Sensationalism is the problem with ‘The Man’s Not Hot for You’ ad

Call it a hero bump or a shoe-horn derby, the return of the football helmet-linked cocktail glass to mainstream marketing provides the kind of news that shouldn’t be misconstrued as “creepy” or “insidious.”

Yes, high school locker rooms in the United States are more anonymous than ever before. (Though cordoned off from the general public by regular rounds of coaches and overbearing grades of uniforms, uniforms, marching bands and coaches, students actually still have more input in their locker room policy than most college teams.)

How isolating that is. Sort of like watching a movie where kids don’t talk to one another in social settings but instead just occupy separate independent spheres (like on the battlefield during WWII). In that way, locker rooms are a lose-lose situation: the virtual segregation of youth sports is something that can fuel rape and bullying, and either make sports more dangerous or safer, depending on how it’s implemented. But with rise of ultra-cool crazy team names and “sport” uniform designs, people are getting a sneak peek at the real “insidious” side of youth sports.

So it’s about time the school systems figured out a way to integrate these brands into locker rooms and make them fun and functional for the real children, not just the 12-to-17 guys in black caps getting busy on them. When young people see things they like, they push even more boundaries. They also constantly remind me of everyone who insists that we should look at things in a pluralistic light, always defined by not “one but” but “two,” “three,” “four” and “five.” While this movement is surely admirable in itself, it can be used to define exactly the kind of “insidious” ideas that could be attracted to every single crevice of society by a Nike ad.

So I hope that the young athletes will remain uninvolved with their celebrity sponsors but hold a big, motivating belief in themselves. I hope they remember that if it’s all been about selling them fashion that was supposed to make them feel cool and famous, it’s not about them any more. It’s about what Nike calls “Brand X,” having them emulate what was manufactured in Asia in the name of entertainment. I hope they still love football and take the time to learn the facts and phrases and nuances and things to watch for. I hope that, while watching the Nike ad, they imagine it’s just another ad for free shoes and water bottles, and not something they really should be paying attention to in a locker room where they could be playing a game right now.

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