By Matt Reese
Much has been written about the wildly successful commercial, “So God made a farmer,” during the Super Bowl featuring the voice of Paul Harvey, a healthy dose of Ram trucks and Case IH equipment and his comments about the farmers of this country. Of course, I thought the ad was fantastic. The photos were beautiful, the words were powerful and the message was clear. It was so refreshing to see a positive agricultural message in the national spotlight. But, for me, the Ram ad was appealing for more reasons.
We typically go to my in-laws and watch part of the game with our children and have dinner. We mostly watch the commercials and catch the highlights of what is typically the first NFL game I watch all season.
Maybe I am just getting old, but the big game seems to have taken an increasingly worldly turn in recent years. I wouldn’t think there should be a need to cover my children’s eyes and ears during the first half of the Super Bowl. But, when I wasn’t really paying attention to the television, I heard my five-year-old daughter giggle and say, “That man isn’t wearing any pants.” I looked up to see a swiveling shirtless man swerving across the television screen. Yikes, I think I may suffer long-term mental anguish from that image.
After being blasted with hours of super sexed, over-the-top raunchy commercials, watching a halftime show that would be more appropriate for a Las Vegas casino stage, watching (and hearing) angered athletes belch out the f-bomb after a botched play, and witnessing overpaid criminals vie for the title of “World Champion,” I have to admit I was starting to feel a bit grimy. Even without a wardrobe malfunction, there was not much left to the imagination in the Super Bowl. I know. I really must be getting old.
Then I started thinking about the average ticket prices for the game in the thousands of dollars, the salaries of the players in the millions of dollars and the huge sums of money spent gambling on the game and pandering to our baser instincts through ads. This did not help my outlook on society. I was starting to grow weary of the onslaught of sex, drugs and rock and roll blasting me from the Superdome and was just about ready to turn the television off, tuck the kids into bed and go read the better portion of the New Testament when, it happened. It was a breath of fresh air. It was something I understood and identified with. It wasn’t about money, or sex, or superstardom. It was, the rest of the story.
In the place of scantily clad women, muscle bound men in their underwear or an inane attempt at bathroom humor was a farm scene of an open, snowy field. The message presented a stark, shocking contrast with the worldly fleeting fluff that accounted for the bulk of the Super Bowl substance to which we had previously been subjected. The Ram ad was worldly too, but “salt of the earth” worldly, real worldly — where God, His creation and mankind combine for something beneficial and good.
Paul Harvey’s words were first spoken at the 1978 National FFA Convention and used as the narration for the ad, So God made a farmer.
For me, the incredible difference between this ad and everything else about the Super Bowl illustrated a key point that those of us involved with agriculture (and who share and live the values expressed) need to understand. We live in a divided country politically and socially. These divisions go deeper than political leanings or the team we root for in the Super Bowl. I believe the traditional values that built our farms, our families, and our food system are no longer shared by the majority of the people in this country. This makes us the sub-culture. Those of us who share these values seem to be in the minority, and we need to start acting like it as we interact with others.
If you have a more traditional set of values, like me, it cannot be assumed that people share your sentiments when talking to them about what you do on the farm. You have to start from the very beginning. You need to cover Genesis before they can have a revelation.
Another key thing to note is that, while many people do not necessarily share the traditional values outlined by Paul Harvey in that commercial, they do find them appealing. People love the work ethic, dedication and integrity of farmers. The problem is that they do not often see these things, or know them when they see them.
After it aired, the flood of comments that lit up the Internet and social media confirmed the mass appeal of this commercial that was considered among the best (if not the best) by many viewers of what was the most watched television event ever. And, the commercial pulled off that kind of appeal with everyone featured still fully clothed. Interesting, maybe other people are getting old too.