Monday, May 13, 2013

I Wish That Pitch Would Hit Flo Square in the Face

I sometimes think about how much time seemingly miniscule moments in our lives actually take up.  I'm not talking in terms of daily or weekly, but more in a way of compounding things over the course of a lifetime.  For example, let's say the average person spends 15 minutes commuting to and from work on a daily basis, or half an hour per day.  During any given workweek, the average person spends 2.5 hours just driving to and from work.  And over the course of a year, not counting two weeks of vacation, the average person spends 125 hours driving to and from work.  When you think about it, that doesn't really seem all that overwhelming.

But, when you begin to look at it in larger terms, it is much more difficult to wrap your head around it.  Let's say the average person spends 125 hours driving to and from work every year, and the average person works for 35 years.  Given those scenarios, the average person would spend 4,375 hours commuting to and from work, or just about 6 months of a lifetime.  And that's for a very conservative estimate.  When you look at it like that...It's a lot of wasted time.

We don't realize it as it is happening, and probably wouldn't even notice if we were fully aware, but our life seems to be filled with hundreds of thousands of wasted minutes and seconds.  I don't mean to be depressing, and I promise I am going somewhere with this, so just bear with me.

Think about commercials.  Actual research shows that the average American watches 4.5 hours of television every day.  For every 60 minutes of air time, there are roughly 15 minutes of advertisements, and that's assuming you keep the television parked on one channel the entire time.  So, if the average person views roughly 25,000 minutes worth of commercials every single year, it comes out to more than 17 days!  Imagine what we could do with that much extra time.

And of those 25,000 minutes of ads, 99.9% of them are complete and utter wastes of time.  Many of them irritate me to the point of genuine anger, and the .1% that is actually mildly entertaining offer only the most simplistic amusement.  They are completely pointless and waste my time.  At least most of them.

But one commercial I recently viewed literally made me sit down and think about it's artistic merit.  It made me reminisce.  It made me smile.  It made me feel.  We've grown so accustomed to commercials, that we essentially have become numb to them (see the stats above).  But every once in a while, one comes along and truly has a profound effect.

The spot opens abruptly with a batter swinging and missing a fastball.  We find ourselves immersed in the midst of a tightly-contested baseball game.  A night game.  The shot twirls behind the catcher and umpire, in one take, and we see the field spread out before us like the ocean at sunrise.  There is a light fog, like when the high temperature of a hot day begins plummeting with the setting sun, emanating from the ground, and when mixed with the pale lighting, it creates an ethereal glow.

The shot pans around the diamond, stopping for a few seconds at third, then left field, then shortstop, then center, picking up the familiar sounds of encouraging chatter mixed with strategic jargon.  "Back!" A base coach says, as the third baseman feints towards the runner at third.  "No doubles, no doubles," the shortstop says as he signals his outfielders.  The camera finally settles on the pitcher, who fires a quick throw to first in a failed pickoff attempt.  As the ball is returned, the second baseman and shortstop communicate, "Hey, let's roll it up here," and the second baseman hides his mouth with his glove, short mimicking back to him.  This is to communicate who covers second in the event the runner at first steals...A closed mouth means "I have the bag."  An open mouth means, "You have the bag."  In most cases, the fielder to the opposite field of the batter covers, but infielders have the discretion to change things up.  To the average observer, this fundamental communication goes unnoticed, and the fact a moment like that is caught, in a commercial, is simple perfection.

The camera finally spins back, and we find ourselves behind the pitcher, as he peers in toward his catcher.  He gets the sign he wants, nods in agreement and slowly comes set.  By this time, the rising volume of horns in the background has added an even deeper level of tension and anticipation, as we await the pitcher's delivery.  The camera pans around to the front, with a close-up view of the pitcher.  You can see the concentration in his face, feel the heaviness of the moment.  You see his eyes glance, ever-so-quickly, for one last check on the runner at first.  He locks back in on his target, and delivers, with an emphatic grunt.

But, we don't see what happens.  The screen cuts to black, and the words "Every pitch, every inning, every game, every season" flash, followed by the Dick's Sporting Goods logo.

As a baseball fan, and someone that grew up playing the game, there is a certain level of perfection to be found in that 60-second spot.  To anyone who doesn't play the game, and just enjoys it from the stands or their living room couch, most of those moments fade into obscurity within seconds, if they're ever noticed at all.  But, the beauty of it is that those actions are almost second-nature to any baseball player, and occur dozens of times every game.

I love how the entire 60 seconds is filmed in one continuous shot.  There are no discernible cuts, no flashy special effects.  No ridiculous jingles, or upcoming sale advertisement...Just the raw, unfiltered emotion that, as a player, you feel in those tense moments late in a close game.

That's what was so powerful for me.  It harkened back to countless spring and summer nights on the baseball field, where I learned what it takes to win.  I learned the self-discipline and drive it takes to be successful, at baseball or anything else.  I learned how it feels to strike out on a full count with the bases loaded and the tying run standing on third base.  I learned how to lose, and how to use those losses to improve.  "You got all that from a stupid commercial?" You might ask.  Yes...Yes I did.

So, while the vast majority of commercials do little more than piss me off (here's looking at you Flo), this one made me appreciate so many little things that I took for granted growing up.  It brought back emotions that I had almost forgotten.  And it did it all without really trying to sell me anything.  Now, that is a commercial I can appreciate.

If you haven't seen it, here's the commercial I am talking about:

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