Game day is fast approaching, and while I know it's the Giants against the Patriots -- Eli Manning versus Tom Brady (who handily wins the "Best Dressed" in a suit) -- the only tension I feel is whether or not I'm up on all the ads that will break during the game. Honda is making me smile by summoning up memories of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and VW went right for my Star Wars jugular by recreating the Cantina set from the first movie, now titled A New Hope. But the comfort level and relationship I now have with the biggest TV night of the year was not always there.
Way back in the dark ages, when our TV only got three stations on a good day (rabbit ears with tin foil always did the trick), the Super Bowl was something to be avoided. I never knew who was playing, and when other kids asked, any attempt at sounding knowledgeable on the subject fell flat. I have my grandparents to thank for the year I was the "cool kid," thanks to the Steelers jacket and hat they sent along just before the game. That year, I could confidently say I was rooting for Pittsburgh. (It helped that I was born there, which added some street cred.)
College was not much different, except there was a fairly large contingent of kids who were equally "unaware" of the game, and you'd inevitably see them at the movie theater and nearby arcade. It was around this time that I realized being gay was diametrically opposed to caring about the Super Bowl. My badge of honor back then was how actively I could avoid it, all the while sort of wishing I could be more a part of it.
After college, moving to New York City, and coming out, I was able to finally like the big game. Or, better put, I was given permission to enjoy the "game in the game" -- watching for the ads. For me, I think it is fair to say that the LGBT community made the ads the central focus of watching and gave a whole new meaning to the Super Bowl. It helped that I had started an ad agency, and although I know many in the gay and lesbian community love watching football, there seem to be far more who "watch for the commercials." The first Super Bowl party I ever went to in the city was billed as just that: "Forget the Teams and Watch the Ads" was the verbiage from the invitation.
Having been in the advertising industry now for more than 25 years, I look forward to game day as much as any Giants or Patriots fan -- with a few exceptions, of course. It's fair to say that Super Bowl 46 might be the most LGBT-friendly one ever. Kelly Clarkson opens with the national anthem. Madonna will entertain us at half time. Beckham is launching his new underwear line for H&M (first time in the game for that brand), and I'm looking forward to being surprised by what other brands are planning -- the ones that did not release their spots before the game.
For the first time in history, LGBT consumers are being asked their opinions about the Super Bowl commercials. The Focus Group on SiriusXM OutQ and research firm Iceology invite you to go to focusgroupradio.com, click on the "Game in the Game" icon, and cast your vote. If you participate, you have a chance to win a Sirius XM Satellite radio along with a free one-year subscription. The results will be announced on The Focus Group Saturday, Feb. 11, at 11 a.m. EST.