Who could forget that magical Super Bowl XV commercial moment when Mean Joe Greene tosses his jersey to the kid who gives him a Coke? And what about those playful Coke-drinking polar bears that romp across our television screens every holiday season? For this year's Super Bowl, Coke apparently broke with its touching ad legacy; that is, unless you got the warm fuzzies watching left-wing political pundit James Carville cozy up to right-wing former Senator Bill Frist.
And why did Coke choose Bill Frist anyway? It's not like he's that recognizable a public figure. Since his departure from the Senate, Frist has been almost invisible. I mean, even the World Bank wouldn't take him, and I hear they'd take anyone. Even if people don't like Carville and his frequent talking-head appearances and odd physical looks (people have jokingly speculated that he was sired "during the love scene in Deliverance"), he is at least recognizable.
There was one group of people, however, that had no trouble identifying Frist in Coke's Super Bowl ad. Ever since Bill Frist snuck the UIGEA into "must pass" legislation to curry favor with Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, he's become persona non grata in the online poker community. Poker forums were buzzing on Monday morning, talking of a possible boycott of Coke products. Links to Coke's feedback page were readily available. Pictures of Pepsi ads littered threads as posters acknowledged that "things might go better with Coke," but online poker went better with Pepsi.
Even if poker players united against Coke for their allegedly shortsighted ad choice, many have speculated it would have little impact to Coke's bottom line or decision-making process. They'd never be able to organize to any appreciable level. But then again, many people didn't believe that online gamblers would make that big a difference in the 2006 mid-term elections. Yet the mid-term elections saw the defeat of many anti-online gambling bill sponsors and co-sponsors, including Jim Leach, the very same 30-year incumbent that Frist was attempting to court.
People have also argued that an online poker player boycott of Coke is a misguided symbolic gesture without a goal. What's the best they'd get, anyway? An apology? A promise never to run the ad again? I don't know. Maybe they'd get a little attention on an issue that they feel strongly about, like overturning the UIGEA. The odds are admittedly long. But when the UIGEA passed, online poker players felt like they were dealt a bad beat and are now politically short-stacked. When you're playing a short stack, sometimes the best move is to push in with any two live cards. Or maybe the skeptics are right, and this week's threads about Coke's ad will fade into the background, making room for the next poker gossip drama bomb.