Revisioning My Opinion aka Hedging All Bets

OK, whoever directed the third installment of the Nike "Battle" campaign either wasn't the same person who directed the first two, or absolutely botched the execution on this one. The result is a serious discontinuity in the overall campaign that leaves me wondering if Nike actually does get it.

This spot features Jermaine O'Neal and Paul Pierce, two ballers from the Nike stable, playing pickup with a bunch of regular guys down at the gym (and featuring a healthy dose of the hypersexualized black masculine body). The only problem is, O'Neal and Pierce become exasperated with the lesser talents of their respective teammates, who are clearly (obviously?) not at the world-class level of the two NBA All-Stars. (Although I'm not so sure they were all that bad: the attempted crowning of O'Neal was pretty sweet, though the block was far sweeter.)

O'Neal and Pierce begin to run so many clearouts for themselves that the disgruntled teammates eventually walk off the floor to sit and watch. The Nike shills then put on a dazzling display of one-on-one, drawing oohs and ahhs from the spectators, including myself — I'm still not certain how the 6'6" Pierce gets space for his jumper against the quicksilver 6'11" O'Neal.

But the lesson at the end of the commercial remains thus: if you're not good enough, get off the floor and watch the cream rise to the top. Oh, and wear Nikes.

True, Nike may be attempting to celebrate the art that these two virtuosos are producing, but in the process they are negating the art that is eight other bodies in motion. It is the collected moments of inspiration, the moments of creativity, that are being negated for these eight individuals (as well as countless others at home). It makes no difference if the moment of inspiration is a spectacular failure, a valiant but unsuccessful effort against an immutable force, as was the dunk attempt blocked by O'Neal in the "Battle" ad. It makes no difference because it is the moment of inspiration that allows us to retain our humanity.


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