Sunday, September 07, 2008

It's on like Donkey Kong!

You could probably mark it sometime around the beginning of last year's NFL season, the moment in time when Peyton Manning's media exposure hit its critical mass. While it had been steadily growing for a few years prior, a Mastercard commercial here, a United Way PSA there, things really began to pick up steam after he cemented his legacy by getting past the Patriots and beating the Bears to finally win his illusive Super Bowl. After that things really started to spiral completely out of hand. Eventually the whole family started getting into it and then there was the inevitable "flavor of the week" SNL hosting gig (featuring a sketch so astoundingly pointless and completely lacking in humor that I can't decide if it's the worst or the best sketch I've ever seen). Apparently America just couldn't get enough of that blond, doughy, southern fried, Manning charm. In the end it shouldn't be a big surprise really. Peyton's slightly schlubby, good old boy persona is a far more relatable then his main rival, three time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady with his pretty boy looks, GQ covers, and supermodel girlfriends.

One such commercial from the height of the Manning era was a modest little campaign with his brother Eli for Double Stuff Oreo Cookies. It was definitely not one of the more high profile, high visibility campaigns but it had its charms. The whole set up was pretty simple. In the initial wave of teaser ads Peyton and Eli announce they were becoming two sport athletes in football and a mystery sport that the ads abruptly ends before revealing, with only a random website posted on the screen. In the coming weeks the commercials reveal that the DSRL stands for the Double Stuff Racing League, some sort of competitive Oreo licking professional sport (complete with mascot and referees) that has apparently not caught on with the public. It was a commendably unexpected use of the two stars and the subtle inclusion of the parents and their reactions were a nice touch. On top of that, the DSRL theme was an all time classic; a brilliant synth laden 80s mainstream arena metal pastiche that sounded like a lost Survivor track.

The whole campaign eventually came and went. While I always enjoyed its occasional appearance that year, I'm not sure if it actually got me to buy any more than my usual amount of Double Stuff Oreos that year (zero, that Double Stuff is mad gross). It had its brief moment in the network sun and it appeared to have headed to the resting place for all commercials, YouTube, to be preserved for future generations looking to idly waste time and provide topics for me to write about. However, as it turned out the DSRL returned for another cream lickin' season, with a shocking new development!

The inclusion of the Williams Sisters is a fantastic new development for the DSRL. If you think about, there really is no other competition more perfectly suited for the Manning brothers. With Eli's Super Bowl win last year, even the most vocal critics have to begrudgingly admit that he joins his brother as the two most successful siblings within the four big major sports (apologies to Matt and Tim Hasselbeck and Brian and Marcus Giles). On the other end you have the Williams sisters, who have had a historic run of sibling dominance within womens tennis for roughly a decade. They are classic opposing forces in every manner. It's the guys versus girls, brothers versus sisters, battle of the sexes. You have the most American of sports football, with its celebrated brutality and its war-like formations and attack terminologies against the quintessentially European sport of tennis with its proper etiquette and high brow civility. On top of that you have the unspoken but undeniable tensions of a a racial clash, black versus white; which given the sponsored product and viewed against the backdrop of this parallel historic presidential election becomes more and more apt.

With so much riding on the line, how this epic showdown, of not just two sets of athletes but of the entire representative spectrum of the nation itself, will conclude will sure to be fascinating to observe. Like the 1958 NFL Championship, or Ali-Frazier, or even Wrestlemania III, this titanic match up will undoubtedly help define and establish the league and its lasting legend and mythology will belong to the ages.

I can only wonder how they'll be able to top this next year. Kyle and Kurt Busch? All three Molina brothers?


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