Do As I Say, Not As I Advertise

(One of my Beach Reporter columns from June 6, 1991. Still current today, except for the part about the Lakers…)

We don’t normally watch much television at our house, but with the Lakers in the playoffs, we’ve been watching more than usual. Watching sports is great family entertainment. That is, if you can’t read the lips of the players and coaches when they are upset, and you don’t watch the commercials.

Unfortunately, during the average basketball game there are approximately 1,700,000 commercials, mostly advertising beer.

Obviously the networks who air the games and sell advertising space think that basketball and beer ads go together. So do baseball and beer ads, and likewise hockey and football and beer ads.
There is nothing inherently wrong with beer ads. I’ve been known to quaff a few brewskies in my time. But the network executives must realize that there are huge numbers of children watching these sports events, and seeing these beer ads.
Maybe that’s what they’re counting on. Children and teenagers watch sports events on TV so they can see their individual heroes or teams perform. The message they get from these teams and players is this: “If you (yes, YOU) practice hard enough, eat right, listen to your mother, and don’t do drugs or drink alcohol, you might make the team.”

Cut to a beer commercial of women with perfect bodies in bikinis partying with some cool dudes who drink lots of beer. (Beer commercials always feature girls in bikinis). In fact, beer commercials always feature cool guys and hot girls having the most fun that can be projected into your living room. Thanks to modern graphics and special effects, beer cans and beer bottles can do a whole bunch of zany things, things that especially catch the eye of a young child. Meanwhile parents and teachers are trying to impress upon children the harsh facts of alcoholism. “Just say no” is part of every grade-schoolers vocabulary today.

Some years ago, advertisements for cigarettes and hard liquor were banned from television. But by some convoluted reasoning beer was deemed not as powerful, and was allowed to be advertised.

Use this reasoning on the guy whose daughter was just killed by a drunk driver who just polished off a six-pack.

I am not saying we should become a nation of teetotalers. Drinking in moderation is not a problem for most adults. But maybe it shouldn’t be advertised and promoted in a glamorous way to young people. By allowing beer ads to be on TV, we are not facing the reality that, as a nation, we have a serious drug and alcohol problem.

Add to that general thought, the fact of alcohol-related deaths of well-known sports figures themselves. Nearly every week we hear about one of them crashing his new Mercedes into a tree, or worse, another human being.

It was ironic that the other evening during a break in the Lakers game, there was a hard-hitting public service message featuring desperate teenage girls with drinking problems. Cut to the next commercial – young men and women having the time of their lives with the cutest little singing and dancing beer bottles.

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