Stay with me on this.
Avid reader of The New Yorker here. A few years back I read an article by Malcolm Gladwell about an indian guy in the Bay Area who started coaching his daughter’s basketball team, a ragtag group of misfits some of whom had never played the game before. Given his background in software engineering and mathematics he devised a system of play that his girls could adhere to easily that would result in a higher winning percentage. That tactic? The full-court press. The result? They went undefeated. Un-de-feat-ed. Girls who had never played the sport were routinely mopping up the competition because they simply got more turnovers. The system? Simple. Lose the ball, lose the game.
As fate would have it, I came across this pre-Super Bowl edition of Real Sports with Bryant Gumble featuring Vivek Ranadivé, the new owner of the Sacramento Kings and former girls basketball coach. The same guy. Turns out he found a love for the game and used his tech millions to keep a team where the fans wanted it most: home.
Home. Where the heart is, right? During the Super Bowl few ads caught more attention (or flack) than the Coke and Cheerios ads (respectively, because Coke with Cheerios would be gross). The Coke ad in question offended people because it featured the song “America the Beautiful,” as an ode to pluralism, sung in several languages. 60 seconds designed to make the heads of xenophobes explode. The Cheerios ad in question was 30 seconds designed to make the heads of racists explode (for the second year in a row). They followed up their hugely popular and hugely controversial 2013 super bowl commercial with an endearing ode to family values…again. Coke’s vision of the US as a beacon of progress is what Ranadive cites specifically as his aha moment for coming to the US to study back in the 60′s. And family values are what brought him closer to basketball and, consequently, what kept their team in Sacramento.In his opening address at center court for this season, he addressed the fans thusly: “The team is yours and it’s here to stay.”
Barf your guts out, middle America. Tolerance is in. Big-time. Your Coke is love in a bottle. Your cheerios are little life vests after all. What are our Kings but those with daring dreams? Dammit if sports doesn’t bring out the best in us after all. And dammit if the full court press isn’t exactly what America needs from its advertisers too. Good for Cheerios on sticking with the game plan and Coke, too, heading into Sochi.
If you’re still out for red meat, you can take comfort in the fact that the Super Bowl got almost 16 times the number of views as Downton Abbey last night.