Accepting my male beer buffoonery
I like beer. I like a cold beer on a hot day and a warm beer on a cold day and have learned to like -- smuggling head-covered cans onto golf courses -- a warm beer on a warm day. As a Minnesotan, I can also enjoy a very cold beer on a very cold day, an activity called ice fishing.
I'm not a beer snob. I've enjoyed beer from wax cups, from glass boots and from two cans holstered in a hard hat, the beer conveyed mouth-ward through twin tubes. I've been served beer at the White House (Sam Adams), been beer-cannoned in the clubhouse (by several pennant and World Series winners) and would very much like to visit the Beer Can House in Houston, where retired railroad worker John Milkovisch spent 18 years putting up an aluminum siding of 50,000 flattened beer cans.
All of which is to say I like beer -- perhaps not as much as John Milkovisch, but probably more than you. But if you ask me today, immediately following eight NFL playoff games and 35 college bowl games, if I like being a beer drinker, the answer is no. And for that I blame the beer commercial. For more than 30 years now -- beginning when beer and Pong were two separate things -- beer commercials have had one conceit: That men are idiots.
As a general rule, men are idiots, which is why frozen pizzas come with the following directions: 1) REMOVE FROM BOX and 2) DO NOT EAT FROZEN.
And I readily include myself among the blithering cavemen of my gender. After all, I'm dumb enough that I read the directions on frozen pizza boxes. I met my wife in a bar, surrounded by beer advertising, and nearly every milestone of my married life has been accompanied by the kind of male idiocy common to beer commercials. When my wife learned she was expecting our first child, she paused in the door to our kitchen before telling me, and watched unseen in silent horror as -- she reminds me often -- I ate a potato chip off the floor. A few months later, I backed a moving van into our closed garage door, damaging our new house before we'd set foot in it. If the point of beer commercials is that I am a moron, I am happy to concede the argument.
Having said that, I'm not nearly as dumb as the drinkers of beer in commercials that air during football games. That stupidity was once inspired. Miller Lite's "Tastes Great, Less Filling" campaign glorified, gloriously, the idiot brilliance of Bob Uecker. On the other side of the aisle, the man responsible for Bud Light's "Real Men of Genius" campaign -- saluting, among others, the inventor of jorts -- is himself a real man of genius.
No, my only problem with the beer commercials on sports TV is this: Their point has been made. Well-made. Too well-made, in fact: The 30-second beer commercial, having spread through the culture at large, is now the basis of nearly all male comedy. Every bromance movie, every sitcom husband, every self-deprecating columnist now adheres to the same motif: That men -- especially men who drink beer and watch sports -- are buffoons.
We know we are. Until their team's wildcard playoff game against the Saints, beer drinkers at Seahawks games were being charged $1.25 more for "large" beers than they were for "small" beers, even though both beers came in 20-ounce cups. Naturally, beer drinkers didn't notice.
So if beer marketers are trying to make the point that drinkers of beer are no Einsteins -- even though beer-drinkers can buy "Ein-Steins," beer steins emblazoned with Einstein's portrait -- their work is done. It is time to move on. But chances are we won't, what with the looming prospect of three more NFL games, including the Super Bowl, that national showcase of beer commercials.
Sure, small progress has been made. One other trope of beer commercials -- that models find beer drinkers in sports bars irresistible -- has given way, over the last few years, to models mocking beer drinkers in sports bars. And other products have long been advertised by mascots who don't reflect an entire group of people. The Lucky Charms leprechaun hardly represents Irish national identity, any more than toilet paper fetishist Mr. Whipple represented all grocers.
So there is hope. Though man-bites-dog is the essence of news, I have no desire to bite the paw of Spuds MacKenzie. I like advertising, including much beer advertising, from the cartoon toucan telling me "Lovely Day for a Guinness" to Conan O'Brien purring his for-Sweden-only Bud Light catchphrase: "Vroom, vroom, party starter." I would just like to see, for variety's sake, a man on a beer commercial who is not a halfwit. At the moment, I can only think of one, and his presence is so refreshing that he's become renowned, in a fairly short time, as The Most Interesting Man In the World.