Great American Pastimes: Football and Beer Commercials


Cynics, skeptics are more to be pitied than shamed. Life should be full.

People do it many ways.  Some of us feel no reservation about standing up in a bar and toasting what puts frosting on our cake: the great American game of football, especially Washington football.

In 5,000 years, anthropologists will look back on the 1970s, 80s and 90s and discover inseparable groupings.  Soup and sandwiches.  Galena and silver.  Penn and Teller.  New York summers and heat.

Football and beer commercials.  Been a few.

In the televised beginning, beer commercials took themselves too seriously.  Fortunately, that began to change in the late 60’s, and beer commercials evolved into a much more entertaining medium while becoming an anthropological treasure trove of insight into what could capture Americans’ attention during timeouts.  In 5,000 years, when anthropologists want to know the happier side of America in the late 20th century, rather than studying the words of Barney Frank or Patty Murray, they’ll analyze the behavior of, say, John Madden.  Maybe Dick Butkus.

Unfortunately, the present decade’s ad executive wisdom no longer populates football commercials with ex-football players, but is gravitating toward a behavior that has little to do with football or football players or, worse, ex-football players – those who enjoy a few beers while watching something they know well.

I am concerned that beer commercial standards of the 70s, 80s and 90s may go the way of the single wing, and sensitive to the needs of future scientists. I have consequently compiled a list of my eight most favorite commercials.  All were aired before 2000 with the exception of one but, indicative that there is still hope, that one ad is my favorite.

The commercials, taken from YouTube, are briefly discussed and presented in reverse order below, beginning with No. 8.

No. 8

Do the word “macho” and beer go together?  If there was ever any question (which there probably wasn’t), commercial No. 8 seemed to dispel that question – although now we wonder.  Although you haven’t seen it for years, you’ll remember commercial No. 8.  Especially if your name is Bob.

No. 7

Acrimony on the field of play was readily set aside during beer commercials.  Generally, camaraderie was kindled among those formerly on offense and those on defense; or between members of rival teams.  But there was also the opportunity for owners and managers of the same team to carry out serious business in a more dignified manner as shown in commercial No. 7.  Although this is not a football beer commercial, it has a familiar spirit and is a classic that you’ll enjoy seeing once again.

No. 6

Competition among beers generated many innovations in the ‘70’s including un-screw bottle tops, and easy-open cans as demonstrated by former all-pro defensive end Bubba Smith in commercial No. 6

No. 5

Many of the athletes appearing in beer commercials quickly became competent actors.  In No. 5, however, the former athlete is not just acting but also singing like he did after he left the ring.  He did it quite well for quite awhile, by the way.  This is another football season beer commercial classic.  Enjoy the voice of former heavyweight champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier in No. 5.

No. 4

The former athletes in this commercial included Washington defensive end Ben Davidson and well as former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden and several all-pro players including Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus, and Bubba Smith.  This bunch got together for many commercials and the chemistry was extraordinary.  Unfortunately, the beer commercials became so successful that the athletic identity of these formerly great players was becoming lost behind their beer commercial persona, and many discontinued doing the commercials.  Any one of those commercials, however, could have made our list.  Here is a sample at No. 4.

No. 3

We’re at No. 3.  This is getting serious.  Who’s good enough to be better than the Miller Light bunch at No. 4?  Well, you know these guys.  Louie and Frankie.  Enjoy the 1997 Super Bowl Budweiser lizards sequence at No. 3.

No. 2

No. 2?  Better than Louie and Frankie?  In Seattle, yes.  This is a sentimental commercial because the one of the main characters is no longer alive and the beer company, a fixture in these parts for decades, went out of business 12 years ago.  Enjoy this commercial featuring Mickey Rooney and Washington Head Football Coach Jim Owens, coming in at No. 2.

No. 1

What could top No. 2?  The No. 1 ad was unique because it included no celebrities and no dialogue.  And, still, it was quite moving.  It was unlike any other beer commercial – especially since the turn of the 21st century.  It was the first Budweiser ad aired during the 2005 Super Bowl.  There were several Budweiser ads that followed during the game but they were unmemorable, and Budweiser wasted millions of dollars by producing them.  All Budweiser had to do was show this commercial, sit back and enjoy the game as the Budweiser public image rose like the sun over Cabo San Lucas.  The classiest beer commercial ever made is our selection for No. 1.

That’s it.

Beer commercials and football.  Soup and sandwiches, regardless of how off-track many Hollywood minds presently believe beer commercials should be.  So pour a glass and raise it.  You ready?

“Here’s to the great American pastime of football, and especially Washington football.  Lahaim [to life]!”