It was touted as Bill O’Reilly’s interview of President Barack Obama, but it was more like O’Reilly having a conversation with himself, as the president struggled to get a word in edgewise. It’s become part of the garish rites of the Super Bowl, at least when Fox comes up in the rotation.
Some might wonder why Mr. Obama is willing to even appear on a network he agrees is “unfair” to him. But why not? It gives both him and O’Reilly the chance to sing to their choirs. He also offers a contrast to the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who keeps threatening to boycott news organizations that displease him. First it was CNN, which folded and withdrew plans to present a Hillary Clinton biopic down the road after Priebus promised to shut out the network. Now it’s MSNBC he insisted he’d freeze out unless there was an apology for an authorized Twitter note about how “the rightwing” would go bonkers over a Cheerios ad that featured a mixed-race family. The apology was forthcoming — and rightfully so, because the tweet was too broad — but at some point Priebus needs to be told that he doesn’t determine coverage and if he tries, he won’t have to worry about turning down requests to go on. There won’t be any.
What’s that? The Super Bowl is about football? Sometimes it’s hard to remember. That might be a good thing, considering what a stinker this year’s game was.
That’s really OK, since there was so much equally important shtick that filled the time since the two-week spectacle began. Remember how it started with the rant by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman. He managed to immediately flush out all the bigots. They were there to the end, finally spewing their hatred over the Coca-Cola ad that featured “America the Beautiful” performed in a variety of languages, by a multicultural cast, including a gay family. The haters made sure we couldn’t forget America has some ugliness under our spacious skies.
Let’s not forget all the obscenely costly ads. They’re less about their products than they are about themselves. They’re also a stark illustration of how corporations control the agenda. What a metaphor. What’s so interesting is some of the most appealing commercials, like the ones for Coke, Budweiser and Doritos, sell stuff that is harmful to our health. Sugar soft drinks are a major contributor to our obesity epidemic and, as a new study points out, a singular cause of heart problems, to say nothing, of diabetes, etc. Beer, no matter how cute the puppies and horses are, delivers alcohol to our systems, and Doritos are the antithesis of good nutrition.
The spot we should have seen, but didn’t because it was too expensive, is the one that reminded us that one of the teams in the NFL has a name that is a slur. Perhaps it’s poetic justice that the Washington, D.C., franchise is such a miserable organization that it hasn’t gotten anywhere near the Super Bowl in a long time.
After all the hype, more than 111 million people watched the other Washington roll over Denver. But suddenly it was done with, like that old saying about Chinese food, where a short time after a huge meal we’re hungry again. Now we’ve moved on to the Winter Olympics. We’re finding it hard to resist the fascination with the fresh competition, combined with a morbid curiosity about the danger from terrorists and Vladimir Putin’s ironhanded security. It’s brought to you on almost every device imaginable, meaning one doesn’t even need to be part of the National Security Agency to see everything there is to see. What goes on in Sochi definitely won’t stay there.
At least President Obama won’t be a star player. He’s staying away, and it’s Putin filling the void. One piece of good news: At the same time, baseball’s spring training begins. So there’s hope.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.