It’s been a long day without you my friend…..
One of my favorite activities is watching the NFL Network at 6:15 in the morning. There’s nothing quite like it. They’ve got that morning show where all the nice hosts laugh at each others’ jokes and they talk about the upcoming and preceding football games and they try to get Nate Burleson to admit he was on the party boat. 6:15 AM is what most big-money advertisers call “not a time during which we really care to get our ads out in front of people.” This opens the airwaves for the greatest hits of low-rate TV commercial fare: Jerry Rice and Brett Favre playing football while shilling CopperFit kneepads. The Theragun. The knockoff Theragun. The full two minute version of the JG Wentworth ad with the opera singers on the bus. These commercials come from a long tradition of ads which communicate to you, the viewer, that you are currently existing within the realm of a demographic that even fountains of TV commercial slot money like GEICO or Pepsi find no reason to touch. They stand on the shoulders of such giants as the Everest College guy talking at you in the parking lot, the Education Connection girl, and the Free Credit Report dot Com guy.
But amidst the fog of nearly twenty years, there has been one man whose voice has cut through clearly. His given name unknown, you and I only refer to him as The General. AND YET – This morning when I flipped on the NFL Network at 6:15 AM, what did I see?
I saw this. A The General Insurance commercial starring whom else but Shaquille O’Neal (no surprise there to be fair, he’s been in these ads since the beginning of time) as well as Ernest “Ernie” Johnson and Kenny “The Jet” Smith, his colleagues from TNT’s Inside the NBA. Also a child.
But whom else was not in the picture? Not even through voiceover? That’s right.
Him. To make matters worse, they seem to be ridiculing the idea of the General as an advertising mascot at all! And this is coming from Shaquille O’Neal, a man who canonically has been friends with The General since high school. I would expect this level of betrayal from Ernie and Kenny. Hell, I would expect significantly more than this level of betrayal from Charles Barkley. But you, Shaq? AFTER ALL THAT THE GENERAL DID FOR YOU?
THIS MAN FOUGHT FOR THIS COUNTRY. THIS COMPUTER GENERATED LITTLE MAN PUT HIS LIFE ON THE LINE FOR THIS COUNTRY PRESUMABLY DURING DESERT STORM GIVEN THAT THE ADS STARRING HIM STARTED IN 1999 EVEN THOUGH HE IS DRESSED LIKE GENERAL PATTON AND HE CAME HOME AND CONTINUED SERVING, GIVING US GREAT LOW RATES WE COULD GET ONLINE AND JUST LIKE SO MANY OTHERS WE’VE THROWN THE GENERAL TO THE CURB ONCE WE WERE DONE WITH HIM AND FOUND OUT THAT CRAIG ROBINSON WOULD BE WILLING TO STOOP LOW ENOUGH TO DO THE GENERAL INSURANCE ADS NOW THAT THE HOT TUB TIME MACHINE MONEY HAS APPARENTLY RUN DRY. I weep for the future prospects of Clark Duke.
The General was more than a man. He was – well, he was never a man, he was a Computer Generated model of a man given a voice by a voice actor – but he was an idea. He was a symbol. He was a symbol of the fact that you were awake at a time that most advertisers didn’t expect you to be awake. He was a symbol that you were about to very likely see commercials advertising cell phone ringtones and when the show you were watching ended you may very well end up seeing a 30 minute long infomercial for a box set of CDs of classic rock songs from the 1970s.
If this is truly the end – If we have truly lost The General forever in favor of Kenny Smith making fun of the idea of The General as a character, then I weep for us. The world has become a little dimmer without a little animated general yelling at us about low monthly rates and quotes you could get online. In a world where car insurance ads have become so post-modern that they’re actively acknowledging that they’ve made Chris Paul’s life a living hell, or that they’ve expanded from one character whose entire thing originally was that she was awkward and annoying into an entire roster of other comically awkward and annoying characters, or that they play a loud fucking thirty second long ad with bagpipes that’s like several decibels louder than all the other ads not to mention the actual television programming that you can hear throughout the entire store when it plays over the TVs in the bar/grill restaurant part of the grocery store I work at, THE GENERAL WAS A FUNNY LITTLE CARTOON ARMY MAN. And now he’s gone. And he will be missed.
The above image was taken shortly before Shaquille “Went all George Milton on the Little Fella.” His final request was for me to state that For a Great Low Rate You Can Get Online, Go To The General And Save Some Time at the end of this post.