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Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I will refer to last weekend’s sporting event as the BS, lest I get my employers sued for infringing on the National Football League’s trademark of the words “Super Bowl.” According to the law, I may only use those two trademarked words “to the extent necessary to identify it. Repeated gratuitous use would cross the line,” so I won’t repeat them in this column. I’ll write BS instead, but you’ll know what I mean.

The first I heard of the BS controversy was in an e-mail from management, advising the advertising department that it was illegal for our clients to mention the BS in their ads. Instead, we had to substitute “the big game,” or “the Sunday lollapalooza” – anything but actually naming the actual name of the event: the BS.

In other words, if a local watering hole wanted to promote a BS party, where patrons were encouraged to join together to watch “the Big Game,” they could certainly do so, they just couldn’t call it what it is. They had to call it something else in their ads – something like “the title squabble between the Saints and the Colts.”

Furthermore, you had to be careful advertising the viewing of the BS event on a “big screen,” if “big” meant a screen or screens larger than 55 inches diagonally, or on a screen of any size if viewers had to pay to watch it.

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Moreover, it seems that the NFL also claims ownership rights to the words “Who Dat,” henceforth to be referred to as DW, an expression associated with New Orleans Saints fans (I can’t imagine why), and have been busting, with their formidable legal clout, little T-shirt operations making shirts with DW on the back.

What have we come to?

Can anyone just copyright or trademark anything under the sun? BS is not a brand name, it’s an event. DW is just an expression. Can I claim trademark rights to “Lord help us,” and sue anybody who uses it in print?

I wish the media had reacted immediately and unilaterally to the dictum, using the forbidden BS words repeatedly and gratuitously in their headlines, news stories and advertisements as a statement of protest. Can the NFL sue everyone on the planet? Is there not some BS we will not eat? How much ridiculosity will we tolerate?

I’m reminded of earlier days when we weren’t allowed to use the word “bingo” in ads. Bingo was illegal, and hence a no-no. If you were advertising a bingo game at Thanksgiving where turkeys were awarded as the prizes, you had to call it a “Turkey Roll,” wink-wink. This law continued long after state and federal lotteries were being blatantly pimped in newspaper ads and then drifted into the kind of limbo that “don’t ask, don’t tell” and marijuana issues now occupy.

The BS is a game – do we have to make a federal case out of it?

We’ve become such a nation of wimps. A Republican gets elected to Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts and we’re all in a panic – oh my god, the Republicans now have the right to filibuster, eek and yikes! I say let them filibuster – show it on prime time on all channels, members of the Grand Old Party reciting “Mary had a little lamb” for hours on end wouldn’t help their credibility and, for good measure, the nursery rhyme is probably copyrighted or trademarked and they would be sued.

That all being said, I’m glad the Saints won the BS. Judging by the ads, which are usually the highlights at $80,000 per second, the BS is in trouble and needs all the publicity it can get. The majority of them were promos for TV shows, movies and Budweiser, which used to run great ads with the Clydesdales and frogs, but hit a new low with unmemorable messages and the inane “drinkability” slogan. This must be the ad agency which advised Coca-Cola to change its formula.

The BS police should be looking at quality control of the ads during the game, not at our local bars advertising the communal watching of the year’s major event, where they’ll probably be imbibing of the nectar of our local brew pubs.


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