Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
10 Feb 2011
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Mike: The return of Isaiah Mustafa is pretty epic.
Tom: Return? In what? Did I miss something on Sunday?
Mike: The Old Spice guy has returned on YouTube .
Tom: I recognized the name, but I had not noticed.
Mike: I'm guessing Old Spice thinks he's viral or Web 2.0 or Youface or whatever enough not to need a Sunday spot this year.
Tom: Or they realized the only place they could take the commercial was ridiculous.
Mike: They long since went there. Remember "Monocle Smile?"
Tom: The transitions aren't quite as smooth. They've lost the element of surprise. It couldn't have the same impact it did.
Mike: See, I think the transitions are at least as good, maybe better, and more technically complicated, but I do agree that it loses impact because we know what's coming.
Mike: So, how'd Mike and Tom's Excellent Prop Bet Adventure 2011 go?
Tom: Well, once again I couldn't find an official list of prop bet results. I could figure out most of them. We went from 86 prop bets last year to 128 with an outcome this year. And, if I did my math right, we both came out ahead.
Tom: I wagered $19,630, and won $20,251.67. Correction: I was ahead. You were slightly behind. You wagered $20,990 and only won $20,966.67.
Mike: Aw. Still, around 24 dollars in losses is acceptable when betting on insane things like the coin toss.
Tom: Not only that, a negative EV bet on the coin toss. No matter which side you bet, you had negative expectations.
Mike: Yeah. Well, congratulations, Tom, for coming up with the slightly less insane way to risk $20,000.
Tom: Well thank you. I remember in previous years Scramble columnists making lots of insane wagers and losing lots of money. Yet, for the two years we've done it, we've come out very close to even.
Mike: Well, we probably didn't embrace the crazy quite as fully as previous Scramble writers. We also pretty aggressively hedged our bets. Maybe not intentionally, but in past years, Scramblers have called for blowouts and put down money overwhelmingly on one side, only to get wiped out.
Tom: True. The only big money bet either of us lost was me putting $500 on Shaun Suisham not missing a field goal. And of course I read that after the game Mike Tomlin admitted he shouldn't have had Suisham try the field goal in the first place.
Mike: That try had me screaming at the television. My non-football fan partner was watching the game with the wife and I and said he saw no problem with it, until I explained that the turnover occurred at the spot of the kick, and not the line of scrimmage. He immediately came around.
Tom: And he wasn't even familiar with Shaun Suisham!
Mike: Indeed! Let's not dwell too long on the many ways various Steelers shot the team in the foot this past weekend, and instead focus on ... What the hell are we focusing on, again?
Mike: Oh, right.
Tom: But I guess we could also talk about fantasy football. There was an extraordinarily small theoretical possibility Dave Gardner could've pulled out a win. But instead, Sean McCormick ended up winning by 91 points. The key was drafting Aaron Rodgers, who put up 100 points. That alone would've put Sean in third place, even if he drafted all Arizona Cardinals to go with him. He also managed to beat out the top Best of the Rest entries; Nevic had 199 points to Sean's 238 to win that category.
Mike: Well done, Sean.
Tom: Yes, thank you Sean, for not screwing it up. batbatt, turbohappy, and former Scrambler Ian Dembsky also finished ahead of Dave. The most common ingredient to Best of the Rest success this year was lots of Green Bay Packers. And, once again, a perfectly picked Best of the Rest team could've managed to beat out the staff winner, but divining a perfectly picked Best of the Rest team is darned near impossible.
Mike: Well, you'd essentially have to not only pick every game correctly, but also divine ahead of time which upsets will yield what points for individual players, so yes, pretty much impossible.
Tom: Exactly. Here are your full Staff League results. If you want to know where your Best of the Rest team ended up, post it in the comments and I'll post your individual score when I get the chance.
|FO Playoff Divisional Round Results|
|Mike||Matt Ryan||7||Ray Rice||15||LeSean McCoy||7||Marques Colston||6||Anquan Boldin||12||Johnny Knox||9||Heath Miller||13||Matt Bryant||3||Bears||0||72|
|Tom||Tom Brady||20||Matt Forte||29||Pierre Thomas||0||Roddy White||11||Deion Branch||11||Brandon Tate||0||Rob Gronkowski||3||Shayne Graham||7||Patriots||-4||77|
|Dave||Ben Roethlisberger||48||Michael Turner||9||Joseph Addai||6||Greg Jennings||41||Wes Welker||5||Hines Ward||22||Jacob Tamme||4||Adam Vinatieri||14||Falcons||-2||147|
|Sean||Aaron Rodgers||100||Jamaal Charles||13||Shonn Greene||25||Reggie Wayne||0||Santonio Holmes||24||Braylon Edwards||22||Dustin Keller||11||Mason Crosby||19||Ravens||24||238|
|Tim||Peyton Manning||15||Rashard Mendenhall||46||Reggie Bush||4||Mike Wallace||16||DeSean Jackson||4||Blair White||5||Brent Celek||2||David Akers||4||Steelers||15||111|
|Ben||Drew Brees||28||BenJarvus Green-Ellis||5||Ladainian Tomlinson||32||Dwayne Bowe||0||Pierre Garcon||17||Jeremy Maclin||7||Tony Gonzalez||0||Garrett Hartley||12||Saints||-5||96|
Tom: And now on to commercials, all of which are available here for your viewing pleasure. According to USA Today's Ad Meter, dogs were the most popular advertising gimmick this year, as Doritos and Bud Light tied for the top commercial with the glass door falling on guy and the dogs running the party as the top ads.
Mike: This is the one time a year where your Scramble writers take a break from raking advertisers over the coals and highlight a few commercials that we enjoyed. Naturally, I didn't like either of those commercials! The dog waiter hitting on the woman was disturbing, and the pug breaking down the door was too predictable.
Tom: I thought the Bud Light ad was reasonably clever, but I was not particularly a fan of the Doritos ad either. I tend not to be a fan of commercials that feature people getting hurt unless it's part of an odd juxtaposition or in an unexpected and amusing fashion, that is.
Mike: Or features "Yakety Sax."
Tom: Well, that too. If I had to pick an InBev commercial, my favorite was Budweiser's Product Placement spot.
Mike: I did really enjoy that ad.
Tom: It was over the top in exactly the way I tend to enjoy things.
Mike: They had a Bud Light stained glass window and a pinball machine. How can you possibly go wrong?
Tom: Plus it highlights what I think is an under-commented upon trend, namely the ubiquity of product placement in the background of movies.
Mike: I think it's only under-commented upon in your mind
Tom: Well, people comment on the obvious stuff, like all the Chevrolet cars in the Transformers movies. But it's all the background stuff you don't normally think about that's also the result of product placement. And then the piece de resistance, the truck pulling in at the end. To use a very random example, there's a box of Snyder's of Hanover hard pretzels (which I'm a big fan of) in Strange Days.
Mike: Yeah. It's just moderately crazy up until then, because things vaguely fit. The truck has no reason to be there, makes no sense in the scene, and runs over a table. It makes sense for people to drink beer; you can make an ad into stained glass; heck, you can even knock a guy out with a beer bottle. And then this giant truck just crashes into the frame behind the musketeer kneeling in front of the princess.
Tom: Very over the top.
Mike: And at the precisely correct moment.
Tom: Yup. I could've done without the suit of armor at the very end, even. The truck was just perfect enough.
Mike: I really liked Groupon's Tibet commercial. It starts out with the perfect misdirection: low-key music in the background with a very concerned-sounding narrator, talking about the plight of the people of Tibet, who are famously downtrodden enough for most of the audience to get the reference. They also employ the A-Bomb of seriousness: the Ken Burns Effect.
Tom: A lot of people from the immediate reaction I saw (e.g. on Twitter) were really turned off by Groupon apparently mocking the seriousness of the Chinese oppression of the native Tibetan culture, or something. Sports Business Daily had a group of marketing executive as a sort of mini-panel, and I was watching their real-time reaction to commercials.
Mike: A lot of people using Twitter need to calm the heck down.
Tom: One of the things I was reminded of is marketers, like other people, tend to live effectively in blocs of like-minded people. The GoDaddy Joan Rivers spot was supposed to work so well because everybody these marketers knew not only knew about but also had most likely seen the Joan Rivers documentary.
Mike: See, I didn't see the documentary, but I thought the Joan Rivers commercial was very funny, both because it was a good reveal and because Go Daddy's marketing otherwise disgusts me.
Tom: What I'm saying, in a sort of roundabout way, is that I think Groupon took something of a risk. You're the only person I've heard who really liked the GoDaddy commercial.
Tom: I haven't done a survey, or talked to that many people, but yeah, really.
Mike: I mean, GoDaddy's approach has always been "Wait for it, wait for it ... there might be scantily clad women!"
Tom: And, boringly enough, not that scantily clad, and not doing anything very interesting.
Mike: Well, yeah. But here, they reverse that and have the reveal be a woman who is such a non-sex symbol is just a great reversal, to my mind.
Tom: GoDaddy's shtick feels played-out to me, and has for a while.
Mike: Go Daddy's shtick was awful before it was played out, so I applaud them for playing with it -- even if they did go back on it later on in the same broadcast with scandalous ankles. Anyway, I agree that Groupon probably took a risk. But aside from the small group of people who are going to be angry and vocal about anything that doesn't portray their cause celebre as the most important thing on Earth, people are receptive to that kind of marketing. The commercial also had good production, keeping up the illusion of the heart-wrenching mini-doc up until the waiter put the food on his table.
Tom: Well, sure, but it's now awful and played out. The Joan Rivers thing didn't do anything effective in my mind. Admit it, you're just a fan of the Tibetan restaurant in Chicago they highlighted in the commercial.
Mike: Honestly? I've never been there. I have purchased a few groupons, though, so I will admit I am favorably inclined toward the company
Tom: I haven't, but I'm not opposed to the concept. I bought from LivingSocial when they offered their Amazon promotion.
Mike: The CG part where the mouse is also pretty good, highlighting the building on mouseover. Sadly, the actual site doesn't work that way, although it should. You could just drag the mouse over the map until you hear "ANOMALY DETECTED." Of course, the normal response to that is just crying.
Tom: I'm just not sure this commercial gimmick is broadly attractive enough.
Mike: I think it has something for everyone. If you're looking for quality production and good concept, this has it. If you just want to make fun of hippies, this also has it.
Tom: I think Coke generally does pretty effective commercials, and my favorite of theirs from this year is the Border one. I'm a bit of a sucker for absurdist military stuff in general, and this does a great job of playing into the stereotype.
Mike: While I think that Coke's marketing machine has fallen off in recent years, relying more on nostalgia for previous Coke campaigns, this is a superb commercial that still manages to maintain their overall message -- that Coke can bring anyone together.
Tom: It's a very well-constructed commercial. It blends timelines in a way that doesn't annoy me. You have the very traditional-seeming uniforms, and these border guards are walking around with sabers at a wooden crossing guard. At the same time, you have the satellite dish in the background and the refrigerated case with ice.
Mike: The whole thing is fairly minimalist, so you don't really have to confront the anachronisms. It's clearly trying to convey some meaning rather than accurately portray a scene.
Tom: True, but a less adept advertiser would have made it less minimalist and forced us to confront the anachronisms instead of eliding over them.
Mike: Incidentally, "eliding" is an awesome word, and "Eliding Egrets" would be a great hipster band name.
Tom: And "Evincing Eliding Egrets Evocatively" would be a hipster-parody band name.
Mike: Yes. The same number of people will listen to either band: zero.
Tom: Anyway, it's probably not the commercial I have the most to say about, but I liked it.
Mike: Coke also resists the urge to do something cheap like do a lot of quick cuts and perspective changes to try and make us feel the passage of time. Instead they portray the standoff very well by the larger guard's violent reaction to a bit of litter crossing the border, which, again, reinforces Coke's message that Coke is always welcome and should be shared.
Tom: It does a good job of setting the scene. These guys may work in close proximity, but they do not like each other.
Mike: Trash is not welcome, but of course Coke is, even if you have to redraw the line for it.
Mike: I'm not sure Miss Evelyn is my favorite, but it's definitely in the top two. Maybe it's because Scramble is a collaborative process, and this commercial highlights some of the whimsical strangeness that comes when two people try to create something.
Tom: I see the obvious appeal: You could easily see yourself being part of the conversation they're having in this commercial.
Mike: It also does a good job of portraying the creative process, down to the weird, rejected ideas like the mirrors and the bales of hay.
Tom: And unlike the reader, you see all the detritus and nonsense that comes out of us having the conversation that results in the column this week.
Mike: Yeah. And they present it in a way that is amusing rather than just weird, and, of course, the writers trying to figure out an ending after they had escalated things to the point where they're not really sure where to go next. Endings are terrifying.
Tom: Actually, what I decide I like most is it really does feel like an actual creative process. Guy 1 has a semi-original idea (actual original ideas are really, really rare). Guy 2 tries to add some things that don't really work, then ends up getting into it and making valuable contributions that help decide where the commercial goes and eventually ends. I tend to associate teachers of children of that age arriving before any of the kids show up, though. I know that's me being hyper-literal, but I'm like that sometimes.
Mike: Well, she normally is there before the children, but today she was being chased by bad guys as she left her glass house in the desert.
Tom: Oh, ooof course. They get the creative process right, but they still produce one of those silly unrealistic commercials.
Mike: Well, that's kind of the point. They're just throwing ideas out and trying to figure out what would be interesting. They flat-out reject ideas as they go, like the aforementioned mirrors and hay, so we're seeing a representation of the process itself, not what the final commercial would be.
Tom: What would be interesting for me is adjusting to the guy who half a block before the intersection decides he wants to turn right instead of left and swerves across three lanes of traffic. It's like the tire commercial that showed stopping before a kid who ran out into the street to chase their ball. I got that. It made perfect sense.
Mike: I have no idea where either of those comments came from.
Tom: My hyper-literalism and desire to see a car perform the kind of moves I would reasonably expect to perform in the car? I've never driven off the side of a building and don't plan to ever have to do so. Plus, from MythBusters' attempt to replicate the jump in Speed, I know that sort of thing doesn't work the way it does in the movies. I have had to deal with the sudden turners and other nonsense like that. Show me what your car does then.
Mike: I guess? That makes for a less interesting commercial, however.
Tom: I'm a fan of either extreme literalism or complete absurdism. The middle ground is not my ground.
Mike: Compromise is weakness!
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: When's the perfect time to pick up a personal foul penalty? Obviously, if you're Keyaron Fox, key Pittsburgh Steelers special teams player, it's your final possession in the Super Bowl, trailing by six points.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Shaun Suisham is not a very good field goal kicker. So, Mike Tomlin, why did you send him out for a very long field goal attempt? The Steelers were in a difficult position, in the no-man's land of fourth-and-15 but your Scramble writers recommend against a decision that has an excellent chance of giving the Packers the ball at the 43.
COLBERT AWARD: If either coach did anything particularly bold on Sunday, your Scramble writers missed it.
That's another year of Scramble for the Ball in the books! Your Scramble writers would like to thank their editor for all his help, and remind everyone that "Brave" hit the over.
54 comments, Last at 13 Feb 2011, 10:34am by Theo