America the Multi-Cultural? Coca-Cola’s Saddening Super Bowl Serenade

Written by Steve Pauwels on February 4, 2014

I always look forward to Super Bowl Sunday, regardless of which teams are squaring-off. It reliably provides something to look forward to: time spent with people I care about, eating snacks, subs and chilli; a bright, highly-touted event to break-up the resolute New England gloom during this bleakest part of the year.

And 2014’s Super Bowl XLVIII proved no exception.

The Seahawks have seriously impressed me all season — but I flatly didn’t expect the clinically ruthless hammering they visited upon the hapless Broncos during this outing. I admit to a post-game shiver of relief it wasn’t the Patriots on the receiving end of Seattle’s roughing-up. Perhaps Peyton Manning and the Boys did Brady’s Bunch a favor shutting them out of the evening’s Big Show? I couldn’t help but wonder.

While I was somewhat neutral on the outcome, I felt genuinely sorry for Bronco quarterback Manning at contest’s end. The frustration must be nearly unbearable for him. One of the greatest QBs ever, but only one Superbowl win notched on his belt — sort of a Dan Marino redux scenario.

I have to imagine advertisers were pulling their hair out as millions started clicking off the TV or hopping over to another channel halfway through the blowout’s third quarter.

Candidly, before the fourth quarter lapsed even I bailed and sped home to catch Downton Abbey with my lovely wife. (I’m not ashamed to disclose that decision – these are the kinds of things devoted husbands do – particularly easy once it becomes clear the Big Game’s conclusion is set in stone.) Turns out I got the time wrong, so missed Downton anyway; but the point is I’d had enough, so it wasn’t difficult for me, presumably like many other viewers, to prematurely tune out this commercial-heavy broadcast.

And about those advertisers pulling out their hair? One of them has me tempted to do likewise. Yes, I was initially only mildly unsettled by the Coca-Cola promotion featuring “America the Beautiful” crooned in a farrago of foreign  languages. After the Coke feature screened, one of the ladies watching in the room with me — a soft-spoken, rather un-political personality — quietly murmured, “Hmm. I didn’t like that.” Otherwise, not a lot of immediate, vocal reaction from the football enthusiasts surrounding me, but I did passingly pick-up on her remark.

The more I’ve pondered the beverage behemoth’s blurb, however, the more objectionable it is becoming to me. Radio talker Laura Ingraham put it well the morning after: ” ‘America the Beautiful’ is meant to be sung in English.”

Her observation should be obvious, shouldn’t have to be articulated, right? I mean, that’s rather the entire point, isn’t it? 

Yet, Coke’s Super Bowl spot reminds us that contemporary pop culture disgracefully dictates America can’t be unvarnishedly celebrated as America, any longer: English-speaking, Judeo-Christian- based, Constitutional-Republic-endorsing America, period.

No, that’s bad form, we’re scolded. Grubby parochialism. Jingoism.

How much more effectively would Coca-Cola’s attempted blast of lyrical patriotism have landed had it shown a panoply of newly christened U.S. citizens, decked out in their native clothing,  rendering that  glorious hymn in their unique, heavily-accented English? It would have premiered as that singularly American ideal of the “melting-pot” incarnated in a colorful, hummable package. Instead, the feature quietly showcases a corrosive societal dynamic which, ultimately, might pan-out as the nation’s undoing.

Beaming, freshly sworn-in Americans reverently belting out Katherine Lee Bates’ 1895 composition? That would have been an exhilarating home-run – or, more appropriately, touch-down – for Coke. In its place, we were subject to the musical equivalent of the Bronco’s game-time performance.


It was an incongruously saddening moment in the midst of the evening’s otherwise enjoyable festivities. 

Though, I’ll concede, the promo for 24‘s upcoming season managed to perk me up a bit.

Image: Courtesy of: Screen Shot:

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.