… either by raising all men to the mountaintop—or by razing the mountains
The phrase “Madden to the people” is obviously an allusion to the phrase “Power to the people.” That phrase – while it does express an idea that is valid if properly understood – is unfortunately almost exclusively used by those who regard political and socio-economic inequality as identical. When such people say “Power to the people”, they don’t simply mean that each person – regardless of social or economic influence – should have equal power to affect the actions of government. Instead what they mean by it is that the rich and the powerful must have their “excess” wealth and power taken from them and given to those who lack it (ie: “the people”). For such people to do so voluntarily, because of some moral motivation, would be even better.
The football players in this commercial are presented as literal activists for the moral concept of egalitarianism. They are seen whole-heartedly endorsing the notion that what separates them from ordinary people – what gives them exceptional wealth and influence – is not their exceptional talent (and dare anyone say exceptional character necessary to acquire such talent?), but some unidentified factor which could be defeated if only they choose to do so. And that is exactly what they choose to do here. By giving away copies of the video game, as well as agreeing to play the video game instead of being insulted by it (as if actually becoming a football player and playing a football video game are the same thing), the statement they are making is that there’s nothing special about them.
Of course, in one sense (in the sense EA Sports is counting on hiding behind if challenged), this is true. Football players are “of the people.” Unlike kings and aristocrats whose behavior spawned the original, valid sense of the phrase “power to the people”, the lifestyles professional athletes enjoy were earned, and it is a testament to the power of certain political ideas (individual liberty) that such lifestyles can be enjoyed even by people with very specified, and otherwise worthless, skill sets. That if they have what it takes, and work hard, that anyone can become great. It is also true that in a society governed by such political ideas, many accomplished people would feel compelled – not by an onerous duty-based morality, but by a genuine benevolence – to engage with and thereby inspire every day people. But is encouraging “the people” to give up pursuing their own goals (athletic or otherwise), and to instead spend time evading reality and pretending to have accomplished the goals of football players, actually accomplishing this?
Of course it is not, because it cannot, and the irony of this commercial is that while the football players are intended to be portrayed as men of the people, they actually come off as generous, if bothered aristocrats; graciously holding their noses to mix with their subjects and bestow upon them the “gifts” which were actually the property of the people in the first place (this is a commercial after all; EA Sports is trying to get people to give them money for copies of Madden, not create a clamor to give them away). That image completes the circle and the commercial arrives back at the disgusting egalitarian premise that exceptional talent, character, wealth, and social influence is not created in symbiosis with the people, but taken from them (and must be repaid by denigrating it). EA and the football players are saying, basically: “we would like to give our property and our talents away – we regard it as moral – but unfortunately the laws of economics on the one hand and the law of identity on the other, make it impossible. So while we were able to defeat reality momentarily, regretfully we the video game makers are going to have to ask you for money in order to play our game, and we the football players are going to have to return to our lives of unfair talent, privilege, and wealth. Sorry about that.”