Sports

Mancrunch, Focus on Family, CBS, Super Bowl

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You know what's an offensive ad? Bud Light's "Amy" spot, in which a stalker wreckingballs a woman's house and sets fire to her lawn:

Maybe I just feel sorry for Amy, but this seems more troubling than an anti-abortion ad from Focus On the Family or an ad with two men kissing for ManCrunch.com.

Before homosexuality was invented, Super Bowl-winning QBs didn't need helmets!

Throughout playoff season, CBS has been drawing controversy for its decision to air an anti-abortion spot from Focus on the Family during Super Bowl 44. This decision seemed to contradict the Tiffany Network's in-house guidelines against airing "advocacy" ads at the network level, which the network in a 2004 statement [pdf] described as both "longstanding" and "decades old."

The decision prompted the expected protest. There's a Facebook page. Sportswriters are lamenting the injection of politics into a job where all you used to have to do was cover up Tiger's affairs.

So last week CBS announced that it was revisiting its six-years- or decades-old policy, and had become more open to airing political ads. "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," a spokesman announced. "In fact, most media outlets have accepted advocacy ads for some time."

On Friday, CBS rejected an ad for the gay dating site ManCrunch.com. This was not an advocacy ad but a for-profit service ad. "CBS Standards and Practices has reviewed your proposed Super Bowl ad and concluded that the creative is not within the Network's Broadcast Standards for Super Bowl Sunday," the network wrote. "Moreover, our Sales Department has had difficulty verifying your organization's credit status."

So this is really all a story of the great credit unwind. Nevertheless, the rejected spot has started up a new round of trouble. You can now add "GLAAD wants answers about Mancrunch rejection" to the list of headlines you never thought you'd see at NBC's footballtalk site.

Focus on the Family, in a great piece of old-time football razzledazzle, is not showing its ad before the Super Bowl. Here are two FOTF officials discussing the ad, which will reportedly treat the birth of Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow…

Here is the ad for Man Crunch that CBS rejected…

Here is a Mad TV sketch remarkably similar to the Man Crunch ad…

And here are Vivian Girls with their newish single "When I'm Gone"…

I'm not sure CBS, a sharecropper on government-owned spectrum that answers to an executive branch commission, is a private company. Only an organization that is under the thumb of a capricious and hidebound regulator like the FCC could have produced those mealymouthed guidelines in the first place. And even within the constraints of broadcast television, CBS has never stood out as particulary forward-looking. (I'm pretty sure the opening credits of Hawaii 5-0 is the last time CBS was really Far Out.) The network's position seems pretty consistent here: They're in the business of failing to offend the largest audience possible. The network can probably make a consistent case that FOTF fits and ManCrunch doesn't on that basis.

But because they're network weasels, they can't really make that argument. So we're left with inconsistent hocus pocus about standards. The most offensive thing in the Man Crunch ad is that the Packers and the Vikings are not playing in Super Bowl 44, nor could they, since they're in the same conference. (I'm pretty sure it's gay not to know that.) The irony (other than that the Super Bowl, a celebration of national unity that always ends up making you feel how alone you truly are, is the ideal time slot for a matchmaking ad) is that if you used that Man Crunch script for a funny beer ad, nobody would have thought anything of it. 

And here's McGarrett, telling us all to hang loose: