The Far Side
Peyton Manning is a great football player, but what does he know about pizza? Tallying more career passing yards and touchdown passes than any other quarterback in the history of the National Football League, the five-time Associated Press MVP and fourteen-time Pro Bowl selection still holds more than 50 league records. It’s unclear if Manning knows pizza as well as he obviously knows football, but this hasn’t stopped Papa John’s Pizza from showcasing him in their television advertisements.
With that winning smile and down-to-earth Southern swagger, Manning has starred in Papa John’s commercials for the past several years, advertising with red aprons and NFL mascots a product in which he has no professional expertise. It’s all very charming, but it’s downright silly to think Peyton Manning is qualified to tell us the best pizza to buy. So why did Papa John’s bypass actual pizza critics to make Manning, the legendary NFL quarterback, their spokesperson?
Wearing his iconic leather jacket and a pair of water skis, sitcom hero Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli jumped over a shark in season five of the 1970s television series “Happy Days.” But while the Fonz’s half-nude fictional cronies cheered on the beach, his fans and critics fulminated on the other side of the TV screen. Such a preposterous stunt, they cried, was out of the show’s character! In its desperate, ultimately unsuccessful ploy to revamp ratings, “Happy Days” had forgotten itself.
Like the Fonz, Harvard is jumping the shark—not with plastic TV props, but with unrecognized social groups. The witty banter between closed-door deliberations and public backlash over exclusive social organizations, and the meme-laden laugh track cued when faculty members filed a second motion against the College’s recommendations to phase out such groups, certainly seem like typical plot elements of the Harvard College Sitcom. But in reality, they’re stunts. Like the shark in “Happy Days,” the debate over unrecognized social groups shows just how much Harvard has forgotten itself.