Beer, babes and … abortion?

Let's gather 'round the TV as we celebrate one of America's biggest holidays, Super Bowl Sunday. And if the game's a dud we can laugh at the commercials, many of which feature beer and babes. This year, a new Super Bowl advertiser (Focus on the Family) is paying CBS to air a spot with a different kind of message about (pick one) pro-life or anti-abortion values.

As we could have predicted, some pro-choice (or pro-abortion) groups are SHOCKED that Focus would do such. And Focus is SURPRISED that they are shocked!!!

An Associated Press story available at the Sports Illustrated web site captures the shock and surprise surrounding this ad, which will feature college football star Tim Tebow and his mother:

The New York-based Women's Media Center was coordinating the protest with backing from the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other groups.

"An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year -- an event designed to bring Americans together," said Jehmu Greene, president of the Women's Media Center.

"By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will damage its reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers," the letter said.

(P.S. #1: When did women's groups come to believe that the Super Bowl's marathon mix of man-on-man violence and ads that objectify sisters was a hallowed ground that demanded their protection?)

Meanwhile, Focus has gone from not acknowledging the ad to discussing it to (in the AP piece) defending it:

Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, said funds for the Tebow ad were donated by a few "very generous friends" and did not come from the group's general fund.

Schneeberger said he and his colleagues "were a little surprised" at the furor over the ad.

"There's nothing political and controversial about it," he said. "When the day arrives, and you sit down to watch the game on TV, those who oppose it will be quite surprised at what the ad is all about."

"We understand that some people don't think very highly of what we do," Schneeberger said. "We're not trying to sell you a soft drink--we're not selling anything. We're trying to celebrate families."

(P.S. #2: I once had a close friend who routinely embarrassed me in social situations. Time after time he would do things that others found offensive. He was always surprised by people's reactions, but then he would go on to offend again and again. I wonder what ever happened to him.)

The story is popping up in papers and other media outlets nationwide, but so far I haven't seen any local angles or coverage in Colorado papers.

It would also be intriguing to see coverage that explored some of these related issues more deeply:

* What kinds of advocacy ads have aired or not aired on previous Super Bowls?

* What does this conflict say about the unique and elevated status the Super Bowl has in our national life?

* Following the Supreme Court's recent decision opening the doors to greater political advocacy by corporations, what's the role of free speech on mega-events like the Super Bowl?

For his part, Tebow has asked viewers to respect a point of view that led to his being born:

"I know some people won't agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe," Tebow said. "I've always been very convicted of it (his views on abortion) because that's the reason I'm here, because my mom was a very courageous woman. So any way that I could help, I would do it."

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