Tuesday, May 25, 2004

MAN O' PETE: Nothing like working a 14-hour day that doesn't feel like a 14-hour day. You start saying to yourself, "Hey--I could work two or three of these."

So that Wolves-Lakers game tonight was not a terribly good game. There was a whole two quarters there about where each team was trying to who would end up having to put some effort in. The Lakers--as is their wont--were trying to go as long as they could with a minimum of effort. That's one of the more annoying things about these Lakers, this whole turn-it-off turn-it-on thing. It even offends my friend Joe at work, part-time Laker fan and long-time basketball aficionado. I can hope all I want it'll bite them in the ass at some point but it isn't going to this year. Besides the Spurs series, they've basically coasted through the Western Conference. Quite depressing.

You know what I've always wondered? Who's the guy with the white beard and the hat who's always with Jack Nicholson? For that matter, who's the androgynous Asian woman a few seats down? Both wear sunglasses indoors, if you're wondering who I mean.

That Pacers-Pistons games last night has driven Lang Whitaker to the dark side:

For a long time now, I've tried to be positive and upbeat about the direction that the NBA has been going, specifically the Eastern Conference. An expansion explosion, zone defenses, guaranteed contracts, the collective bargaining agreement, massive amounts of teenagers turning pro -- all these things are relatively new to the NBA.

But last night's game just left me depressed. These are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference? The Pacers shot 28-percent. Yes, that was partly due to Detroit's defense, but also partly because the Pacers did nothing but shoot jumpers in the fourth quarter.

Then he said:

And I don't know that there are many great players left. Especially not in the Eastern Conference. Will Rip Hamilton make the Hall of Fame? No, but he'll be a great Old School story in SLAM 30 years from now. Reggie Miller probably will. Jermaine O'Neal could. So could Ron Artest (well, probably not, but still).

But these are the best the East has to offer?

The NBA has been watered down. We all know this, right? There are too many teams, too many bad players witting on guaranteed spots in the League, too many people that can't play taking up spots. David Stern might be making money hand over fist for the owners, but the product isn't what it used to be. When we talked to David Stern about this a few months ago, he said the League is entering a new era, and right now there's no Michael's, Magic's or Larry's. What worries me more is that there aren't enough second-string Hall of Famers, guys like Clyde, Hakeem, Dominique. Maybe we'll have them in five years or ten years, but they aren't here right now.

And Lang is one of the NBA's biggest fans--only Bill Simmons could be considered more enthusiastic about the NBA. But you could really tell what he's talking about tonight. Those stretches when Phil Jackson puts Rick Fox, Kareem Rush, George, Fisher and Medvedenko out there....yeesh.

So anyway: You watch enough basketball, you see a lot of beer ads. And you can do a survey of the beer ads. Long time readers may remember that Coors Light ads have been awful before. Are they still?

COORS LIGHT: Apparently Coors Light must have decided that funny ads sell beer or something, because they go for the yucks in their current ad--it's the one with the two guys with the two girls out on the date and the one guy starts yelling his number to another girl across the room who is inexplicably staring at him. That's not exactly what happens, but the ad is basically incoherent. This Coors Light campaign--it's like the guy who sees somebody being funny at a party and says to himself, "HEY--that looks easy! I kin be funny too." So he breaks in and starts being funny and gets polite smiles and considers himself a smashing success, because he has no clue how to be funny, or what someone else does when they are being funny. Somebody in Coors thought this ad was a riot--that's the sad thing. And yet fratboys need their beer, and who's going to tell a fratboy he has a limited sense of humor?

BUD: In their heyday Bud always went for the wacky humor, with all the animatronic frogs and lizards and horses and dogs and such. And for a 3 Stooges thing when no animals were available. Somebody at Bud must have seen the writing on the wall after the Joe Camel debacle, and decided to go away from the cute animals lest the young ones start drinking too early. So they've gone with this Budweiser Institute (the exact name escapes me) deal where they have this fake institute where all these crazy people hang out--it looks like a movie version of a Hollywood backlot, if you know what I mean. And this Institute comes up with a treadmill that you walk with your fingers. Because you're really lazy. Yep. And it's funny and so--buy Bud. It's just not that good an idea, though it's executed better than the Coors Light nonsense.

MILLER: The king of beer ads. And it's a two pronged attack and both campaigns are good. The MGD ads where young people break up with their Budweisers--they're as well-executed as 30-second tales of somebody's failed romance with their old beer and promise of happy days to come with their new beer can be. And the President of Beers campaign for Miller--again, it's a funny idea done well. The Presidential candidate guy is well-cast, exuding the right mix of despair, sleaze and enthusiasm an over-the-hill politician should. The fake debates with the Budweiser horse--that's funny. Even when they're straying into the zone of "Look at us! We're being FUNNY!" as in the "traveshamockery" spot, it still works because the Presidential candidate guy is in on the joke. Unlike the two guys in the Coors Light ad who think they're slick items, a contention the ad does not challenge. We're meant to think these guys are realllly cool, even though the stunt they just pulled off is strictly impossible. (It's almost a Mentos ad level of a Celebrating Something That Isn't That Clever Or Even Likely.) We're not meant to identify with the Miller President, we only have to be entertained by him. And we are entertained and so we buy Miller beer, or not, and all is well.

I prefer Miller High Life, actually, but Miller never found a very distinctive voice for their third beer. Anyway, Coors: still useless. Bud: wackiness in search of a vessel. Miller: Funny ideas, great execution. Miller wins.

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