January 25, 1998
As a nation, we were transfixed.
The updates kept coming in, and we kept watching.
A tale of deceit and betrayal, as old as storytelling itself, unwounded on countless millions of television screens.
It was as if a life and death struggle was being waged, when in fact, nothing so nearly important as actual death was at stake. Still, the stakes were remarkably high.
Millions of Americans watched … and were sure they knew what the outcome would be.
But in the end, in a surprise twist, we were all fooled.
… And the Budweiser frogs lived.
Yes, if you’re like me, Super Sunday is best spent enjoying the game for as long as possible (which this year proved to be surprisingly satisfying) while focusing on the commercials.
For weeks, I’ve been wondering if the bitter Budweiser lizard Louie would make good on his threat to assassinate the Budweiser frogs (you know, "Bud," "Wise," "Er," the most annoying trio in advertising). Louie despised the frogs with a passion shared by most of America, I dare to say. So, as Super Sunday dawned, the country, nay, the world, was flush with the possibility and hope that in fact, when the sun set, the world might finally be rid of this annoying amphibious trio.
How would Louie do the deed? Bomb? Food poisoning? Fricassee? In fact, it was a simple plan he concocted. And for a while, it looked like it had succeeded. At the end of Budweiser’s first commercial of the first quarter, hope rose like the smoke from the charred lily pads formerly occupied by the frogs. With a little help from a ferret, Louie had zapped the frogs into oblivion, where they surely were reminiscing in Advertising Heaven, sharing a Wendy’s burger with the late Clara Peller. Where’s the beef, indeed.
But in American advertising, it seems you can’t even fricassee a frog without paying the price. You see, for some reason, Budweiser decided the frogs should live. So a second commercial showed the slightly singed frogs had not in fact croaked, but were instead still clinging to their insidious "Bud," "Wise," "Er," chant, albeit with considerably less energy than before, due to their brush with death.
A third commercial featured Louie chewing out the ferret he had enlisted to help carry out his evil scheme.
A four commercial had all the fake sincerity of one of those post-Afterschool Special messages. Louie explained that these commercials were for entertainment only, and we should not think that he really intended to harm the frogs.
But deep in his lizardy eye, while his mouth voiced a certainly corporate written disclaimer, I could still see the hatred burning. It was a look I’d seen the frogs elicit plenty of times before. All I had to do was watch one of their commercials, then look in the mirror.
You see, I hate the Budweiser frogs. And somehow, although I’ve drunk exactly zero beer my entire life, I love the Budweiser lizards.
Budweiser’s corporate lackeys had a chance to make a statement, to kick it up several notches on the coolness meter, and forever change the rules of the advertising game; namely, don’t kill off your main mascots. Instead, in an act of corporate cowardice, our heroic lizards must return to observing and detesting the frogs. The frogs, although singed, are certainly wiser. A frustrated nation must now wonder what life sans frogs would be like, instead of enjoying the Budweiser frog-free lifestyle the framers of our Constitution certainly intended us to enjoy.
Dreams die hard on Super Bowl Sunday. Like the defeated Packers, I find comfort in a common sports mantra – "Wait ‘til next year." Next year, the frogs will get theirs. Next year, the lizards’ plan will come to fruition. Next year …