Super Bowl LI proves dramatic on the field, inclusive in commercials

As nights of dramatic entertainment go, Sunday night’s Super Bowl had the sort of mind-scrambling twists better suited to something like Netflix’s “The OA” than what usually comes with NFL’s annual pageant of competition and commerce.

Before the game even started, the Super Bowl generated its own continuation of the blurred line between the pop cultural and the political: the Atlanta Falcons of hometown hip-hop trio Migos and FX’s “Atlanta” versus Tom Brady’s New England Patriots, whose owner, coach and star are said to be friends of Donald Trump. But the commercials themselves reflected a message of inclusion and unity.

The most talked about ad during the game came from 84 Lumber. A comparatively little-known building supply chain, the poetically shot clip featured a mother and daughter on a journey to emigrate to the US., only to finish on an uncertain note as the spot abruptly stops with a call to go online to see the end, which we won’t spoil for you here. Originally, the commercial’s end was deemed too political by the game’s broadcast network, Fox.

Some spots continued the Super Bowl tradition of the visually inexplicable — an animated Mr. Clean by way of “Magic Mike” raised eyebrows on social media — while others continued the theme.


Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad — which inspired a boycott before even airing — looked to the company founder’s immigrant history. An Audi commercial advocated for equal pay for women, and Coca Cola resurfaced a spot from 2014 featuring “America the Beautiful” being sung in multiple languages that touted the unifying power of the game under the hashtag #AmericaIsBeautiful.

Then there was the game. First seeming to resurrect a decades-old Super Bowl tradition of a blowout, the match improbably began to turn on the strength of the Patriots’ Brady, who memorably ignited a controversy with the placement of one of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats in his locker during campaign season. Trump, for his part, looked to further the connection by boasting about a letter he received late in the campaign from the Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick.

While the build-up to the game featured little in the way of politics, viewers couldn’t help but see its reflection as the game went on. “Brady just won Florida,” wrote one Twitter observer as the Patriots began to crawl back. And viewers on both sides drew parallels to how they felt on election night as the game turned to edge-of-your-seat viewing.

As has been the case since completing his ascent from reality TV star to president, the last word belonged to Trump. “What an amazing comeback and win by the Patriots,” he crowed on Twitter at the 34-28 finish. “Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and Coach B are total winners. Wow!” But, judging by the ads, off the gridiron and inside advertising boardrooms, the game is still on.

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