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Steven Jackson: Dark Horse Candidate for Commercial of the Year

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Steven Jackson: Dark Horse Candidate for Commercial of the Year
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

By now, I'm sure you've all seen the commercial that I'm talking about here. Steven Jackson, the long-haired running back for the St. Louis Rams, finds himself at the end of the checkout line at Dick's Sporting Goods. Since that's unacceptable for a running back, he uses his skills to work his way to the front. 

Nothing special. Right? 

Wrong. 

While watching the Boise State vs Georgia college football game with a few of my friends on the ESPN3.com feed, I was exposed to the commercial time and time again. During every single break in the action, three advertisements would find their way onto the screen. 

In some order, not necessarily the one I've arbitrarily selected here, the slick-haired Geico spokesman would teach us that three people can't tango, Clay Matthews would single-handedly demolish a few sections of Dick's Sporting Goods and Jackson would do his thing in line. 

Normally I'm not the biggest fan of repetitive commercials, but the Jackson commercial was an exception. Each and every time we watched it, the on-screen actions of No. 39 got funnier and funnier. We started to notice things that the makers of the commercial themselves may not even have noticed. 

By the 60th time through (I'm actually not sure if that number is hyperbolic or not, but I'm leaning toward not) we were rolling on the floor laughing (that is hyperbolic, but only barely as I was actually just rolling around on a futon). 

So what, you may ask, made this commercial so epic? 

To answer that question, here's a second-by-second breakdown: 

 

0:00-0:04

This opening segment of the commercial really doesn't contain anything that earth-shattering. The inconspicuous beginning shows a typical scene at Dick's Sporting Goods. 

While the green-clad female cashier is ringing up the first customer in line, who will now be referred to as "Blue Shirt," five more normal customers wait for their various purchases to be rung up. If you look carefully, nothing is out of the ordinary except that Blue Shirt doesn't have any visible form of payment despite the fact that all of his items are already securely stored in bags. 

Suddenly, from behind the patient customers, Steven Jackson appears and immediately befriends the young athlete at the back of the line with a terrific opening statement: "Running backs don't stand in line. We run through 'em. Especially with Nike Pro Combat Hyperstrong." 

 

0:05-0:12

With the slight exception of a star running back showing up at a local Dick's Sporting Goods and not being surrounded by throngs of autograph seekers, the first segment of the commercial is actually fairly realistic. 

But then in the second, the camera zooms in on Jackson and his form-fitting Nike gear as everything goes haywire. 

The lighting in the sporting goods store drops to give the ensuing action a slightly eerie feel which snow begins to fall. Inside the store. Which of course makes perfect sense because that just tends to happen in most stores. 

Pausing just for a second to explore a slight tangent, why is snow necessary here? It would be alright with me if Jackson played for the Green Bay Packers or Minnesota Vikings, who actually play games in snow. But he's a member of the Rams and doesn't exactly have to deal with that kind of weather all too often. A hard, driving rainfall may have been okay, but not snow. 

Amidst the indoor snowfall, Jackson's fellow linemates suddenly turn into football players, of course defensive ones, who are all dressed in solid black. While the Rolling Stones would undoubtedly have been a fan of the garb, the darkness of the uniforms draws attention to one horrifying aspect of the people getting owned by Jackson. As you'll soon see, Jackson definitely has moves like Jagger.

Each and every imaginary football player has perfectly white eyes. There are no pupils, irises or anything other than the eyeball itself visible. While this effect adds a nice touch to the dark feel of the segment, it does slightly invalidate Jackson's running prowess in the commercial. After all, without properly functioning eyes, how can they possibly expect to successfully tackle a professional running back?

After releasing a blood-curdling scream, one that I can only hope he lets escape from his lips every time Sam Bradford tucks the pigskin in between his numbers, Jackson sidesteps the first would-be tackler right in front of the escalator before using a real-life version of Madden's truck-stick to get by the second.  


0:13-0:15

It is only now that viewers realize the snow-filled sequence takes place within Jackson's head. In reality, he is merely working his way past the defenseless customers, who really aren't putting up any sort of fight at all. The scene flawlessly transitions once more, this time from the snow-filled alternate reality back to the actual store. 

As Jackson's new buddy at the back of the line stands and watches with a slightly disturbed look on his face, Jackson gets past his first victim. Moving in slow motion, he completes the truck-stick move he began in the last segment, completely owning the man wearing the yellow shirt, who never even bothers to look at Jackson.

To be perfectly honest, it took my friends and I about 20 watches to notice this next part, but Jackson's hand placement during that last move is pretty interesting. When this segment begins, the running back's right hand is hidden behind the black and white shirt that the man in yellow is going to purchase. Maybe it's just the camera angle, but it appears as though Jackson is delivering a cheap shot to the place where the sun don't shine.

You'd think that whoever was putting together the commercial would think to himself, "Hey, wait a second. Steven, can you film this part again and maybe try not to look like you're delivering a slight love-tap to yellow shirt's crotch?" But that was never done, much to the delight of all advocates of this commercial's greatness. 

Jackson then spins past the young man in the gray shirt to end this segment.

Amazingly enough though, not one person, either in line, behind the cash register or elsewhere in the store, reacts in the slightest way to Jackson's slow-motion movements and long, drawn-out grunts. The cashier has a look of quiet acceptance on her face while the rest of the line simply stands and watches.

Obviously this happens a lot in this particular store.

 

0:16-0:21

Back in the mind of the three-time Pro Bowler, we now witness Jackson power his way past one more white-eyed defender, this time in front of a rack of shoes. On this occasion, the alternate reality lasts for a much shorter time as the shot transitions back to what is actually happening in the store within a second of the segment's inception. 

We see the man wearing yellow stagger backward despite receiving only minimal contact from Jackson. I refuse to believe that Jackson is that strong, so instead I have to presume that the man is simply carrying out a very delayed reaction to the earlier nut-shot in hopes of regaining his man card, much like Amanda Bynes in She's the Man.

Now, in an effort to regain my own man card, I would like to make perfectly clear that I left the showing of that movie right about the time when that scene takes place and did not stay through until the conclusion of the film. 

Next, Jackson begins to elbow the gray-shirted man in the chest before entering the snowy store once more and using an entirely different move to get past the last defender. The scene flashes back to reality and somehow Jackson is on the other side of the guy wearing gray, using his right arm to push the guy down to the ground.

Even though he is clearly out of any danger in the form of the one with the gray shirt, Jackson continues to use his right arm in a backward clothesline of sorts way longer than is necessary, continuing until the guy is almost on the ground. I'm not sure if he ends up on his belly or not, because one more gratuitous scene of snow is included.  

 

0:22-0:26

Slamming his intended purchase down in front of the cashier for added effect (because everything else wasn't enough already), Jackson makes it to the front of the line and is ready to pay. 

But wait!

It's not actually Jackson that is going to pay for the clothing, even though he ripped it away from the poor young guy at the back of the line in the opening segment. Instead, the aspiring athlete in the red shirt and gray hoodie is planning on paying.

Let's not worry here about why Jackson stole the clothes, which most likely are not his size, seeing as he's quite a bit more bulked up than his new friend. 

A little suspension of disbelief is required here. It's one thing to accept that the alternate reality scenes can happen, but how the hell did the other guy manage to get to the front of the line? 

Why didn't he have to use juke moves and hurdle defenders on his way to the front? Why was he still at the back of the line when Jackson was getting by the last man in his pursuit of the cash register?

But more than anything else, how in the world did the guy manage to make his way to the front in less than a second when it took Jackson, who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the 2004 NFL Combine, an entire 21 seconds?

Unless there are some serious continuity issues, which there can't be because this is the best commercial ever, we're just going to have to accept that this is possible because the guy is really Usain Bolt in disguise. I have no other explanation. My mind is blown.  

As Jackson repeats "Nike Pro Combat" for no reason at all, Bolt reveals that he doesn't actually have his wallet. While this makes viewers laugh, I'm really not sure why it is of such great import. I mean, I'm fairly certain that Jackson can easily pick up the tab with his multi-million dollar salary and not leave some supposedly poor youngster to pay for it.

Remember, even though the Jamaican sprinter in disguise would be able to afford the purchase, Jackson has no idea that the kid is actually Bolt. At least, he gives no indication that he is aware of the false front.  

That means that the commercial is portraying Jackson as stingy, unless of course Dick's Sporting Goods is attempting to subconsciously tell us that this Hyperstrong gear is actually so insanely expensive that no one, not even Jackson or Bolt, can afford it.  

While all this happens, Blue Shirt (you should remember him from the opening segment) has an absolutely priceless look on his face. It's really the mustache that completes the image, but the wide-open eyes and bewildered facial expression seem to convey some mixture of "What just happened?" with "Please help me immediately. This is crazy." The look is initially directed at Jackson, but Blue Shirt slowly swivels his head and then moves his eyes to gaze at the cashier. 

 

0:27-0:32

As the voiceover attempts to undo the subconscious rejection of the Nike Pro Combat Hyperstrong gear in the last segment, a mannequin fully clad in this equipment is shown in between two escalators, complete with, you guessed it, snow falling from who knows where.

Even that is not enough for this over-the-top, hilarious commercial. Jackson, running once more in awkward slow motion, appears yet again. Moving even slower than before, the running back barely enters the screen from the right side before the commercial ends.

Now, watch the commercial again. And again. And again. You'll realize, just as I did, that this is one of the funniest commercials you'll see in a long time.

 

Adam Fromal is a syndicated writer and Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on  Twitter.

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