Family, featuring one of the biggest sports stars in the country, with a political message involving the most divisive issue in the land. In the middle of a football game. Okay, never mind: We'll take the Clydesdales and GoDaddy back now.