Robert Knight

“Daddy, who’s ED?”

“You mean Mr. Ed? He was a talking horse from a 1950s TV show?”

“No, I mean the man who talks about ED. Is he Ed? And what’s e-rectull dys…dys..”

“Ah. Let’s turn the game off for a minute and go help Mom in the kitchen.”

Except that Mom is probably sitting right there in front of the tube, too. Lots of moms watched the NFL playoffs, and a poll by the Coalition for Working Moms found that 80 percent of mothers plan to be watching the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

The Big Game is a family affair, with literally hundreds of millions of people of all ages watching around the world. Which is why ED’s surprise appearances can be so… embarrassing.

The good news is that other than ED and a couple of other notable exceptions, like the ad for the unrated version of Good Luck Chuck, the NFL has more or less cleaned up its act. During the playoffs this year, sponsors mostly behaved, with few ads that parents would find objectionable. We can partly thank the writers’ strike, since many of the edgy ads in past years during NFL games were promos for edgy TV shows that are now on hold.

But there’s still ED, thanks to Cialis and Levitra ads, which populated the playoffs, sometimes twice a game. Do they really have to go into such detail? Is there a wild-eyed government goon in a raincoat waving fine print at them and ordering them to inform everyone about … well, you know.

Maybe FOX, CBS and NFL executives should try sitting next to a 9-year-old child while the guy explains on screen that men should consult doctors if “an erection lasts more than four hours.”

As for the Super Bowl, although the buzz on Madison Avenue is that the spots will be “nicer” overall than in 2007, parents may want to keep the remote closer than they did during the playoffs. Lingerie hawker Victoria’s Secret, whose store windows in malls have parents walking briskly by while redirecting their children’s attention, has bought a 30-second spot.

Likewise,, the Web domain provider with a taste for cheesecake, will be back for Super Bowl XVII. GoDaddy is repeating its ploy of offering an explicit ad to ensure that even Fox will reject it, and then offering a tamer version to drive viewers to the Web site to see the original ad. It’s the TV equivalent of the old publisher’s trick of stamping “Banned in Boston” on the cover of a lurid novel.

GoDaddy has lined up Indy driver Danica Patrick, who leers at the camera while unzipping her leather jacket. This probably won’t cost Miss Patrick a lot of racing fans down at Hooters, but it’s one more reason for parents to be wary.

It’s even got some network folks excited. During a January 24 interview on ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson, ABC ran a 5-second clip of the previous girl with her tank top strap falling down in the 2006 Super Bowl ad.

After reporter Bill Wier noted that GoDaddy’s “global market shared increased by 56%” a week after that game, GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons smugly boasted:

“I knew that's exactly where every male would be looking. And I’ll tell you what, that decision [to run the ad] was as right as rain.”

Right doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it. Just ask Mr. ED.

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.