Bracketology. Let’s face it, the glimpses of basketball action we are watching these days are a respite, an island of enjoyment in a churning sea of hucksterism. An NCAA Tournament game lasts 40 minutes on the scoreboard, but takes up a solid two hours on the living room clock, beginning to end. The extra time is filled with foul shots, halftimes, and, most of all, commercials.
They are incessant, these commercials, an annual curse. They come at us in waves, pleas for our time, our attention, our hard-earned bucks. They plant the earworms and images that will stick. Is there any doubt we will remember the phrase “NAPA know-how” or the image of Craig Sager going through his closet far longer than we will remember the name of what’s-his-name from wherever-it-was who won the overtime thriller with a stepback jumper? None at all.
Here is an Elite Eight of irritability for this 2014 NCAA Tournament, working down to an irritability champion, the one commercial of this March that will lead us to true madness. Readers are encouraged to fill out their own brackets.
1. Two nimrods from Sonic drive-in vs. the dad playing his daughter for the last bowl of Frosted Flakes — The thing about the nimrods, those two guys in the car eating their food and making inane conversation, is that they’re a bit funny the first 36 times you see them. The bigger nimrod says something like “sweesh” for “swish” in describing the sound of a jump shot going through the basket. The other nimrod corrects his pronunciation. They argue. The other nimrod suggests they play a game of “horse” to decide. The bigger nimrod calls it “horsch.”
The Frosted Flakes dad is simply annoying. There’s only enough Frosted Flakes for the one bowl and rather than giving the cereal to his daughter he makes her play him for it in horse (horsch?). Then he beats her and pours the bowl for himself! But wait, he gives her half because he’s such a good guy. Come on, give her the whole bowl in the first case. She’s a kid. You’re an adult.
Winner: nimrods. All viewings after the 36th, these guys drive you crazy. The dad never can get past annoying.
2. Charles Barkley and Greg Anthony for Capital One vs. Chris Webber for Burger King — There seems to be a rotation of at least three Barkley-Anthony commercials this March that all become quite old quite quickly. Anthony is a charmless replacement for Dwyane Wade, who did those cellphone commercials with Sir Charles. In a sample episode here, Charles signs for two courtside pretzels purchased from a vendor. Thinks he is giving the guy his autograph. Anthony signs a real autograph for another vendor. Hilarity ensues. Well, no it doesn’t. What’s in your wallet?
Webber is watching a game wearing a basketball jersey with his name on his back. A young guy calls him “Chris Webber” in jest, then realizes this really is Chris Webber. The guy immediately starts talking about some Burger King deal, “two for five bucks.” You would have thought if he was a basketball fan he would have asked why Webber called a timeout with 11 seconds left in the 1993 championship game when there were no timeouts left. Burgers? That play cost the Michigan Wolverines the game, cost ’em the title. Famous.
Winner: Barkley and Anthony. They win on simple irritating bulk. Repetition.
3. Chris Paul and Cliff Paul vs. Mayhem — Chris and Cliff, the twin inventors of the assist in their separate ways, were interesting for maybe a nanosecond. Chris, of course, was destined to be the ultimate team leader. Cliff was destined to help other people, probably because he wore those big glasses. Of course, he became a State Farm agent. This is another commercial shown in various but similarly irritating forms.
Mayhem, the bandaged commercial face of Allstate Insurance, has had a far longer shelf life than Chris and Cliff, but after seven billion renderings has become overwhelming. The prominent NCAA commercial this year for Mayhem talks about the family that is so intent on watching the game it wouldn’t notice if its kitchen was burning. Wait a minute! That kitchen is burning! Again.
Winner: Paul and Paul. This is a very close insurance commercial matchup. Mayhem once in a while throws himself down that set of stairs in another spot to make you smile against your better judgment. Chris and Cliff never make you smile, no matter how hard they try.
4. Ben Franklin chased by the bad guy vs. NAPA’s talking can of know-how — Ben Franklin is on a reasonably modern train. Why? We don’t know. The bad guy realizes Ben’s picture is on a $100 bill. Starts chasing Ben. They run along the tops of the cars. Ben escapes. Bad guy is whacked by tunnel entrance. Ben tells George Washington, “That was close.” George, who is sitting next to Abraham Lincoln, replies, “You ain’t kidding.” This is supposed to make us go to Quicken Loans for some reason. Perhaps to see if we have won the Billion Dollar Challenge.
The NAPA talking can of know-how is presented on the counter with various oil products. In one of the spots it is next to “the family” of oil products, cans of NAPA Gold, Silver, and Platinum. The talking can says “la famiglia,” among other things. The salesman seems irritated behind the counter by this talking. The customer seems to like it. Hard to tell why.
Winner: Ben Franklin. Also very close. These are two stupid commercials, but Ben on the train is more stupid than the talking can of know-how. Somehow.
1. Two nimrods def. Barkley and Anthony — Barkley is Barkley. He at least makes you smile at his personality, at other things he has said at other times. He is a character for our sports time. The nimrods are nimrods.
2. Paul and Paul def. Ben Franklin — Two against one. The more you see the make-believe twins, the more you hope that you won’t see the make-believe twins ever again. You can watch the Ben Franklin commercial again just to hear George Washington say “ain’t.”
1. Two nimrods def. Paul and Paul — They started slowly these nimrods, likable for that short time, then gathered an amazing negative force. Chris and Cliff were oppressive from the beginning, but never could match the nimrods’ finishing kick.
The nimrods are our 2014 NCAA irritability champions. Congratulations to all involved. Cue the theme song.Leigh Montville’s column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.