Alcohol & Football

Picture this television advertisement: A lush green backyard at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the NFL’s Denver Broncos flags and apparel dot the landscape.  A familiar face, Peyton Manning, standing by a hot grill, a hamburger spatula in his left hand.  In his right hand, a Coors Light, which he tosses to a friend in need of a beer.  He reaches to the cooler at his feet, fires another and another to guests at his barbecue.  Coors Light, Taste the Rockies.

Seems innocuous enough.  An NFL superstar hawking a product in a very reasonable scenario.  So why isn’t this commercial a reality?

Peyton Manning is one of the most marketable and likeable quarterbacks in the NFL.

Peyton Manning is one of the most marketable and likeable quarterbacks in the NFL.

Some people will point us to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but I believe that the prohibition of players appearing in commercials or advertisements that promote alcohol is driven by a different motivation: to promote the ideal that these players are superhuman role models that do no wrong.  The world knows differently.

The NFL has an identity-crisis that’s oxymoronic.  One of the top tight ends in the league, Aaron Hernandez, is currently awaiting a first-degree murder trial; A current analyst is a self-reformed former linebacker who once pled guilty to obstruction of  justice during a murder investigation; The league is also in the midst of a nightmare situation regarding head injuries, concussions, and deaths of former players that are being directly attributed to their time in the NFL.  Regardless, the sport is the most popular sport in the United States.

Would an NFL player standing by a grill with a Coors Light in his hand hurt the league’s image?  Probably not.  If a few felonies and a multi-million dollar lawsuit can’t, then what would a player holding a beer do?  I’d argue, in fact, that it might make the players seem a little more human, a little more attached to the fans they entertain on a weekly basis.

If corporate executives are worried about the influence to the children of seeing their favorite player promote alcohol, I think that’s the worst argument of all time.

I love the NFL, but their players are sometimes promoting way worse than a cheap beer every Sunday.  These masked men are promoting themselves, swaggering and dancing over a guy they just knocked senseless, announcers giddy on highlight shows.  What’s worse: the continuing disregard for player safety or the thought that maybe some of these guys are living normal lives on the side?

Instead of genetic-lottery winning super humans, the weekend heroes of our childhood (and adulthood) could seem more approachable, more realistic, more guy-on-my-block than knock you out cold by day, limousine-escorted icon by night.  That might be what the league needs.

(I wonder if this approachability factor plays a role in our apathy about player injuries, particularly head injuries.  To wit, if we knew these players, we’d care much more about their short and long-term health.  By making them abstractions, we can distance ourselves when bad things happen.  I watched Danny Amendola get knocked out of the Patriots-Saints game on Sunday and, despite the late-game comeback, if I were Amendola’s brother, I’d be more concerned about him.  Because I’m not Amendola’s brother, I could push that aside and cheer.  Just some food for thought.)

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