The NFL measures its success in the billions of dollars and millions of viewers and hundreds of thousands of Wayne Chrebet jerseys still inexplicably being worn around the greater New York/New Jersey/Connecticut Tri-State Area. It is vast and vastly profitable, a bestriding colossus with its towering head cloud-shrouded and well out of view.
A different sort of gravity obtains in this sort of corporate stratosphere -- things that seem heavy and hard here on earth seem to float by, light and soft and easily ignored. By most reasonable standards, it's a pretty stupendous achievement that Kentucky native Jeff Cantrell has gotten over 45,000 signatures on his petition to get GWAR -- a heavy metal outfit comprised of vicious butt-obsessed alien warlords -- the halftime slot at the 2015 Super Bowl. In the NFL's world, where life starts at a million, it has been less worthy of note.
The NFL did acknowledge Cantrell's campaign months ago, in a cursory fashion. After calling the NFL's offices and asking to talk to NFL Senior VP of Public Relations Greg Aiello, Cantrell was directed to send an email to an employee named Ted Durkin, "whom my wife assumed was made up and laughed at me," Cantrell said.
Durkin might as well have been. The email, which noted the various high-profile individuals who had endorsed the campaign -- among them the co-creator of "How I Met Your Mother," Texas Rangers pitcher Travis Blackley and the band Hatebreed -- was never returned. This despite Cantrell's assurances of SPCA compliance -- "May Gor Gor, GWAR's pet dinosaur, be involved in the theatrics?" Cantrell wrote in his email. "He will not be harmed as he does the harming" -- and a willingness to compromise, for instance by having GWAR play the Pro Bowl. When GWAR announced that it would be delighted to both play at and play in the 2015 Super Bowl, the NFL remained silent:
Cantrell, to his credit, has not given up. He has found a thing he believes in, and that thing is seeing men in hideous and elaborate costumes perform a song called "Saddam A Go Go" in front of Roger Goodell and, as NBC has the rights to Super Bowl XLIX, presumably also Bob Costas. He made a video promoting his campaign. He made the image above. And he is not done fighting. On Wednesday, Cantrell declared a GWAR Bowl Day of Action, which sounds dramatic, but basically involves sending a bunch of GWAR-friendly messages to the @NFL account, with the appropriate #GWARBowl hashtag.
"For the NFL to respond, people need to show their support in whatever, preferably legal, way possible," Cantrell told me. For Cantrell, the Day of Action is a new opportunity to be heard; more silence from the NFL will, as it must, lead to more and more dramatic action from what amounts to one of the few truly populist movements in this hugely popular sport. "I am intrested in arranging GWAR to circle the NFL headquarters on the back of a flatbed truck playing at full volume," Cantrell told me. "I just need to pitch it to their management."
There is, both because of how big the NFL is and because of its well-documented moral malleability, something fundamentally cockeyed and dog-walking-on-its-hind-leg-ish about its attempts to seem like something other than a big cruel corporation selling a dangerous and compelling product. But Cantrell's campaign to get a pack of sadistic alien warlords a halftime gig at the Super Bowl offers an opportunity for the NFL to actually connect with a popular movement among NFL fans that's far more significant than the gooey fatuity of the league's Together We Make Football ads and its other ham-fisted gropes at the heartstrings.
There's no way of knowing how this will end, although we know that GWAR will definitely not be playing the Super Bowl in 2015. "Like all things GWAR," Cantrell told me, "I see it ending bloody, battered and bruised." But there is, perhaps, room for all sides to come together. I suggested to Cantrell that maybe something on the order of President Obama's "beer summit" could be in order here -- maybe Cantrell, Aiello and Oderus Urungus sharing a beer or two and hearing each other out.
Obviously, Oderus' stance -- subjugate, humiliate and ultimately destroy all of humanity -- is a matter of public record; the other parties involved might have something to talk about. "I am intrested in that 'beer summit,'" Cantrell said. "So long as they know I take mine with a Jim Beam back."