God loves football

I once had a job that required waking up at the crack of dawn on Sunday.

Every week when left for work, I drove past a women’s clinic on 21st Street where, without fail, I saw a small cabal of anti-abortion protesters camped out with oversized, graphic signs depicting fetuses. And every week, without fail, I got pissed at their angry display.

It was the unholiest of Sunday traditions.

The Super Bowl is another Sunday tradition—one replete with overpriced athletes on the grid and aging rock stars who turn the halftime show into a cultural three-ring circus. And, for us at home, watching the spectacle from the comfort of our La-Z-Boy recliner, there’s an added expectation for the entertainment of the day: commercials.

Super Bowl commercials are, arguably, an industry art form unto themselves—a chance for companies to hawk their goods and services in the flashiest way that millions of dollars in ad time can buy.

This year, sandwiched between the usual array of beer and snack spots, you’ll find a new kind of commercial: a 30-second spot from a Christian nonprofit group, Focus on the Family.

The ad features former University of Florida quarterback (and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner) Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam. In the ad, Pam Tebow explains how, in 1987, while working as a missionary in the Philippines, she decided against ending a pregnancy amid doctors’ concern for her life.

The result, she says, was the birth of Tim Tebow, and the message is obvious:

God loves football.

The message is also clearly anti-abortion but, according to a Focus on the Family spokesperson, it isn’t political.

“What better time to reach out to families with an inspiring message?” asked Gary Schneeberger, FOF’s vice president of media relations.

“This probably is the No. 1 television family event of the year. We want to be there because we recognize there is some family-unfriendly advertising … and we believe our ad will stand out in offering a completely different kind of message.”

Until now all national networks—CBS included—have rejected airing such contentious advocacy ads during events such as the Super Bowl. In 2004, for example, CBS pointed to this policy as the reason for refusing a United Church of Christ ad that spotlighted the church’s inclusive stance on gays.

But now CBS execs say they’re open to “responsibly produced” spots, explaining, “We have for some time moderated our approach to advocacy submissions after it became apparent that our stance did not reflect public sentiment or industry norms.”

What CBS isn’t open to, however, are ads that might challenge long-held beliefs and prejudices against same-sex relationships.

The network rejected a commercial from the gay dating site Man Crunch, claiming that it’s “not within the Network’s Broadcast Standards for Super Bowl Sunday.”

CBS didn’t explicitly define its “standards,” but after watching the ad which features two male, lip-locked football-jersey-clad Super Bowl fans, the message seems clear: The football gods don’t love the sight of two men kissing.

Arguably, the Man Crunch ad isn’t “family-friendly” but it’s not any worse than those sexed-up GoDaddy.com ads—you know, the ones with the simpering, scantily clad women—that are standard Super Bowl fare.

Sunday tradition, holy or otherwise, wins out once again.