If you do things like watch Super Bowls, you probably remember this wacky commercial: Larry Bird’s shooting baskets in a dark, empty arena, because maybe pro basketball players do that sometimes. Then Michael Jordan just happened to be in the neighborhood I guess, so he strolls in wearing his hideous Cosby-Zubaz street clothes, and he’s got this bag of McDonald’s he just bought, and he takes a courtside seat to eat lunch and watch Larry Bird practice in the dark, empty arena. Ok then.
None of these things are the most confusing thing about this commercial premise, however. That distinction goes to the part where Bird challenges Jordan to a game of sudden-death HORSE, with Jordan’s Big Mac and Fries as the prize, and Jordan accepts.
OK, I get that in real life, Michael Jordan is a crazy gambling fiend, and he’d probably accept any wager Bird offered him, even if the prize was a Nerf bat to the nutsack. But this is not real life Michael Jordan, this is Hero Michael Jordan who has to sell burgers to kids. I think it’s safe to assume that the Michael Jordan of this commercial is not a crazy gambling fiend, and this ad is not meant to be some sort of sly meta-wink at Jordan’s real life crazy gambling fiendishness.
Therefore, Hero Michael Jordan just accepted a pretty shitty bet. He already bought the McDonald’s. It’s not like Bird & Jordan are playing to determine who will buy McDonald’s in the future. Now if Bird wins, he actually wins something. But if Jordan wins, he merely “wins” what he already had. Of course we could conjecture that at some point, perhaps Bird offered to fork over the cash value of the McDonald’s lunch if Jordan won, or some similar arrangement. But there’s no on-screen indication that Bird ever puts anything at stake. Basically, it would seem that you don’t have to get up all that early to fool Hero Michael Jordan. In fact, you can still fool him pretty good right around lunchtime.
A couple years ago, McDonald’s made a dunkier version of this commercial, this time with Dwight Howard bamboozling Lebron James. And once again they propagated this preposterous idea that the biggest basketball star on Earth will just risk his McDonald’s lunch without the other guy putting up anything of his own.
That was tolerable enough when McDonald’s simply portrayed pro basketball superstars as con men and rubes, but now I’m afraid they’ve gone too far. They have a new commercial that suggests us ordinary folk are just as dishonest and stupid:
A community rec center, buzzing with people having fun, playing foosball, that kinda junk.
Two Old Ladies are playing ping pong but, evidently because of their advanced ages, they swing their paddles and volley the ball very slowly.
Two Snot-Nosed Kids are eating McDonald’s McNuggets near the ping pong table. Snot-Nosed Kid #1 loudly mocks the slow-moving, ping-pong-playing Old Ladies.
So Old Lady #1’s like, Oh yeah, how about we play for your McNuggets? And Snot-Nosed Kid #1, like dumb-ass Jordan and Lebron before him, accepts Old Lady #1’s challenge without her putting anything at stake.
If you haven’t already guessed in the space between that last sentence and this one, Old Lady #1 immediately reveals herself to be a hustler, and gets to work whipping Snot-Nosed Kid #1’s ass in ping pong.
At least this latest riff on the old “Bettin’ McDonald’s” trope has a twist, even if it is equally preposterous. I’m not talking about the Old Ladies turning out to be hustlers, though, that crap was obviously going to happen. No, the twistiest twist happens at the very end, after all the gooey food shots and low low prices have been adequately advertised. In the last shot, the Old Ladies are enjoying their McNugget spoils with a Gentleman Friend. And with a mischievous smile, Gentleman Friend boasts, “Works every time!” (Note: this scene is not included in the version above, but it is in the version currently airing on American TV.)
All right, so apparently the Old Ladies and their Gentleman Friend hustle rec center kids out of their McDonald’s fairly often, and with great success. Yet that only makes me wonder: do they always wait for some Snot-Nosed Kid to mock them? Or do they have different methods of luring the youngsters into gambling away their lunches? Do they have a big book of techniques, like 1930s grifters? Do they have their own slang, like is “Smacking The Sparrow’s Egg” code for “ping pong?” Do they just bet kids who happen to bring McDonald’s to the rec center, or do they go after all kinds of lunches? Do they ever play for cold, hard cash? How many times do you think each hustler has double-crossed the other throughout their long history in the con game?
And if this kind of hustle happens often enough to “work every time,” as Gentleman Friend says, wouldn’t these Old Hustlers be notorious around the rec center by now? Wouldn’t you think all the kids know not to fuck with Those Old People Who Hustle Kids At Ping Pong Down At The Rec Center?