I actually stepped away from the television during the Superbowl, last Sunday, so I missed the “I’m okay” Pepsi commercial.
But somebody else in my household saw it and told me about it, so I checked it out on YouTube, and there it is… Truly, there has never been a better time to have a crappy memory or miss important moments due to bad timing — the web picks up where my brain leaves off – I’m only being partially facetious 😉 If it’s important — or if it just happens — there will very likely be a blog entry or a video about it. Ha!
Anyway, I couldn’t let this one pass me by without some comment.
I did some searching online, and there are folks out there who liked this commercial the best out of all the Superbowl ads. I have to admit, I enjoyed it, too. And after I got past cringeing at the repeated head traumas, I liked it all the more. It both praises and pokes a bit of good-natured fun at the everyman-he-man “mystique” that is such a central part of American culture. The voiceover is great — just the right amount of self-deprecating enthusiasm and … I can’t think of the right words to describe it, but I’m sure you know what I mean.
The dynamics between all the guys in the video are very well-played, and raise it well above the level of a commercial. The brief scenes and interactions say a lot about how we’re (all) trained to handle the kinds of situations where someone accidentally injures another person on their team. Whether you’re on a sports team, in a hunting party, working on a construction project, fixing the wiring for your outdoor light, golfing with buddies, on a reconnaissance mission with loaded guns and plenty of ammo, or just hangin’ at the bowling alley, members of your team may end up inadvertently injuring each other.
And when that happens, for the sake of team cohesiveness, it’s very important that the injured team member not make an issue of the injury, but reassure the others that:
A) the guy/team member who accidentally knocked them down, hit them in the head, dropped something on them (or whatever) didn’t do any permanent damage, and
B) the team hasnt lost a valued member to the injury, and that the person who took the hit can keep contributing to the group.
This habit of saying “I’m okay… I’m good” after being clocked, is not necessarily a bad thing. Reassuring the guy (who made the stupid mistake that sent you flying) that he didn’t screw everything up and injure you permanently, works in everyone’s favor. It’s a way of preserving team cohesiveness. It’s a way of reassuring everyone else on that, even if they do something stupid, themselves, on down the line, they’re still on the team. They’re not going to be pushed out. They’re going to be kept on board. Everybody will be okay. They’ll be good.
And it’s a way of keeping everyone’s mind off the individual needs of the person who got thrown, hit, slammed, knocked in the head, and keeping everyone on track to achieve whatever they need to achieve — finishing the construction project… killing the woolly mammoth… wiring the outside light… taking out the armed enemy just over the ridge… scoring the goal… close the deal… and more. As a member of many, many teams, myself, I can vouch for the importance of being able to put individual needs aside for the sake of the greater good. Our current popular culture often advocates tending to every single need of the individual, but sometimes, you just have to put your own needs aside for the sake of the greater good.
The problems start happening, in my experience, when the urge to say “I’m okay… I’m good…” continues past the time of the initial injury, when you honestly can’t say with any real accuracy, just how good or okay you really are, and you keep saying it, even when you’re really not good, and you’re certainly not okay. I have done just that myself, so many times… I guess my head injuries fogged my judgment and made it difficult for me to self-assess… and the people around me, who were also dedicated team players and were accustomed to ignoring their own needs for the sake of greater good — and expected everyone else on the team to do the same — encouraged my tendency to downplay my difficulties and hide my deficits. Ultimately, that blindness hurt us all, as I became increasingly weakened by my “structural difficulties” and my system failed me at some very critical times.
About the last time you need someone to have a tbi-inspired meltdown and temperamental freak-out is when you’re coming down to the wire on a multi-million-dollar project that’s built to serve nearly 20 million people. But that’s what happened. Because eight months before, when I fell down that flight of stairs and smashed the back of my head on the top 3 steps, I bounced right up — well, not bounced, but picked myself up, dusted myself off, took a deep breath, and said “I’m okay… I’m good.”
Based on a wealth of life experience, I can honestly say that “shaking it off and sucking it up” sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t… and it’s not the people who are with you when the injury occurs who necessarily bear the brunt of your injuries. It’s the people the commercial never shows — the wives, girlfriends, kids, family members, co-workers, police officers, public servants, and all those hapless folks who cross your path on a bad day, who have to deal with the short temper, the explosive outbursts, the “dumbing down” effects of too little sleep, the scrambled thoughts, the poor memory, the difficulty understanding and communicating. And there are a whole lot more of them than there are guys hanging out in the garage or the bowling alley or the stretch limo.
I wonder if the guys in the commercial would have the same sort of long-term effects from their respective head injuries. Everyone is different, and every head injury is different, so it’s impossible to tell.
But looking at symptoms over at Braininjury.com, I would guess the following:
I would imagine that the guy who gets clocked (twice) with the driver on the golf course may have some future difficulties with coordination, organizing his time and/or keeping his temper in check. He may get into trouble with road rage. Or start brawling in bars.
First, it looks like he got clocked at the base of his skull (cerebellum) which can cause these problems.
- Loss of ability to coordinate fine movements.
- Loss of ability to walk.
- Inability to reach out and grab objects.
- Dizziness (Vertigo).
- Slurred Speech (Scanning Speech).
- Inability to make rapid movements.
And he got hit again in the front of his head (frontal lobe)
Which can cause these problems:
- Loss of simple movement of various body parts (Paralysis).
- Inability to plan a sequence of complex movements needed to complete multi-stepped tasks, such as making coffee (Sequencing).
- Loss of spontaneity in interacting with others.
- Loss of flexibility in thinking.
- Persistence of a single thought (Perseveration).
- Inability to focus on task (Attending).
- Mood changes (Emotionally Labile).
- Changes in social behavior.
- Changes in personality.
- Difficulty with problem solving.
- Inability to express language (Broca’s Aphasia).
The guy who gets hit on the back of the head with the bowling ball
may start to have trouble with double vision, as the ball looks like it hit him at the back of his head — the occipital lobe. He may have these problems:
Occipital Lobes: most posterior, at the back of the head
- Defects in vision (Visual Field Cuts).
- Difficulty with locating objects in environment.
- Difficulty with identifying colors (Color Agnosia).
- Production of hallucinations.
- Visual illusions – inaccurately seeing objects.
- Word blindness – inability to recognize words.
- Difficulty in recognizing drawn objects.
- Inability to recognize the movement of object (Movement Agnosia).
- Difficulties with reading and writing.
He might also have some problems associated with brain stem injury, similar to what whiplash victims experience — trouble remembering things and/or myofascial pain like fibromyalgia, which can develop after car accidents.
The guy in the limo who gets hit twice on the back of his head, when the car goes under the overpass could be in real trouble, on down the line.
Getting hit that hard can result in a coup-contre-coup (“back and forth” type of head injury), where the brain literally ricochets back and forth inside the skull, causing any number of problems, depending on the force and direction of the impact. He could very well have all of the above problems, including problems with his Temporal Lobes: at the sides of his head above the ears:
- Difficulty in recognizing faces (Prosopagnosia).
- Difficulty in understanding spoken words (Wernicke’s Aphasia).
- Disturbance with selective attention to what we see and hear.
- Difficulty with identification of, and verbalization about objects.
- Short term memory loss.
- Interference with long term memory.
- Increased and decreased interest in sexual behavior.
- Inability to catagorize objects (Categorization).
- Right lobe damage can cause persistent talking.
- Increased aggressive behavior.
And the guy who gets thrown against the trailer by the electrical current
could have issues with his parietal and occipital lobes in the back of his head — problems focusing on more than one thing at a time, difficulties reading, trouble with eye-hand coordination, vision problems, and trouble writing.
The good news is that this last guy is shown taking a break — of course with a Pepsi MAX (water would probably be a better choice in his case), but he seems lucid enough… I suppose. Then again, if he’s still smoking from the electrical surge, it’s probably impossible to tell right away just how okay he really is. His buddies and wife/girlfriend may want to keep an eye on him in the future, and he may want to get more rest than usual. Personally, from experience, I’d recommend avoiding alcohol for a few weeks, at least. When I was injured in a car accident in 1987 and had problems reading and understanding what people were saying to me, I tried to drown my confusion with drink, and that just bought me more trouble. And unemployment.
Now, notwithstanding my conjecture about how these guys might end up with all sorts of troubles (probably without knowing the full extent of their issues), there are a couple of other things I do like about the commercial.
First, it’s that all of the injuries are unintentional, and most of the guys who clock the other guy apologize for it. At least, they’re not aware of what they’re doing, when they hit their buddy.
Second, when their friend is injured, the guys around him take a genuine interest in his well-being, like the guys in the limo, and in some cases demonstrate knowledge that they’ve screwed up and possibly done some real damage (the guy who flipped the electrical switch at the end, especially), and they stop doing what they did that caused the problem in the first place.
I also like how the commercial ends up with one of the injured guys taking a break, albeit with the product being advertised. It’s been my experience, that hopping right up and running back into the game can lead to not only more head injuries, but other injuries as well, as your judgment and coordination can be significantly impaired without your full awareness.
So, while at first, I really cringed at this commercial’s seemingly casual display of repeated head truamas, after I looked at it a few times, I really came to appreciate its hidden “messages”. Especially during the Super Bowl, when America’s institutionalized and enculturated oblivion/denial about the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury is celebrated with single-minded devotion and enthusiastic abandon.
This Teachable Moment Has Been Brought To You By Pepsi, who remind you that ‘real men’ can (or should) just shake off various injuries, including head injuries, and carry on as though nothing happened… but who manage to do it with taste and good humor, and make a point of showing a (smoking) guy who took a hit taking a break to regroup.