God, farmers and underwear: A post Super Bowl rant

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.

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  1. Matt,
    Great article, you write well, thank you! Perhaps part of the appeal, even to the lost, is the sense of truth that comes thru this Ram Truck Ad and a voice of reason with Paul Harvey. It represents all that is good about America. People take pause when they see something like this, call it seeing reality, and they probably wonder why they don’t hear or see it more often. Then they go back to the game and the illusion that apparently is more comforting, dreaming about what they could be instead of working towards it. Thanks again to you and the Ram Truck people for this refreshing reminder that God made a farmer, to live life each day to the fullest, with faith, hope and love – the greatest of these is love.

  2. Matt,

    Very well said, and you make several excellent points that we in agriculture (the minority) need to remember! Along with Paul Harvey’s theme “So God made a Farmer”. We in agriculture have an important calling in life…and that is something we also must not forget.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. As a farmer’s daughter, I definitely appreciated this commercial. Agriculture can certainly use some positive messaging in the world today. But you lost me here:

    “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.”

    What are the traditional values that built our farms? Honesty? Hard work? Integrity? Harvey mostly references working hard, being strong but gentle, and helping others. Farmers are not the only people who hold these values – let’s talk about mothers and fathers, and teachers and doctors and nurses and the military and people who serve God and our country and their families in their work every day. We all know that farmers do not make up the majority of our population, but I still believe that people who share these values are NOT the minority. This commercial was successful not because farmers identified with the values, but because other people did, too.

    You bring up the country being divided politically, but what does that have to do with the values mentioned? Democrats and Republicans may not agree on taxes or federal spending or gay marriage or abortion, but I believe that most of us can agree on hard work and integrity.

    I shared your post with a good friend of mine. She agreed with you about the commercials and the game. She’s about six generations removed from a farmer, has a gay brother, believes in God, and votes mostly Democrat. Does this mean she has no traditional values? It’s just not as black and white as you make it seem.

    • Jenny, I really appreciate your reading, interest and thoughtful comment. My point is that, as a whole, the generation that built the farms, families, and food system that we enjoy today did adhere to the Biblically-centered, traditional values much more than the current generation. This has nothing to do with Ds vs. Rs, but our values system as a society.
      I merely said that it seems as if the majority of Americans have moved away from the traditional values (my definition of which is Biblically-based, God centered lifestyles) that I was raised with. That is all. In general, the farm community tends to be more closely aligned with these values than other segments of society, but there are certainly plentiful exceptions to this. I know many people who have nothing to do with agricultural production, yet qualify for my definition of traditional values in every possible way.
      In the latter stages of the blog I was merely trying to point out that, as farmers who may be more used to dealing with those who share their values, we need to do a better job of being more inclusive of those who do not share these values in the food dialogue by understanding that up front. When people have completely different world views (i.e. Christian and non-Christian) it can be very challenging to have a mutually beneficial conversation about food production. By understanding these differences up front, the lines of communication may be somewhat more open.

      • But what does being Christian or not have to do at all with food production dialogue? In my opinion, that is being divisive in itself.

        If you want to talk values like the kind of physical labor and pride in one’s work and pride in one’s output as the basics that nourish people in real ways, then I agree with you (and believe the majority of the country agrees with you.) If you want to talk values like tea party values, like the ones that only count if you don’t support marriage equality or reproductive rights, then I’m out. But I will also tell you that living life with values and being Biblically centered/upholding these so-called traditional values, are not mutually exclusive.

        • Jenny,
          I think you are reading too much into this blog. He was not trying to start a war, he was not being political, and he was definitely not being divisive.

          He never said there aren’t good people who aren’t Christians and he never said there aren’t Christians who aren’t good people. He didn’t say all farmers are Christians and he didn’t say anyone who isn’t a farmer isn’t a Christian.

          Simple comments on a great commercial and the differences between it and the rest of the programming; then reflecting on what these say about our society. If the majority of people feel like Matt then the Superbowl ads and half-time show wouldn’t be full of the types of things that inspire us to tell our young adolescent boys (and their friends who come over to watch the game)to leave the room during the commercials and that they definitely cannot watch the half-time show. Since the majority of the commercials were inappropriate for children (and those who try to keep their minds off sexual immorality and lust for the opposite sex), we can assume that the media thinks that is what the majority of us want to see. That makes a minority of those who used to be the majority.

          You obviously have some bitterness in your heart. I know it probably sounds trite, but I will pray that your wounds are healed and that whoever hurt you will also be changed because it seems you have not been shown the love of God and Christ Jesus by those professing to share it. I pray that God will bring someone into your life that can show you what a genuine relationship with Christ is–not divisive or judgmental, but loving, caring, mutually respectful, and all of that given despite any shortcomings or sins or even disbelief.

          Matt, I’m sorry if I took this where you didn’t intend.

          • Wow, ok. To be honest with you, I’ve been exchanging emails with Matt regarding this blog post, in addition to my comments here, and I think I’ve been nothing but respectful. He actually asked me to post my comments here. I’m simply offering a different viewpoint. It’s a shame that you can’t read it for what it’s worth – it’s not a criticism of Matt’s work. It’s a different point of view. Not all liberals are crazy hippies who enjoy sex in commercials. (Like not all consveratives are Bible beaters who cling to their guns, right?) It’s just not that cut and dry and to think so, in my opinion, is being divisive. My point is that BOTH sides can be divisive.

            And I’ll also point out to you that the media is not the majority, either, so I don’t think we can assume that people with values are in the minority based on the media. I’ve come to a place in my life when I have as many non-farming friends as those who grew up in agriculture. I asked these non-farm friends what they thought of Matt’s post and they all agreed with his assessment of the athletes and the commercials. They don’t all believe in God, yet they have morals, too! Amazing, right?

            I also have a good relationship with Christ and I appreciate all the prayers I can get, but please don’t feel obligated to pray for me. And by telling me I have bitterness in my heart, I believe you’re the one being judgmental.

    • We said Jenny!
      I was a never a farmer, despite receiving the same degree as you, Matt. And I feel that many of my farming friends actively strive to point out the differences and create a chasm, and the result is negative feelings and miscommunication all around. Often times non-farmers feel statements are insinuating that if we don’t grown our own food we don’t understand the meaning of hard work or family values. It saddens me to see and read this, because it is opinions (or misunderstandings depending on the situation) like this that perpetuate the lack of understand by “city folk” and the greater desire for respect by the “farmer.”
      I have even worked a little bit with Farm Bureau to shed some light on this topic. I wish things didn’t always come to a line in the sand, because it just divides the “sides” all the more, when we are all really on the same one. But that’s just the opinion of this urban cowgirl, who attends church regularly and has a gay sister.

  4. Matt, I did not watch the Super Bowl so I did not see this commercial. I had not even seen or heard of it. Gee, it seems that the media must have missed it too because I have seen reference to the Budwiser, Pepsi, and many more commercials but not this one honoring our Countries farmers.

    I want to thank you for giving me a chance to see it and also tell you how proud I am to be a farmers daughter. I am also proud to tell everyone that you are my cousin.

    • Thanks Pat, Dave, Tom, Mark and Dusty, I appreciate your kind words and your interest. Keep on reading and I will keep on writing.

  5. Matt,

    Very well written. I wonder if it really is your age or if it isn’t the society that are the difference. I did not watch the super bowl, for the very reasons you mentioned, but I did watch the dodge advertisement and can understand your gasp at the fresh air. May god Bless you for posting your feelings,brother.

  6. Matt, I watched the Dodge- Ram ad several times and each time, I got proud and choked-up – because I am proud to be a farmer. Monday after the Super Bowl, I was feeding cows and a buddy of mine, another dairy farmer that also drives a 2012 Ford super duty f-250 called and said -lets trade them for Dodges- I don’t know about that, but
    ” God made a Farmer” and the awareness that brings to the other 98 percent of the population can only help our image.

  7. Yep, you’re just getting old. Is that a gray hair I see in that profile pic? Ha!

  8. I was at a meeting a few weeks back where Dale was the speaker and one of the topics he addressed was the need for the American farmer (1.5% of the US population) to effectively market themselves and what they do to the rest of the country. Not doing so will lead to more instances of non-farmers telling us how we can farm, how we will manage our livestock, and basically imposing their wishes and prohibitions on us.

    This commercial accomplished that by appealing to bedrock values: God, family, community, hard work, and job satisfaction that goes way beyond a paycheck.

    Way to go, Dodge. What other companies are ready to step up and add their voice to the chorus?

  9. If this had been a speech I would have stood up to give you a standing ovation. Right on Matt!

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