Columns » Ranger Rich

Focus on ... the Super Bowl

Ranger Rich

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During the Super Bowl telecast on Feb. 7 there will be an unforgettable halftime performance. Insiders say it features a grainy home video clip involving Elin Nordegren, a 5-iron, a sleeping Tiger Woods and two balls.

OK, that's not true. The actual Super Bowl XLIV halftime show will feature legendary rock band The Who singing the 1978 classic, "Who Are You?" and a brand-new version, "Where Are We?"

What is also true — and I'm not kidding about this — is that during the telecast, mixed in among all the hilarious, watch-my-wife-Susie-blow-beer-out-of-her-nose commercials, there may be a 30-second, anti-abortion ad from our very own Focus on the Family.

Really.

A Super Bowl spot on CBS and three 30-second slots during pregame coverage would cost Focus $4 million. Although, as I understand it, the conservative Christian organization known for its intelligent debate on social issues will get a 20 percent refund if it can prove that some of the Budweiser Clydesdales are gay. (Or, as Focus calls them, "a little light in the horseshoes.")

The Focus ad supposedly features the story of University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother. Pam Tebow and her husband were Christian missionaries in the Philippines in the '80s, and during her pregnancy with Tim she developed amoebic dysentery. Doctors told her the strong drug they used to kill the infection had likely damaged the fetus, and they suggested an abortion. Pam refused. Tim was born healthy, won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, led Florida to the national championship a year ago and is a likely top draft pick in next spring's NFL draft.

Tim never conducts an interview without bringing up Jesus and thanking God for his success. (Personal note: I believe God and his son don't intervene in football games because they have more important things to do. Such as making damn sure Doug Bruce doesn't become our mayor in 2011.)

Focus isn't confirming anything about the ad, though it's not a secret inside the organization. Reached by phone Tuesday, Focus media relations director Gary Schneeberger said: "I decline comment. Let's just say that. I have nothing to say."

But then he added: "If there is a Super Bowl commercial from Focus on the Family, I guess you'll just have to wait and see it during the Super Bowl. I can say Tim Tebow does not appear in any Focus on the Family ad." Schneeberger didn't say anything about Tebow's mother.

A source says the new head of Focus, Jim Daly, spoke at an evangelical conference a few months ago and unveiled the Super Bowl ad plan. Then he begged for donations from like-minded organizations. According to the source, Daly was given about $3 million, and Focus dipped into its general fund for the other $1 million.

This, of course, will come as a surprise to the 150 or so Focus employees who were fired a few months ago, supposedly because of a steep decline in handouts from dwindling legions of followers. In 2008, some 200 workers were fired from the Christian organization just weeks before Christmas.

The ad still has to make it through CBS and the NFL, which is far from guaranteed; last year, NBC and the league decided just days before the game not to air a pro-life ad from a Catholic-based group, Fidelis. Some pro-choice commercials have also been nixed in the past. So CBS certainly could reject the ad as too controversial, allowing Focus to benefit from the exposure that would bring — without spending a penny.

There is precedent earlier in the decade, however, for pro-life Super Bowl ads. So we could get the $4 million, anti-abortion Focus ads joining Super Bowl lore, along with the Budweiser frogs and the beer commercial with a guy meeting his fiancée's mother, whose super-gigantic mom-behind (squeezed into red leather pants) wouldn't fit through his apartment door.

My all-time favorite Super Bowl ad was from monster.com a few years ago, a "Need a new job?" commercial that opened inside a posh, oak-paneled office with the gigantic mounted head of a moose on the wall over the boss' desk. The camera then panned out the door to the other side of the wall, with the rest of the moose standing on that worker's desk.

Thanks to our cash-starved Focus buddies in their gold-plated palace up on the hill, Colorado Springs once again might be seen by the rest of the country as, well, the other end of that moose.

rangerrich@csindy.com

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