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The Idle American
"From Shaving Signs to Super Bowls..."
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 • Posted January 30, 2013

When this column began in ’02, half-hearted promises were made to provide occasional recipes and helpful hints. Alas, only one of each has been offered so far.

With Texas Motor Speedway’s introduction of bacon-flavored cotton candy to its concession menu, I’m going to provide one of my mamma’s favorite recipes—salmon patties with whipped cream. Now if I can just find it.

Today, I offer my second helpful hint: Make sure you have fresh batteries in your TV remotes. This is a “must” for the extraction of the powerful, engaging and memorable moments of Super Bowl XLVII….

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Schedule practice runs to make sure all the buttons are functioning. After all, there will be frequent “pauses, fast forwards and back-ups” for an event that will be viewed—as well as recorded—in tens of millions of households.

I typically record most TV shows for later viewing—even if only 30 minutes later— to bypass commercials. (I realize, in the words of new friend Rick Dahlgren, “this is not ‘rocket surgery’.”)

For the Super Bowl, however, I flip-flop. The game’s outcome is of little interest to me, but I don’t want to miss a commercial. I’m already “up to hear” (up to “see,” too) with pre-game stuff, including Ma and Pa Harbaugh’s 100% certainty of their sons coaching both winning and losing teams, since brothers John and Jim Harbaugh are opposing head coaches….

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It’s the ads that make us smile when not much else does. They’d better, since 30-second spots are going for up to $4 million each and projected to cost $5 mil by ‘16.

By recording the event, we can zip from commercial to commercial, ignoring a game known for becoming lopsided.

We’ll join millions of others the next day as media experts dissect the “winners and losers.” Then, for a few months, we’ll remember the really good commercials. Recalling which products go with which ads, however, is quite another matter….

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Ads have come a long way since Burma-Shave signs entertained a nation. At their height in the 50’s, 7,000 verses were nailed on fence posts across the US.

The “ditties”—many written by Nebraska University student Warren Buffett—helped us smile through depression years. And the extra money helped him smile through college.

We lived in comparative slow motion, nostrils soothed by aromatic roses along the way. Cars were slower, highways were rougher, and TV had not yet arrived. Yes, it took less to amuse us. Those signs did the trick, though, particularly during unscheduled stops along the road for tire repairs. We kids ran on ahead to see all six signs….

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The signs cost next to nothing, save for the cost of planks of wood, paint and clever words. By comparison, each 30-second TV spot costs advertisers up to 40 cents per viewer!

Why wouldn’t “losing” ad people groan, “Alka-Seltzer it up” and seek other lines of work?

This is the fate of ad-making dice-throwers for “the ultimate game.” (In 1972, Dallas’ Duane Thomas questioned, “If it’s the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?”)…

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I miss days when conversations began with “Have you heard the one about?”

Sometimes I visit websites featuring the old Burma-Shave poems. The final “dittie” was posted exactly 50 years ago for the “good-to-the-last-strop” lather: “Our Fortune/Is Your Shaven Face/It’s Our Best/Advertising Space.” Shortly before, this one was seen along the way: “Farewell O Verse/Along the Road/How Sad to See/You’re Out of Mode.”

A few whine that the Super Bowl is “much ado about nothing.” These folks need to get ready for another heaping helping of “ado.”…

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No doubt, longtime West Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm is happy he served in a gentler era, when folks smiled more.

He regaled audiences with a terrific Super Bowl story I have “appropriated” for repeated non-government use.

Charlie told of a Super Bowl viewing party planned for youth following church worship services….

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The youth minister, afraid there might not be enough food for a larger-than-anticipated crowd, scrawled a sign for the sandwich table. “Please Take Just Two—Remember God is Watching You.”

He didn’t notice a 14-year-old making a cookie sign.

It read, “Take All You Want—God’s Watching the Sandwiches.”…

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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