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Frank Gray

PR Newswire
Jeff Knapper, general manager of Budweiser Clydesdale operations, shows the Clydesale foal the USA Today headline announcing that "Brotherhood" won the Super Bowl XLVII Ad Meter competition. Fans submitted more than 60,000 ideas via social media for naming the now-21-day-old Clydesdale. On Tuesday, Anheuser-Busch announced she has been named Hope.

A not-so-Super Bowl fit for savvy channel hopper

I wasn’t going to watch the Super Bowl.

I like football as much as the next guy, but I have no connection to or great affection for either San Francisco or Baltimore. I spent a couple of nights in a hotel in Baltimore once while I was covering some goings-on at Johns Hopkins Hospital, but one of the things that stands out vividly in my memory was the people sleeping on the bare concrete sidewalks near downtown in the morning.

So let’s just say who won the game wasn’t especially important to me.

Instead I watched part of a movie and some shows about Komodo dragons and other creatures that used to strike fear in our hearts. I took advantage of commercials during those shows and switched channels to watch football a minute or two at a time.

My timing was perfect. I changed channels just in time to see Baltimore score on a 56-yard pass play, and a few minutes later switched to the game just in time to see Baltimore run the kickoff back 109 yards (later 108 yards) for a touchdown.

During another commercial I got to see the 49ers score on a long pass play, and just a few minutes later saw the 49ers’ quarterback outrun everyone and score.

I didn’t see anyone kick any field goals, but so what? I saw all I needed to see, including the blackout, which to me still hasn’t been adequately explained.

And I didn’t see a single commercial, which didn’t bother me, because I’m not in the market for a house or a car or a website or much of anything else right now.

In the past, some experts have said that up to half the people who watch the Super Bowl actually tune in to see the commercials. It has, after all, become a tradition.

That strikes me as a colossal waste of time, especially when many of the commercials in this year’s game were airing on the morning news shows on Friday morning and ended up on the Internet after the game.

The commercials also strike me as a colossally exaggerated expense for the advertisers.

A 30-second commercial for this year’s Super Bowl cost $4 million, which has been well publicized. I understand that an ad’s value is based on the number of people it reaches, and when a commercial has the potential to reach nearly half of all the people in America watching TV that the rates are going to be steep.

But $4 million for 30 seconds?

Today’s numbers are just getting too big for me to grasp. I remember when $100,000 was a huge payday for a baseball player, when a $10,000 car was pure luxury, and when people gasped that it would cost $3 billion to rebuild the levees in New Orleans after Katrina. Now $3 billion seems to be regarded as a drop in the bucket.

Remember the movie “Rocky”? It was released in 1976 and won the Oscar for the best movie. It cost $1 million to make – one quarter of about what it cost to run a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl this year.

Granted, there has been a lot of inflation between 1976 and 2013, but according to the consumer price index, “Rocky” cost about $4 million to make in today’s dollars.

But then, it’s Pepsi’s money, and Coke’s money, and Doritos’ money and Volkswagen’s money. They can spend it the way they see fit.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.