Thursday May 21st, 2015

Mad Men ended its brilliant seven-plus season run on May 17, which means, among other sad developments, we'll no longer be treated to the wit and wisdom of advertising executive Roger Sterling, one of the great television characters of all time ("I told him to be himself. That was pretty mean I guess"; and "Have another. It's 9:30 for God's sake," are just two of his hundreds of phenomenal lines).

The man who played him, John Slattery, has had a fairly extensive acting career over the past quarter-century, but one credit you won't find on his IMDB page is one we think is among his finest: an ad for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

In a late-1980s TV commercial, Slattery goes to a video store (note to our younger readers: a video store was a place where you would go to get . . . you know what, let's back up: a video was a tape that would go in something called a "VCR," and . . . oh, forget it) to get the hot, new cassette of the day: All-New Not So Great Moments In Sports.

In a bit of salesmanship worthy of Donald Draper pitching Kodak, the clerk tells Slattery that the video is available only by subscribing to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Which, of course, Slattery does, grabbing the nearest phone (no, not a sneaker phone) and getting his subscription right away. 

Obviously, whoever made the commercial wasn't as concerned with details as Mad Men's famously precise creator, Matthew Weiner. The clerk is seen reading the 1987 baseball preview issue, with a cover that was not just a) racially insensitive and b) wildly inaccurate, but also at least a year old by the time this commercial came out, judging by the fact that the issues shown throughout the ad are from early 1988 and by the enticement of a 1988 commemorative Summer Olympic pin set. Judging by Slattery's IMDB page, which lists his first TV acting credit as 1988, it's entirely possible that this commercial was his biggest break to date. 

Whether he knows it or now, Slattery, now 52, wasn't done with SI. Sterling Cooper, the fictional ad agency at the heart of Mad Men, took up residence for six years (1964-70) in the very real Time-Life Building in midtown Manhattan, which then, as now, houses Time Inc., including SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

But wait, that's not all: In the season 2 episode "A Night To Remember," a minor character is reading the July 9, 1962 issue of SI (see cover below), but quickly stashes it when Sterling walks into the office. Too bad. Slattery might have loved it. 

David Moore for Sports Illustrated

 -- Ted Keith

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