I have a confession to make. I live in Rhode Island.
While it might seem like the worst thing about living in New England is trying to convince bartenders to turn off regular-season Red Sox games to put on the NBA Finals, there is actually one greater drawback: missing all of those locally televised HEB commercials featuring your favorite San Antonio Spurs.
Let's be clear. Those commercials are horrible. From the forced punchlines to the awkward acting, the commercials are cringeworthy. They sound like something straight out of a 99-cent joke book. They’re like watching an elementary school play in slow motion. They’re like listening to the iPhone’s Siri read Shakespeare. The Spurs’ acting makes Shaq’s performance in Kazaam look like a masterpiece.
But those commercials are a true Spurs-ism. Each year, those bad commercials contribute to a long legacy of bad Spurs commercials, and they reveal a fundamental tension between who the Spurs are and who everyone wants them to be. They’re not media darlings (think, by contrast, about Lebron’s Big Mac commercials), despite the fact that everyone obsesses over interpreting Pop, breaking the Spurs’ media firewall, or forcing a Father’s Day narrative on Kawhi. The Spurs act in these commercials in nearly the same way that they act in press conferences, with a sly grin that demonstrates a kind of self-aware idea of how silly the whole charade can be.
So, in celebration of how awful and awesome those Spurs commercials are, here is a completely arbitrary ranking of the 2014 HEB Spurs commercials:
4) Laundry Sorting
Based on his exceptional performance in this commercial, I’m going to go ahead and say Ginobili is the only Spur with a future in acting.
Ginobili starts off with "excitement for HEB Bravo Plus." He then moves to befuddlement, after which he exhales a breath of sheer amazement at Kawhi's ability to palm those jerseys. Manu’s performance is like National Treasure-era Nicholas Cage meets Twin Peaks. It's something about the way he uses the laundry detergent as a prop to show his initial excitement. Then he hits you with the furrowed brow, which intensifies the whole scene. Just as the scene climaxes, he delivers that memorable line: "Your hand, man. It's like you're part bear." Pure chill-inducing brilliance.
Yet the commercial lacks a certain je ne sais qua. First of all, why are the Spurs doing their own laundry in their jerseys? Ok, this is probably part of the wax-on-wax-off Zen of Pop. But why are the walls lined with only laundry detergent? Where are the lint rollers? Drake would disapprove.
Ultimately, this commercial falls apart for me because of Timmy. He only says four words (less than Kawhi, which would never happen in real life), and I just don’t believe him when he says "woaaah" as watches Kawhi palming those shirts. I’ve seen him dispute calls—he can turn on the disbelief when he wants to. This commercial wasn’t a team effort. C+
As the four teammates sit around, Kawhi and Duncan approach them. Ginobili and Parker remark on how "divine" and "marvelous" their steaks are, and Kawhi attempts to join the club, by awkwardly asserting that he too finds the steaks "indubitably" splendid. Indeed, it seems the high-quality steaks have given the Spurs a little buzz of elitism and gaudiness. This is too out-of-character for the Spurs.
In addition, one could easily point to a few logical inconsistencies here: Who wears basketball shorts with a bathrobe? (Well, maybe, Tony and Manu, actually…) Why does the fireplace have three electric lights instead of a fire? Why are they eating fine steaks on paper plates? Why does Tony Parker have a photoshopped image of himself in Renaissance clothes on his wall? And why is there a bust of the Coyote on his mantel? (And, if it’s a bust of a coyote, is it still a bust?)
But, ultimately, Kawhi ruins this commercial. Ginobili and Parker hit their thespian sweet spots, and Duncan plays a nice the Dude to their Walter and Donny. But Kawhi is NBA-Finals-Game-1-&-2 Kawhi. Frankly, he’s just contributing; he’s just there enough to be there. B-
2) One for Each
Now we’re reaching some serious marketing gusto! I don’t know why Matt Bonner got to be in this commercial (where’s Diaw?!), but I have to assume it’s because of his orange hair. Not to spoil this suspenseful commercial, but Parker hands out salsas to people, based on their personalities.
This commercial works because we’ve got salsa movement. Everyone is involved. Shots go back and forth from Tony to his teammates, and even the role player (Bonner) does his job (have orange hair). Forget about the strange salsa waitress who awkwardly lingers in the background. This is high-quality television. The punch line at the end is the only negative, but the message is clear: the personalities of HEB’s salsas are just as unique as the Spurs’ iconoclastic personalities (wait… what?). A-
1) Tough Talk
Now this is the Lebron James of commercials (too soon?). This commercial has everything: a product that I would buy, an old guys vs. the young guy routine, Duncan shouting the word "BOOM!", Parker shouting "BAM!", Ginobili shouting "POW!", lightning bolt sound effects in the background, and Kawhi being funny. He’s actually funny, and he’s making fun of his own inability to be funny.
As the Spurs go down the line and offer a shockwave of facts about some weird sports milk or something, Kawhi stumbles at the end, simply stating: "It’s good." So economical with words. So to the point. So on point.
Kawhi even breaks the fourth wall in this commercial—something unheard of in the 2014-era Spurs commercials. He looks into the camera and delivers a penetrating and poignant reiteration of his original statement: "It is good."
This commercial no doubt launched a renaissance for milk drinkers everywhere. This commercial is the Shawshank Redemption of HEB commercials. This is a symphony of humor and humility. This might as well be a commercial for the Spurs themselves. They'll make posters out of this commercial. Old fans will sit around and tell young fans about where they were when they first saw it. This commercial is a thing of legends. A+