There will be no diary for tonight’s Devils-Bruins game. All that positive thinking last night took too much out of us. (OK, really, the lack of the diary is simply thanks to Pookie’s uncompromising work schedule.) We will be watching Claude Julien’s (almost certainly) triumphant return to New Jersey on a lengthy TiVo delay. Please do not worry about leaving spoilers in the comments as we’ll be on strict radio silence. In place of a diary, we would like to take a moment to reflect on one of the shining lights of this hockey season. This shining light has nothing to do with Marty’s exceptional season, or with Paulie Martin taking the final step to becoming the d-man we’d all hoped he would become, or with Zach Parise eclipsing his previous season highs for goals and points. Nope, this shining light is all about Steve the Do-er.
You see, Gentle Reader, by this time every season, there is one commercial that has asserted itself as That Commercial. The one you can’t mute fast enough. The one NBC plays twice a break in every period of every game. The one that makes your humors go from sanguine to bilious in less than the blink of an eye. Viewers of last year’s playoffs will remember, not fondly, the “Daddy, What Are You Thinking About” insurance spot. Two years ago it wasn’t butterflies making our heads spin, but rather that stupid and offensive Dodge fairy ad. Way back when, it was the Bud Ice penguin. This phenomenon is most likely as old as sand. It’s such a pervasive evil it probably predates both televisions and hockey. And yet, here we are with less than a week to go in the season and not a single significant commercial has stepped up to claim the title of That Commercial. Instead we’re seeing what must be a Golden Age of tolerable-to-downright-entertaining advertising peppered throughout the broadcasts. From the sublime Geico and the Pips ad to the ridiculous Cinnamon Melts at Tim Horton’s, we find ourselves remarkably unmuting spots, and looking forward to them being shown multiple times a game. Even our humors are well-balanced.
Gentle Reader, you’re probably wondering why we’re bothering to write about commercials again, so soon after dissecting the contact lenses/flag football/Victorian same sex longing (thanks to IPB Irregular Stalky, we’ll never be able to think of that commercial in any other light) Acuvue spot. The thing is this: there is one commercial that has been a salve to us in this trying time of the Devils attempting to fall out of the playoffs while not being good enough at anything to even lose when they should. And that commercial is the one where the artist mounts a gallery show dedicated to Steve, his Farmer’s Insurance Agent. Every single tiny bit about this ad is delightful, from the script, to the art design, to the performances. The turn of phrase “Steve Skin Roll” is all we need to shift our focus from ruing the day we became Devils fans to something brighter and cheerier. While That Commercial turns into the inevitable metaphor for the Playoffs as they go deeper (the same teams we hate winning game after game after game; the same teams we love losing game after game after game; the talking heads are banging the same drums game after game after game, never looking past whatever tidy storyline has been deemed “what the fans want to hear”), Steve the Do-er is like the fresh fun parts of the season, when a fan can just relax and enjoy the show.
While there’s still plenty of time for some 30 seconds of Hell to reveal itself as That Commercial (those Jason Jones Molson spots are a clear front-runner), right now we just want to revel in the the joys of “Who is Steve the Do-er?” and the look of reverence on the artist’s face when he speaks of Steve just before offering his guests some Steve-On-A-Stick. Those moments elicit the same joy and happiness we get from non-playoff hockey: the missed shot that you can laugh about, the bumbling plays on the blue-line that seem more slapstick than sickening, the quiet peace of the out-of-town-scoreboard being an afterthought rather than The Thing That Controls All That Is Good In The World. When all is said and done this season, and the Devils have slunk out of the Playoffs after a first round lost to the Rangers (really, what else could possibly happen, the way this season has been going?), we’ll still have something that makes us happy throughout the rest of the post-season: Steve the Do-er and his Steve Skin Rolls.